When life seems rocky or overwhelming, learning ADHD coping skills can help you bounce back when faced with adversity.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a common neurodevelopmental disorder typically diagnosed in childhood.
ADHD affects brain areas governing core processes like attention, memory, learning, planning, and problem-solving.
The ADHD lived experience is different for everyone. Regardless of how ADHD affects you, learning ADHD coping skills can help you navigate any unique challenges you may face.
ADHD coping skills don’t have to take major effort. Sometimes, they’re small adjustments that help you form beneficial habits.
Understand what ADHD means for you
ADHD affects everyone differently. This means certain coping skills may work better for you than others.
To help maximize the benefits of coping strategies, Natalie Bunner, a pediatric mental health therapist from Lafayette, Louisiana, recommends taking time to assess the unique challenges you face.
“Creating effective strategies for living as an ADHD person starts by recognizing the executive functioning challenges and finding ways to strengthen them,” she told Healthline.
Executive functioning challenges are the core processes in the brain that ADHD affects the most. For some people, their challenges may focus on organization, while for others it may be initiating tasks.
“The most effective way to improve one’s life quality for [someone living with ADHD] is to create customized strategies based on need,” Bunner said.
Build attention and focus habits
Many people living with ADHD experience challenges related to attention and focus. You might find it difficult to concentrate on fine details, for example, or stay focused on long-format tasks.
Isabell Oliva-Garcia, a licensed mental health counselor from Miami, Florida, explains these symptoms can be particularly challenging because classrooms and professional settings aren’t often designed to accommodate ADHD.
As an ADHD coping skill, she recommends creating new habits around time management and focus, such as:
- focusing on one task at a time
- breaking complex projects into smaller parts
- using reminders and alarms to manage time
- taking notes during meetings or lectures to help stay focused
- writing down ideas that aren’t related to the current task so you can come back to them later
- eliminating distractions, like background noise, as much as possible
Create habits of organization
Another area where you may experience ADHD challenges is with organization. This includes finding it difficult to manage sequential tasks, keeping your personal space in order, or failing to meet deadlines. Maybe you feel like you can never find your keys, glasses, or wallet.
Similar to focus and attention, creating habits can help you cope with the challenges of poor organization.
Pro-organization tips to try include:
- creating a daily routine
- making checklists and written action plans
- setting alarms and using reminders for when to start and stop tasks
- simplifying your space by eliminating unnecessary items
- having a set place for important items, like a key hanger by the door
- using labeled storage containers
- setting up automatic bill payments
- choosing paperless invoicing when possible
- leaving yourself notes in high visibility places
- keeping a calendar for important events
If you find clutter is an especially challenging part of staying organized with ADHD, Bunner recommends the “purchase and pass on” method.
“If a person struggles with the executive function challenge of organization, they may be able to strengthen this skill with a healthy cycle of purchase and pass on — buying a newer item and giving the older version of said item away,” she said.
Why is habit formation a powerful coping skill?
Habit formation can be a powerful ADHD coping skill because it eliminates the need to consciously think about beneficial behaviors.
When you’re feeling frustrated or “stuck” with ADHD, an experience known as ADHD task paralysis, having some go-to rescue options may help.
Mindfulness is a concept that can be practiced anytime, even when you’re feeling overwhelmed, to help calm your mind and bring clarity.
Other ADHD coping skills for overwhelm include:
Practice ADHD social dynamics
When you live with ADHD, you may have times when ADHD makes it difficult to navigate social dynamics.
For this, Oliva-Garcia recommends practicing expected social behaviors on your own or with the guidance of a therapist.
“A healthcare provider like a therapist can help you identify and learn the right skills. Therapy may include observing and role-playing to practice social skills,” she said.
ADHD challenges can feel amplified when your general well-being is low. Self-care is an important ADHD coping skill that can ensure you’re functioning at your peak during the day.
Not everyone living with ADHD needs medication to manage their symptoms.
ADHD can be especially challenging during childhood when children are already facing many changes physically and mentally.
Bunner said one of the best things parents can do to help a child cope with ADHD is to become educated about the condition.
“Educate yourself on the reality of ADHD,” she said. “A lot of our frustrations when raising ADHD children are due to a lack of understanding about their diagnosis.”
In addition to learning more about ADHD, Bunner recommends identifying your child’s executive function challenges, just as you would your own. This can help you guide your child in creating their own custom ADHD coping skills.
Bunner also suggests discovering and connecting your child to available resources. These can include mental health professionals, classroom support services, advocates, and community programs.
Lastly, taking care of yourself matters, too. Not only does self-care help you cope as a parent, but it also helps you meet your child’s needs.
ADHD is a common neurodevelopmental disorder. It causes symptoms that often lead to challenges in everyday life related to attention, focus, organization, and more.
Coping skills in ADHD don’t have to be major behavioral changes. Creating beneficial habits, developing strategies to combat overwhelm, and learning more about ADHD’s role in your life can all make a positive difference.