Being one of the 4% of American adults with ADHD can be a challenge. It’s frustrating to feel like the world isn’t made for the way that your mind works, which is an entirely valid feeling. However, understanding ADHD and emotions in adults will help you not only to integrate better with those around you but also to accept who you are.
Since emotional spikes- both positive and negative- can be difficult to manage, we’ve compiled 9 tips to help you regulate your feelings. Read on to learn some ADHD emotional regulation tips that can help you to live the wonderful and fulfilling life that you’re meant to lead.
1. Research and Understand ADHD and Emotions in Adults
If you were just diagnosed with ADHD or are just coming to understand that it’s the reason behind emotional dysregulation, you’ll want to do some research. Take to Google and look at forums meant for those with ADHD. Other people who have minds who work like yours will likely share strategies that they’ve used to cope with emotional issues that they face due to neurodivergence.
Remember that there’s no one who understands ADHD better than other adults who actually have it. Psychiatrists and doctors can give you extremely valuable clinical information, but they don’t always have firsthand experience of what daily life with ADHD is like. Talk to other ADHD adults to get some perspective on what it’s like to cope with similar struggles to yours.
You also may want to look at credible medical websites about ADHD and studies that were conducted by reputable scientists. These studies may give you insight into the reasons that your brain works in the ways that it does. This can help you understand why your behaviors and emotions are the way that they are so that you know specifically what you need to regulate.
2. Talk to Your Psychiatrist and Therapist
Pretty much everyone can benefit from some form of therapy, but this is even more the case for neurodiverse people. Talking to a therapist can help you regulate your emotions. Because mental health professionals understand ADHD and have tools for coping with common emotional issues that may come with it, you will gain access to helpful tools and methods for regulation.
You also will want to see a psychiatrist who can assess your needs and prescribe medication when necessary. Even if you don’t need meds for ADHD, you may have other mental health issues that cause emotional dysregulation. Psychiatrists can diagnose and treat these issues.
Before choosing a practice, check out online articles by experts like Dr. Ned Hallowell. Authorities like him can provide expert advice and tactics for coping with having ADHD in a neurotypical world. The things that you learn from his studies can also help you to better understand yourself and give you more insight when choosing a practice.
3. Keep a Journal (and Write Consistently)
Researchers at Harvard (and many other facilities) have long linked mental health to writing. Those with ADHD can benefit from journaling every day. Write down what you did that day, how you feel about it, what you’re glad you accomplished, and what you hope to do tomorrow.
When something makes you feel a greater level of emotion, vent about how you’re feeling. This will get it all out in a positive and healthy way. You also can go back to look at it later and assess how you regulated your emotions while still in the situation that you’re writing about.
Writing in a journal consistently can be difficult, especially if you’re forgetful and distracted. Set a timer on your phone each day and write when the timer goes off. Even just 10 minutes of journaling is much better than nothing.
4. Get Enough Sleep
1 in 3 adults doesn’t get enough sleep. If you find that you’re among them, it’s important that you set a routine to stop yourself from neglecting sleep. When you’re tired, you’re likely to feel emotions more deeply and intensely. You also are going to have difficulty thinking and concentrating, which makes it nearly impossible to regulate your emotions.
Some ways that you can improve your nightly rest include:
- Having a consistent sleep schedule (going to bed and waking up at the same time)
- Only using your bed for sleep (this trains your mind and body to fall asleep when you get into bed)
- Having a nightly routine that you follow immediately before bed
- Reading a chapter of a book before bed (to calm your mind)
- Putting away your phone/tablet/computer at least an hour before you go to sleep
5. Create a Schedule (and Stick to It)
One of the trickiest things about ADHD is getting distracted. Being unable to accomplish a task can not only be frustrating and irritating, but it can create a difficult-to-regulate problem with self-worth. While you don’t need to be working and accomplishing things all the time- that’s never reasonable- you can create a schedule for your day and stick to it so that you complete necessary tasks.
Sit down at the beginning of each day and create a list. Include the times that you hope to get each task done by. This will help you remain focused, on-track, and not forget about any deadlines or goals.
6. Make Time for Yourself
Having a schedule doesn’t mean that you should neglect your needs and the things that you love to do. Make sure that you include time for your hobbies, interests, and hyperfixations within the schedule that you make. Indulging in things that you love on a regular and scheduled basis is a great way to regulate the time that you spend doing what you care about most.
7. Engage With Your Hyperfixations (at Scheduled Times)
An extension of making time for yourself is engaging in your hyperfixations (assuming that they’re harmless). Many ADHD folks have hyperfixations, which are subjects that they have an extremely high level of interest and excitement about. While many neurotypical people don’t care to understand this, it’s one of the best things about having ADHD- you have a really cool subject that you’re truly passionate about.
Sometimes, though, hyperfixating on your interest can detract from the focus necessary for other tasks. This is one of the reasons that you should set aside time to engage in your hyperfixations each day. Reread that book series that you love, watch that anime, or research that historical time period.
This will help you regulate your excitement at other times throughout the day. Plus, it will make you happy and boost serotonin, which is always a good thing!
8. Recruit Assistance from Loved Ones
Friends and family can also be hugely beneficial to regulating your emotions when you have ADHD. They can tell you when to take a breather or a step back.
If you know that you get emotional in certain types of situations such as political discussions or when at certain stores, you can ask those around you to make sure that you’re okay. Tell them that you may need to be talked down when in these scenarios and ask them to give you pointers and tools on how to regulate your emotions.
You can provide these pointers and tools in advance. No one knows what’s better for future-you than current-you does!
9. Practice Mindfulness and Reduce Stress
The next way that you can regulate your emotions is by practicing mindfulness. This usually comes in the form of meditation or yoga and it helps you to identify your emotions. Once you identify how you’re feeling, you’ll have a clearer understanding of how you can keep that emotion at an appropriate level.
In order to be able to practice mindfulness, you’ll need to reduce stress first. Take a bath with a relaxing and moisturizing bath bomb. Read a book that you find calming. Take a walk outside in nature.
This will get you focused and relaxed enough that you can shut your mind off for the time it takes to meditate.
Improve Your Self-Regulation Skills
In a world that’s so often made for neurotypical people, having ADHD (or any other neurological condition) can be a challenge. Remember that your disability is part of what makes you the person that you are. Embrace the best parts of it. Whether you’re an empath or are passionate about your hyperfixations, celebrate the things that make you special.
Now that you know about ADHD and emotions in adults and have some idea of how you can regulate your own, it’s time to learn more. Browse the ‘health’ and ‘lifestyle’ tabs on our home page to learn some strategies for stress reduction and getting emotional support. You’ll find articles here about neurodiversity and how you can cope with being left behind in a challenging world.