If you’re a mom with ADHD, you may be wondering, How can I manage my household, and with a job too? Or perhaps you’re a stay-at-home mom, and you’re burdened by the shame of thinking I shouldn’t be struggling.
In either case, you’re most likely asking, How do I avoid burnout?
Planning To Avoid Burnout
I get it. When one kid has soccer practice, another has music lessons, you have to get groceries, then have to prepare dinner, it can put you in the fast lane to burnout, a common issue seen in people with ADHD.
When you’re a mom who doesn’t have a set structure planned out, you may be living from a reactionary point of view. “This is next”, or “I’ll do that right now”, and generally doing things on the fly is your normal. You may even have a calendar, but it doesn’t include the errands or the other minor details. It may sound like the last thing you want to do, but structure is important to manage ADHD. Having a designated space for everything can go a long way in not needing to remember where you last set everything down.
Making plans is super important too, even if we’ve lost that habit over the past year and a half. Whether you have ADHD guilt or lost structure to working from home, there comes a time when remembering that you need to fix dinner can’t be a last-minute decision. ADHD makes us do everything in a reactionary way, constantly chasing our tails, which can lead to burnout and overwhelm. Tasks such as meal prepping could, for example, be done on the least busy day, where you include everyone in your family old enough to contribute.
Planning keeps me on track for even the small, annoying tasks. Laundry, mail, and so on aren’t huge deals on their own, but get put off and suck away your time. The ADHD brain may call it boring, but it’s all necessary. Otherwise, you might start cleaning the kitchen … but identify “reminders” to mop the floors, do the laundry, clean the toilet and then vacuum the bedroom. Then, an hour or two later, you’ve missed something or are running late.
First, I’ve got to assure you, it’s okay to have these struggles. It’s a terrible misconception that moms are supposed to be able to do everything, but that’s impossible even if you don’t have ADHD. Instead of shame, think “I’m not good at that, and that’s okay … here’s what I am good at.”
Defusing ADHD-related stress involves finding your strengths, blossoming, and growing in those. It’s best to develop and expand your skills where your strengths lie.
In my personal experience, I've known many moms who end up skipping meals, and I can understand because I myself have done it. It can be hard to prioritize self-care with so many other things that need to be tended to. If you’re like me, you might find yourself taking tasks and tending to problems as they arise. Unfortunately, when we’re in this reactionary mode, it can be difficult to plan ahead and prioritize our own needs.
Recently, I started calling my lunch break an appointment on my calendar, so that I could trick my brain into seeing it as important. I’m also enjoying a meal kit delivery program that provides convenient, well-balanced meals, according to our dietary needs. This has given me more time to spend enjoying that precious evening time connecting with my family.
I’ve also experimented with block scheduling and batching, which is bundling similar tasks together in one category. For example, if you’re planning a trip to the grocery store, what else can be done on that side of town or if you walk the dog daily, can you also take out the trash and check the mail as you’re heading out for that walk?
When I was in med school, there were always tons of projects and tests; rotations in the clinic; and all these responsibilities with moving parts that sometimes took many hours to complete.
As soon as I could, I would get my syllabi for all the classes, and enter the dates and content in my calendar, scheduling study time around these. However, if there were multiple tasks due in one day, I wouldn’t load one day with them.
One of the best things I did in med school was finding out I was an auditory learner … which was a huge surprise to me because I would regularly zone out in class about half an hour into the lecture! I eventually got permission to record my classes to study, which made a huge difference. In the end, everything more than paid off. Not only were my grades high, but I got to study far fewer hours for exams than my classmates, while other students wondered what my secret was!
As any mom would understand, I had no time to waste with three kids at home. Every minute of study time had to be intentional, everything had to focus on what would make information be retained the best. It was all more seamless after beginning to play to my strengths.
Supplements You Can Take
If you don’t want to take prescription medication, you’re likely searching for the right supplements to help improve your focus. While there are many brain-boosting supplements out here, the right one for you depends on your own individual needs. I’d love to help you uncover what works best for you in an in-person or telemedicine appointment. Two of my favorite ADHD supplements for moms include saffron extract and velvet bean extract.
When saffron was compared to Ritalin, study participants taking it enjoyed roughly the same improvement with their ADHD symptoms, such as better focus. It isn’t contraindicated in breastfeeding, which is great news for nursing mothers with ADHD. Velvet bean extract works on the same pathways as the stimulants that increase dopamine, but through more gentle, natural mechanisms that don’t carry the same side effects.
I encourage you to take some time to explore the strengths you have as a result of living with ADHD. A change of perspective can help you move out of reactionary mode and into a calmer space where you can respond and plan.
Resources For Organization
What are some of the best tools we can use to manage our daily lives as moms with ADHD?
Maybe you’d like a way to manage your ADHD in just five minutes every day. In this case, the InFlow app could be perfect for you. Designed by a psychiatrist, you can access short exercises, journaling, and other resources based around Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT focuses on changing thought patterns around a situation, such as the cycle of guilt and shame that worsens ADHD symptoms.
Organize365 by Lisa Woodruff helps you get your life together over a one-year program, so you can break the cycle of accumulating clutter, decluttering on the fly, and falling behind in other areas of your life.
ADHD coach Marla Cummins provides both individual coaching and community groups, so you can feel supported wherever you’re currently at.
Finally, my favorite books include A Radical Guide For Women With ADHD, by Sari Solden, and The ADHD Effect on Marriage, by Melissa Orlov. Both are written by women with ADHD, so they understand where you’re coming from. If you struggle with shame and guilt, check out the podcast, Overcoming My ADHD Shame, on ADDitude.
Being a mom with ADHD doesn’t have to hold you back in life. Like myself and many others, you can focus on your strengths, and find accommodations that not only help you to compensate for what you aren’t good at but even perform better than the average neurotypical person.
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