How to Practice Self-Care with ADHD (9 IMPORTANT steps)

A young woman at a park is stretching her arms upwards

As an adult woman with ADHD, I understand the struggle of regularly practicing self-care. When you have ADHD, feeling overwhelmed and stressed out most of the time, comes easily. Having ADHD does not mean you need to neglect your self-care.

The 9 Important Steps to Self-Care with ADHD:

  1. Practice Saying NO
  2. Adequate Sleep Intake
  3. Eating Regular and Balanced Meals
  4. Hydrate for FUN!
  5. DO Exercise you LOVE
  6. Get Outside DAILY
  7. Find a Hobby you ENJOY
  8. Take a BATH…instead of a Shower
  9. Learn to Forgive…Yourself

The fact is, we’re all different. Even though the struggles of ADHDers are always going to be different in some way, we do share a lot of the same everyday struggles. This self-care list will help you to feel like you’re back in balance.

1. Practice Saying NO

If you have ADHD, then you have probably noticed that you stay busy, really busy, doing a LOT of things that you probably would rather not do. A lot of us tend to say yes to every favor requested from us, volunteer for things that make us feel like we’re needed, and apply to ourselves self-help productivity tips meant for neurotypicals.

To say NO requires a mental shift but it’s totally doable. Start to analyze and become aware of your level of overwhelm and adjust your commitments and obligations accordingly. This can mean saying NO to meeting friends on Friday night because you just feel burnt out and done from the week.

This is an AMAZING tool to help ADHD’ers to analyze if they should commit to something or not called- ADHD Friendly Rubric. Check it Out!

It can also look like holding back from volunteering for things to help others because, in all honesty, you’ve neglected to take care of yourself. It also can be editing the “productivity hacks” you’ve been striving to apply to yourself because it is just more work for you in the end.

Learn to say NO when necessary to others but also to YOURSELF.

2. Adequate SLEEP Intake

One of the worst things that a lot of us with ADHD suffer from is INSOMNIA. There is nothing worse than not being able to fall asleep, wide awake at 2 am, knowing you have to be up with the alarm at 6 am. Then you start engaging in SNOOZE BUTTON WARFARE when your alarm finally does go off. If you suffer from insomnia for two weeks or longer, it is considered a mental health condition, and you are urged to seek mental health treatment.

Insomnia is a huge symptom of my ADHD that I have ALWAYS battled with. However, with the help of my Psychiatrist and a good sleep hygiene routine, I’m on and hope to STAY on track.

Lack of sleep has serious health repercussions and you don’t need to continue suffering. ADHD brains are very active and this means we NEED adequate quality sleep.

We can do a few things to induce sleep such as not consuming any caffeine after 10 am.

Two hours before bedtime make your home quiet and dark. Stay off electronic devices, including TV, at least two hours before bedtime.

Wear blue-light-blocking glasses or turn on the night light filter on all your electronic devices.

Drink a calming herbal (caffeine-free) tea such as chamomile or lavender.

Diffuse essential oils into the air that are calming like lavender, chamomile, holy basil (tulsi), or lemon balm (melissa).

Aim to get 7-8.5 hours of sleep each night, more if you need it. Creating a good sleep hygiene routine that works for you takes trial and error but eventually, you will find something that works.

3. Eat REGULAR and BALANCED meals

Sometimes with ADHD, we tend to ignore or not be aware of our hunger signals. We may either be busy doing something else and be so hyper-focused that we cannot stop OR our brain is so busy thinking of something that we don’t hear our belly crying for food.

The problem is our brains require a good amount of nutrients throughout the day to function optimally. If you notice that you’re having a lot of mood swings as one of your ADHD symptoms, then you may want to start giving priority to your meals. It’s crucial not to skip meals.

When we skip meals, we create a pattern of uneven blood sugar. When our blood sugar becomes imbalanced, we can start to have extreme shifts in our moods.

This may even turn into physical effects like shaking, blurry vision, tiredness, and muscle weakness. When we let our blood sugar get out of control because we haven’t nourished our bodies with food when we needed it, we can have explosive emotions like anger, irritability, or sadness. For our body to produce these emotions it requires….you guessed it…NUTRIENTS.

This is a physiological response that we cannot change. What we can do is give our brains and bodies the nutrients that they need when they need them.

Eating 3 complete meals and 2 balanced snacks daily is a great place to start. Your meals and snacks should comprise of protein, fat, and fiber. Adding a vegetable to your meals and fruit to your snacks can help you get the micronutrients that your body requires. Experiment with the portions and timing of your meals to see what works for you.

4. Hydrate for FUN!

I’m chugging a big bottle of Trader Joe’s Sparkling Water in Mandarin Orange as I’m writing this. I used to suffer a lot from daily headaches and constipation. I barely drank any water. Water was boring to me. Soda, with tons of sugar and caffeine, was much more fun…at the time. The problem was I lacked imagination when it came to drinking water.

Your brain and body need enough hydration to function optimally. Hydration is one of the ways your body gets nutrients to where they need to be and eliminates toxins that nobody wants hanging around.

Get creative with your water intake. Always carry a big bottle of water around with you. You can make it fun by adding herbal tea to your water. Brew a cup of caffeine-free tea such as lemon-mint or peach and add that to 40 oz of water. Add frozen fruit to your water such as strawberry, pineapple, and lime slices, or mango and ginger.

Make your water into whatever sounds fun to you. The options are endless!

