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Classic textbook ADHD is seeking stimulation because the brain doesn’t generate enough dopamine, and the brain needs dopamine to stay focused and engaged. And so you do things to get dopamine, whether those are high-risk behaviors or exercising a ton or flying from thing to thing to stay stimulated.
So I’m an adrenaline junky, which is common for people with ADHD. I struggle with over-commitment, and I tend to create almost my own nightmare with too many deadlines. I also wait until the last minute to get something done, because the fear that I won’t finish creates adrenaline and that allows me to focus.
ADHD medication helps. But you also develop these systems or methods that allow you to get things done. I developed a lot of them when I was younger. I call them my whacky ways to learn. I get on a treadmill and I listen to 80s music like the Rocky theme, and I run to flood the brain with dopamine. That gets me pumped up, and then I can go write the article I need to write or whatever. It’s like I have to manufacture focus. There was a study at UPenn recently that showed ADHD people wait to be in the perfect mood to do something. And when you’re in that perfect mood, you can get a lot done. I try to manufacture that mood.
When I have a bad week, the biggest thing for me is having a hard time managing the bombardment of life. I have a hard time being even and calm about things. That week I didn’t have my medication, I couldn’t sleep well. I was getting up at quarter of five every day, just because I was anxious about getting things done. My attention was always split. I was always aware of other things in the background. I could feel emails or texts coming in, and I was trying to do something else. And I can’t shift from texts to going back to writing. I have to focus on one thing or I get overwhelmed and I just shut down. I just stop being productive, and my emotion regulation goes south. (If you struggle with anxiety, there are plenty of natural ways to relieve your nerves.)
That’s a huge part of ADHD people don’t talk about—the emotion regulation piece where emotions take over because you’re worried about getting things done. Just overloaded. It could also manifest as overeating. (This crazy-easy hack can help you avoid overeating.) I’d been on a great clip with exercise and eating, and wasn’t able to stay on course that week and remember that my intention was to be healthier. Just the week before I’d been able to pause and say to myself I want to be healthier, so don’t order takeout. But then I couldn’t do that.
I can’t be in someone else’s brain, so I can’t say what it’s like if you don’t have ADHD. But if you’ve ever had a head cold and you’re hazy, or out of it, that’s how some people describe ADHD. I’ll find myself vacuuming, writing something, and making soup at the same time. Just…