Living with ADHD can often feel like being on a constant fast-paced treadmill. The mind races, thoughts bounce from one thing to another, and the world around seems to move at lightning speed. The idea of slowing often feels impossible.
I believe slowing down is the medicine people with ADHD often need most. It’s the thing that feels the hardest to do, but is the most important. This article will explore practical strategies to help you slow down, even when it feels challenging.
Pause before saying yes
Since people with ADHD tend to move quickly, it can be easy to say yes to things automatically. Suddenly you’ve committed a best friend trip out of town, a dinner party, volunteering at your kid’s school, and helping a friend move all in one week because in the moment saying yes felt like the thing to do. Learning to pause is essential for slowing down. Build the habit of waiting to say yes, checking your schedule, and consider saying no if it would mean sacrificing time to rest and relax.
Practice leisure time
Often we keep ourselves overextended and busy because time and space can feel excruciating. A common trait of ADHD is difficulty enjoying leisure time, because your mind is processing 100 things at once when your body is trying to rest.
Practice: Build a tolerance to leisure by practicing. For example, watch a movie, let your body relax, and when you start to feel restless, consider doing something else (instead of looking at your phone). Active leisure can also feel good to people with ADHD, so activities like walking in nature, sitting outdoors, doing puzzles, reading books, and talking on the phone can be nourishing while also restful.
Mindfulness is a powerful tool that can help individuals with ADHD cultivate present-moment awareness and slow down racing thoughts. Studies consistently show that mindfulness can reduce symptoms of ADHD in adults and teens.
Practice: I find it helpful to start by setting a timer for 10 minutes every morning, sit quietly and focus on your breath. As the mind wanders, gently bring it back to present awareness.
Use Time Blocking
Time blocking involves allocating specific time slots for different activities or tasks throughout the day. By designating dedicated time for various responsibilities, you can create a structured routine that helps you stay on track and prevents the feeling of being constantly rushed. Consider using aids like timers or alarms to signal the amount of time to stay on one task, and when it’s time to transition to the next activity. Having a visual representation of time like a small clock on your desk can help anchor your focus and keep you more aware of how you’re spending it.
Build in Transition Time (more than you think)
Transitions can be particularly challenging for individuals with ADHD. Moving from one activity to another can feel abrupt and jarring, leading to increased stress and difficulty focusing. Allow yourself extra time for transitions by building in buffer periods between tasks. Use these moments to take a few deep breaths, stretch, get a snack, and drink some water. By creating a smoother transition, you can create a sense of calm and reduce the urge to rush through everything.
Break the Cycle of Running on Adrenaline
Often, the pressure to keep up with the fast-paced world can come from within. It can feel comfortable to run on adrenaline and be in a state of rushing all day. People with ADHD often thrive under stress, so you may unknowingly perpetuate this.
Consciously choose to slow down. Sometimes quitting things like caffeine can be a good first step to listening to your body and honoring when it needs to rest.
Remember, slowing down is a skill that takes practice and patience. Celebrate small victories along the way and be kind to yourself throughout the process. By implementing these strategies and embracing a more deliberate pace, you can create a sense of calm, enhance focus, and reclaim control over your time and attention.