I get this question all the time:
“Dana, why is my ADHD worse on some days? Sure, medication helps, but my performance still varies from one day to the next. This inconsistency drives me crazy. Help!”
I think one of the most annoying things about ADHD is not knowing how your brain will work from one day to the next. One day you’re a model of productivity and the next you’re a zombie.
It’s important to know that it’s not you. YOU are not doing anything wrong. ADHD is a brain condition and the brain is a complex thing.
Many things affect ADHD performance, and tracking them can help you find out what influences you the most. Once you know what helps and hurts your ADHD, you can create habits that support good performance.
Here’s a list of things that can affect ADHD brain performance:
- Food – To function well the ADHD brain needs protein such as nuts, cheese, yogurt, milk, soy, meats, fish, beans and eggs. Focus on low-fat and nonfat sources. Three meals with small snacks between are best. Many adults with ADHD starve their brains for fuel by forgetting to eat. If this challenges you, set a timer to remind yourself to eat.
- Sleep – ADHD or not, anyone who is exhausted will experience fuzzy thinking. Go to bed earlier for a week and see if your productivity improves. ADHD and sleep problems often go hand-in-hand, so talk to your doctor if necessary.
- Alcohol – I’ve noticed that drinking more than one glass of wine slows me down for a couple of days. Can you detect a pattern between your alcohol consumption and your non-productive days? I’m not suggesting you never imbibe. Merely that you know how much you can drink without impacting your functioning.
- Exercise – Studies show regular aerobic exercise helps the ADHD brain. I definitely feel more positive and energetic after I run on my mini-trampoline. My thinking is clearer, too. Experiment and see if a quick walk around the block makes a difference for you.
- Stimulation – The ADHD brain searches for stimulation. Too few activities, deadlines and appointments in your day can seriously slow your performance. Too many can lead to overwhelm. Since the right amount of stimulation varies for each person, experiment to decide how much stimulation you need for peak performance.
- Transitions – People with ADHD have a hard time switching from one activity, task or event to another. Are you experiencing any changes in your schedule or work? Just back from vacation? Starting a new project? Transitions can slow down ADHD performance.
What I want is for you to live more easily with your ADHD. That means having your brain switched to the “ON” position as often as possible. Your lifestyle choices do make a difference. But don’t change everything at once, experiment with one change at a time to see what helps.
Next time you have a slow day, think back over the past day or two. Could any of these things be a factor? If you notice a pattern, experiment with small changes until you discover what works best for you.
And another good thing for your brain and your ADHD? Join the ADHD Success Club to get a better understanding of how all of these things can impact you and learn more tips to be successful. Click here for more information and use the code SUCCESS to save $10 each month!