You can’t cure ADHD, but you can take steps to manage it. You may be able to minimize your symptoms by identifying your individual trigger points. Common triggers include: stress, poor sleep, certain foods and additives, overstimulation, and technology. Once you recognize what triggers your ADHD symptoms, you can make the necessary lifestyle changes to better control episodes.
For adults especially, stress often triggers ADHD episodes. At the same time, ADHD may cause a perpetual state of stress. A person who has ADHD cannot successfully focus and filter out excess stimuli, which increases stress levels. Anxiety, which can stem from approaching deadlines, procrastination, and the inability to focus on the work at hand, can raise stress levels even more.
Unmanaged stress aggravates common symptoms of ADHD. Evaluate yourself during periods of stress (when a work project is coming to a due date, for example). Are you more hyperactive than usual? Are you having more trouble concentrating than normal? Try to incorporate daily techniques to relieve stress: Take regular breaks when performing tasks and engage in exercise or relaxing activities, such as yoga.
Lack of Sleep
The mental sluggishness that results from poor sleep can worsen ADHD symptoms and cause inattention, drowsiness, and careless mistakes. Inadequate sleep also leads to a decline in performance, concentration, reaction time, and comprehension. Too little sleep may also cause a child to become hyperactive in order to compensate for the lethargy they feel. Getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night may help a child or adult with ADHD control negative symptoms the next day.
Food and Additives
Certain foods can either help or worsen symptoms of ADHD. In coping with the disorder, it’s important to pay attention to whether specific foods exacerbate or alleviate your symptoms. Nutrients such as proteins, fatty acids, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B help to properly nourish your body and brain and may diminish symptoms of ADHD.
Certain foods and food additives have been thought to exacerbate ADHD symptoms in some individuals. For instance, foods laden with sugar and fat may be important to avoid. Certain additives, such as sodium benzoate (a preservative), MSG, and red and yellow dyes, which are used to enhance the flavor, taste, and appearance of foods, may also aggravate symptoms of ADHD. A 2007 study linked artificial dyes and sodium benzoate to greater hyperactivity in children of certain age groups, regardless of their ADHD status.
Many people with ADHD experience bouts of overstimulation, in which they feel bombarded by overwhelming sights and sounds. Crowded venues, such as concert halls and amusement parks, may trigger ADHD symptoms. Allowing adequate personal space is important for preventing outbursts, so avoiding crowded restaurants, rush hour congestion, busy supermarkets, and high-traffic malls may help diminish troublesome ADHD symptoms.
Constant electronic stimulation from computers, cell phones, television, and the Internet may also aggravate symptoms. Although there has been much debate about whether watching TV influences ADHD, it may intensify symptoms. Flashing images and excessive noise do not cause ADHD. However, if a child is having a hard time focusing, a glaring screen will further affect their concentration.
A child is also much more likely to release pent-up energy and practice social skills by playing outside than by sitting for long stretches in front of a screen. Make a point to monitor computer and television time and limit viewing to set time segments.
There are currently no specific guidelines for how much screen time is appropriate for someone with ADHD. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants and children under two years of age never watch television or use other entertainment media. Children over two years old should be limited to two hours of high quality entertainment media.
Avoiding things that trigger ADHD symptoms may mean making many changes in your routine. Sticking to these lifestyle changes will help you manage your symptoms.