Health Wise: More ADHD Life Hacks - Hacking Your Executive Functions

 11/18/2017 - 11:20

I hope the adult ADHD tips and tricks in my last article ("ADHD Life Hacks") were useful to you! This week I have some more life hacks to share with you. But first, let’s talk about a term used often in relation to ADHD - Executive Function.

What is it? Executive function refers to all that stuff we do consciously and unconsciously on a daily basis, like paying attention, planning out tasks, remembering things, controlling our behaviors and impulses, and starting/finishing tasks. This stuff tends to be second-nature to those without ADHD, but tends to become not-so-natural when our pre-frontal cortex is affected. Individuals with ADHD (and those with any type of executive function difficulty) are all-to-familiar with the struggles that arise when this area of our brain, which regulates and monitors other functions (sort of like the librarian of the brain) is compromised. ADHD affects the development of this area, resulting in slower brain activity and therefore difficulty with some or all executive functions.

So that explains why some people with ADHD, for example, struggle to start or finish tasks, have difficulty planning out tasks to finish in a timely manner, or find it hard to focus on what they need to focus on. Besides mindfulness skills and biofeedback training, both of which can help increase activity in the pre-frontal cortex, the best way for individuals with ADHD to set themselves up for success is to literally set themselves up for success. That means setting up an ideal environment full of social supports and organizational supports to increase functioning.

Here are some more “life hacks” for individuals with ADHD:

  • Swallow that frog. Yes, do it. Do that one thing on your list that you are avoiding the most. It will help energize you to get the other things on your list done, plus the thing you’ve been procrastinating on will finally get done. Chances are this will make your boss or your partner very happy, so it’s a double win!
  • Take advantage of unexpected down time to organize your life - waiting on hold? in the waiting room at the doctor's? use this time to make lists, update your calendar, prioritize emails, etc.
  • Choose a job that will work around your needs - find when you function best (morning, day, night) and seek out jobs or shifts where you can be at your best.
  • Find your optimal functioning spot - whether it's a coffee shop or a home office, find a spot where you can concentrate and accomplish the most. Listen to music, or nature sounds, or silence. Create this space for yourself.
  • Involve significant others in your journey - couples counseling, ADHD meetings, and shared learning can prevent ADHD from negatively affecting the relationship
  • Attend ADHD support groups yourself - find ones for those with ADHD, or open groups for family members. It's a great place to share challenges and ideas.

Lastly, since follow-through on these ideas may be difficult for someone with ADHD, tracking what you are working on and journaling your challenges and accomplishments can be very very helpful. Even taking one of these ideas and tracking your progress could result in some significant life changes.

Thanks for reading!  Hopefully the last few posts gave you some useful information on ADHD. Look out for this and other mental health topics in future posts. 

Maria Karimova MS LLP's picture