If you have ADHD, you probably know too well the challenges of having great intentions when you start work or a project that is quickly followed by boredom and distraction, making it seem like finishing a task might as well be climbing Mount Everest.
This may have to do with a chemical called dopamine, among other things. To upregulate your brain, behavioral strategies could help to aid the struggle with the restlessness, distractibility, and trouble finishing tasks. In addition to comprehensive medical and neuropsychological treatments, some in-the-moment strategies might be helpful.
1. When you are working, let yourself move. Sit on a (safe) ball, allow movement, create a standing desk and move while you type, or schedule quick activity breaks where you can do whole body movements (think touching your toes and then jumping up 10 times) that will help upregulate if you need to work for a while.
2. Make a deal with yourself to work for short bursts of time and then take small breaks with a smart phone alarm that signals when you need to return to work. If you have a hard time organizing, text yourself a list of tasks so when your alarm goes off you can remember what you need to go back to that’s next on your list.
3. Turn your phone off and limit distractions in the environment that pull you away from what you are doing.
4. Dangle a carrot (not an actual carrot but a reward for finishing tasks). Decide how you want to treat yourself when you finish a task or even when you finish parts of tasks if the larger task seems too daunting. The rewards don’t have to cost money. Allowing yourself to play video games, call a friend, shop online, or put a small amount of money towards an activity can help you focus on a reward for a job well done and this can keep you motivated.
5. Try TouchPoints™. These wearable devices not only increase attention span, but reduce stress and anxiety in as little as 30 seconds. Preliminary data shows that the bi-lateral alternating stimulation in tactile form (BLAST) technology may reduce the need for restless motor movements and may improve attention in some cases. And those with ADHD report frequent difficulty managing the “rebound” period that can occur at night when ADHD medications’ effects start to wane. TouchPoints™ can be a passive, non-invasive way to get you through from start to finish.
“He starts to get really hyper again and it’s like clockwork,” says Mary R., a mother of 9-year-old Brennen with ADHD, who saw positive effects with medication but needed solutions to help her manage the nightly routine. Mary tried the following suggestions for one week:
1. First, she kept a nightly log of when the “rebound” effect occurred and established it was around 7 p.m. at night.
2. She then made sure Brennen completed all homework, chores, and other tasks prior to the rebound period so he could better manage the tasks.
3. At 7 p.m. she turned the TouchPoints™ on to help mitigate the rebound hyperactivity and left the TouchPoints on until he was settled and calm in bed.
“Night time is much more peaceful in our home now,” Mary reported. “He used to mess with the dog, antagonize his sister, and have a really hard time settling down and falling asleep. Now he is much calmer and focused and I don’t have to follow him around and make sure he isn’t acting up.” Mary noted that on sports nights, when Brennen cannot finish his homework before 7 p.m., she has him use TouchPoints during his homework time to help him sit still and focus. “It just seems to take the edge off his need to constantly move and things go much smoother.”
We are not claiming TouchPoints are a treatment for ADHD. Comprehensive treatment can include medication, behavioral interventions, and neuromodulation. For more information, you can check out this research article.