5. DO Exercise you LOVE

Children at a preschool are dancing

Every piece of self-care advice out there pushes exercise to some extent. With good reason too. The evidence is clear that ADHD’ers are no exception. However, if you’re feeling overtired and overwhelmed the thought of pushing through 30 minutes to one hour of grueling exercise may sound like suicide.

You don’t have to do movement you hate. Doing movement you hate will actually do more harm than good. Do what sounds and feels good to you. Does going for a stroll sound good? Do it. Does doing 10 minutes of a stretching video sound good? Do that. Dancing? Running up a mountain? Mountain biking?

There’s no perfect exercise for any given day. Let your body tell you what it wants to do and let that be your movement for the day. Find your internal GROOVE.

6. Get Outside DAILY

Nature has profound effects on our entire sense of well-being. The lack of exposure to nature has very negative effects on our health. Sometimes the only outside time we may get is walking to our car, mowing the lawn, or when someone accidentally opens the window.

If you’re feeling drained of energy, lack creativity or motivation, or are sad and depressed, spending time in nature may be your solution. Connecting to nature can be like a recharge of our batteries.

There are a lot of scientific things that happen when humans spend time in nature. The synthesis of Vitamin D when we expose our skin to sunshine, the exchange of ions when we are surrounded by oxygen-rich air, the grounding effects from the earth’s electromagnetic field, the positive effect on our nervous system when we smell different plant life and hear the sounds of birds, animals, wind, and water. When our skin comes into contact with plant life, we pick up microbes that benefit our immune system. The benefits go on and on.

Start with something easy. Commit to spending 1 full minute each day outside, maybe in your yard, and increase the time from there to what feels good and is manageable for you. Go hug that tree!

7. Find a Hobby you ENJOY

Life cannot be all fun and games. Nor can it be all business as usual. Making time for something that fulfills you and lets your creative juices flow is essential. If you don’t find a hobby that you can regularly enjoy you may find that you start feeling like you’re losing your identity, like a robot.

Finding enjoyment in life in things that purely bring us joy is part of the human experience. Search a list of hobbies online, watch YouTube videos of activities that sound interesting, and find an online course or in-person class that features the hobby that is catching your interest.

Just to name a few, there are drawing, painting, photography, calligraphy, home decorating, refinishing antique furniture, mountain biking, cycling, swimming, dancing- ballet, modern, hip hop, belly, jazz, and tap.

There are so many things to try. Do what sounds most interesting to you and then make time for it every week. Just make sure it adds to your life and doesn’t take away.

8. Take a BATH…instead of a Shower

We all know we need to bathe regularly for good hygiene. I invite you to take this time to relax. Relaxing in a bathtub can be a great way to de-stress. You can have a candle lit, essential oils, and maybe soft music.

Sitting in a warm bath can help you to start to digest your day and become more aware of your environment. Put a wrung-out washcloth on your eyes, feel the water on your skin, feel the warmth of the water, and sense how your muscles feel as you lay in the water. Take a deep belly breath and let it all out.

Let out all of the tension and the chaos of the day. You don’t have to spend forever in here. Nor do you have to replace your shower with a bath every day. Just a few times a week, take this time for yourself.

9. Learn to Forgive…Yourself

I saved the BEST one for last. As ADHD’ers we tend to take a lot of things personally. We don’t let go of things very well. One of the best things we can do for ourselves is to learn to forgive, ourselves and others. Maybe someone didn’t follow through on their promise, was rude to us, or didn’t hold the door open or say thank you. Maybe we promised ourselves we were going to get everything done by a certain time but we failed to meet our own expectations. We expected so much more from ourselves.

Expecting perfection when no one, not even ourselves, is perfect, leads to problems. These things can create negative feelings in us and these feelings can quickly spiral out of control. Rumination can lead to resentment, anxiety, and depression.

We can create cognitive distortions such as: “I’m such a loser” or “I can’t do anything right” because we left the stove on or got to the doctor’s appointment late. Or “Nobody loves me, I must be unlovable” because your friend didn’t come to help you move or the neighbor gave flowers to the other neighbor and not to you.

To find forgiveness, we need compassion and empathy. Did you leave the stove on because you’re overwhelmed with responsibilities and/or your ADHD symptoms aren’t being well controlled? Did you show up late to the doctor’s appointment because your energy is low from the effects of insomnia or autoimmune disease? Did your friend not come to help you move because they are overwhelmed and exhausted from the stress in their life? Did the neighbor bring the other neighbor flowers because the other neighbor’s loved one had just died?

These are just examples to help you see how you can start questioning what you accept as reality. There are always things we don’t know when it comes to others. Find reasons to be more compassionate, empathetic, and FORGIVING.

When you forgive yourself and others you will find such a sense of relief. No one should carry around the burden of resentment. We’re all imperfect and that’s perfectly fine.

Here are nine of the most important steps to self-care for those with ADHD. Start applying these steps to your life and you will be well along your way to better self-care with ADHD.

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The content in this article is for informational, entertainment, and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of medical advice or treatment from a trained qualified physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Galeano Massage nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, or supplements or those diagnosed with a medical illness should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.


I've been practicing Massage Therapy since 2014. I'm a health and wellness enthusiast. I'm always learning and experimenting with different techniques, recipes, and healing modalities. I believe that we need to approach health and wellness from a WHOLE-listic point of view and understand that it will constantly be changing and is never stagnant. We are all unique and what works for one person will not necessarily work for another person. As I grow, change, and experiment I will share what I have learned as it may help someone else in need.

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