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When Your Coping Strategies Need Coping Strategies

Feeling hyperactive and all over the place? I hear meditation is good for that.

I say “I hear” because I’ve never managed to get into a regular meditation routine myself, so I wouldn’t know from personal experience. In theory, meditation and mindfulness should help with ADHD-related restlessness, but what if your restlessness prevents you from sitting down to meditate in the first place?

There’s a chicken-and-egg problem with many of the coping strategies that people recommend for ADHD.

Set deadlChicken and Eggines for myself? Well, if I was the kind of person who could stick to deadlines, I wouldn’t need them in the first place!

Put an organizational system in place? Easy to say, but there’s a good chance I won’t stick to it as a result of the same symptoms that caused my initial organization problems.

I’m aware that this applies to some of the coping tips I share on here. For example, I’m a believer in having a handful of hard-and-fast rules that you follow like “never watch Netflix until all your work is done for the day.” But it’s definitely possible to set rules for yourself and then find that the very lack of self-control that made you need self-imposed rules to begin with prevents you from following those rules.

So where does that leave us? We should just throw all coping strategies out the window as a way of managing ADHD symptoms?

No, I think the key is to recognize that coping strategies are personal. The same ones don’t work for everyone. You experiment with different ones, keep the ones that work for you, and let go of the ones that don’t.

Partly it depends on whether a certain coping strategy “hits” you when you’re in the right frame of mind at the right time in your life.

One person with ADHD might find that trying out a new organizational system is exactly the thing they needed to get a new perspective on how they order their life. Another ADHDer finds only frustration with the same organizational system because their impulsivity and low self-control interferes with their ability to effectively use the organizational system, or because what they really need at the current moment is to let go of some of their perfectionistic tendencies rather than try to implement another organizational system.

Similarly, one ADHDer might be highly motivated to meditate regularly. But another might find that it feels too much like trying to force themselves to sit still even though they want to be enthusiastic about the possible mental health benefits of meditating.

If you aren’t able to make a recommended ADHD coping strategy do anything for you, that doesn’t make you a hopeless case. Generally, there aren’t “good” and “bad” coping strategies. There are just coping strategies that work for you and ones that don’t, and you have to try different things out to find the former!

Image: Flickr/ruben alexander

When Your Coping Strategies Need Coping Strategies

Neil Petersen

Neil Petersen writes regularly on education, learning disabilities and technology. He received his B.A. in 2014 and was diagnosed with ADHD at the beginning of his college studies. Neil also works for a music education non-profit and hopes to help create an education system that can better serve students with ADHD.

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APA Reference
Petersen, N. (2018). When Your Coping Strategies Need Coping Strategies. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 28, 2020, from


Last updated: 10 Dec 2018
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