• Richard Low

Why is 'Self Care' important for ADHD?

We hear the term ‘self care’ banded around a lot these days. What does it really mean and why is it important in the context of ADHD.

I believe self care should be an holistic approach to keeping our mind and body healthy in three pillars to ‘self care’ success:

1. Exercise – ideally this should be relatively vigorous aerobic exercise that lasts for 10 minutes or longer. The key here is to try and get some form of exercise; walking the dog, the kids or the cat – it really doesn’t matter what is it so long as you move.

Why is exercise and movement important for ADHD? Exercise helps to generate and maintain neurotransmitters critical to helping reduce ADHD symptoms. Movement has been shown to increase attention and concentration levels.

2. Nutrition – a balanced diet that is eaten three times a day with small snacks in between if required. Regular meal times help regulate blood sugar and this helps the ADHD brain function better. There is a lot more research going into functional foods and their impact on the gut/brain axis which is fantastic, but you will need to see a professional to know what functional foods your body requires.

An easier approach for ADHD is ‘what NOT to eat’ – SUGAR. Try to reduce BOTH sugars and sweeteners where possible.

3. Sleep – most adults require 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. Children depending on their age require more. Sleep is a highly underrated part of human health. Research has shown that sleep is critical for regenerating vital neurotransmitters in our brain and also helps with many other regenerative processes.

Lack of sleep in individuals with ADHD really does ramp up ADHD symptoms (inattention, disorganisation, lack of emotional control). An alarm can be set to remind you that it’s time to go to bed - try it!

Where to start on self care.

Keeping to routines is hard enough without adding additional tasks to your daily list. I would challenge you to try and incorporate some of the basics of self care into your daily routines. It will make a significant difference in your daily functioning with ADHD.

Perfectionists take note please! Be realistic. Don’t try to set up intricate exercise routines, gourmet meals and try going to bed at 8pm if you usually sleep at 1am. Introduce achievable goals – i.e. if you don’t usually eat breakfast, try eating breakfast.

There are two secrets here:

1. Start self care - in one area to begin with and role it out to other areas once you have some traction

2. Keep going even if you missed a meal or a walk or haven't done anything for a day, two days, a week - tweak what didn't work and try again.

The author coaches professionals, young adults and parents with ADHD children. For more information about coaching or other ADHD related topics, please visit www.adhdcoaching.org