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ADHD and How to Manage Stress

ADHD and stress can make you miserable. Learn 11 ADHD stress reduction techniques on HealthyPlace and you’ll feel a lot better.

ADHD and stress team up to create problems for people. In addition to external life stressors, the brain-based ADHD increases stress from within. For people with ADHD, frustration and stress levels are almost constantly elevated because the ADHD brain doesn’t filter out stimuli, slow down, or easily concentrate (Ratey, 2017).

Stress isn’t always bad. Reasonable amounts of stress actually help the brain by increasing levels of norepinephrine and, if an activity is rewarding, dopamine. With ADHD, these two chemicals are deficient, so appropriate stress can be helpful. It’s when stress is out of control that it becomes unhealthy and ADHD stress and anxiety skyrockets.

Despite how it can feel, managing stress with ADHD is possible. Stockpile a toolbox of ADHD stress reduction techniques so you have multiple go-to activities that transform stressful moments to peaceful ones.

11 Stress Management Techniques for Adults with ADHD

The following tips are research-based and proven to help reduce and, on an ongoing basis, manage stress when you have ADHD. Everyone is unique, so pick the ones that are a good fit for you.

As you learn how to deal with both ADHD and stress, keep in mind that working with ADHD rather than against it will be the most effective. Allow yourself to remain busy and to take on challenges, for example, but adopt some strategies to keep frustration and anxiety in check.

Embracing your positive traits and strengths will help you reduce stress because you’re not struggling against yourself. As you focus on your strengths, try these 11 ADHD stress management techniques:

  1. Think of your wellness in individual parts: physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, occupational, and social (Weiss, 2005) so you can take care of yourself in target areas
  2. Create daily rituals, even brief ones, for relaxation; ADHD calming techniques for adults can involve movement and range from yoga to running
  3. Find your purpose and passions because having meaning in what you do helps change stress from negative to positive
  4. Every hour, pause and notice what’s going well; express gratitude
  5. Engage in intense daily physical activity/exercise, from a 15-minute power walk or bike ride to time at the gym to participation in sports; martial arts can be especially good when you have ADHD because it decreases impulsivity as it increases self-control (Hallowell & Ratey, 2010)
  6. Take breaks throughout the day to decrease the chances of becoming overstimulated
  7. Practice deep breathing, as it positively impacts the brain and decreases stress; do it the moment you notice your stress levels rising, and even better, do it regularly to head off stress before it starts
  8. Use visualization exercises to reduce stress; closing your eyes, breathing slowly and deeply, and picturing something that is calming to you relaxes muscles and reduces stress
  9. Manage your environment by keeping it organized (clutter increases stress) and pleasing to be in; add soothing elements like a lava lamp; studies have shown that lava lamps are calming (ADDitude Magazine editors)
  10. Use humor because laughter and lightheartedness reduce stress; hang humorous things where you work, take breaks and listen to a humorous audiobook or watch funny YouTube videos
  11. Use ADHD stress toys; when you are stressed, fiddling with things releases pent-up negative energy, so keep things like fidget spinners, stress balls, kinetic sand, Silly Putty, Play-Doh, or any other item you can manipulate close at hand

Reducing stress means shifting aspects of your inner- and outer worlds so you respond both physically and mentally. Discover what makes you happy and helps you feel good in the six areas of wellness. When you’re experiencing stress, break it apart and do things to manage it in the moment and beyond.

Relaxation techniques for ADHD don’t have to involve sitting still. Doing something active and fun is often relaxing for people with ADHD. Experiment with the above stress management tips and do those that you like. You just might find that ADHD and stress won’t always work against you.

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2017, October 25). ADHD and How to Manage Stress, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 16 from https://www.healthyplace.com/self-help/adhd/adhd-and-how-to-manage-stress

Last Updated: June 19, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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