I’m a huge advocate for balance in all areas of life. There are many parts to ADHD management that, added all together, can create a well balanced plan for clients. Exercise, coaching, diet, supplements, medication, and meditation are all key factors in overall ADHD optimal success.
I’m super aware of the multitude of options in managing the symptoms of ADHD. The majority of my clients use medication for help. Medication fulfills one checked box of ADHD management, but, as a whole, the overall treatment is multi-faceted. You can take all the medication you’d like, but it may not necessarily help you manage your time after school or your workload or your project deadlines, or even how to plan your day. You’ll need additional strategies for success. To give you a little insight: just like one friend can’t fulfill all of our wishlist categories of a perfect BFF, nor can medication be the one and only answer for all things ADHD. We have to look at the whole package.
Natural Strategies for ADHD
One of the areas of balance I am a huge advocate of is supplements and diet. No eye rolling here, please! Maybe you’d like to decrease or eventually come off your meds altogether? There are key supplements that support optimum brain function and are proven to aid in the improvement of ADHD symptoms. With strategies and natural alternatives, coming off meds or decreasing them could be a high probability for some.
Here are the 3 primary supplements that support healthy brain function, mood and impulsivity in the brain.
Omega 3: One of the best vitamins to help support brain health and keep our chemical neurotransmitters functioning is Omega 3. Just like oil is to a car, so is Omega 3 to our brain. It supports mental clarity (minimizes brain fog), helps keep all the “highways” in the brain running smoothly, and helps with overall concentration and mood.
Zinc:Zinc helps reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity. Zinc also helps regulate the function of the neurotransmitter, dopamine, which, supports the feelings of pleasure and rewards.
Food sources: Red meat, shellfish (oysters, crab and shrimp), chickpeas, lentils, beans (kidney, garbanzo beans), seeds (pumpkin, sesame), nuts (almonds, pine nuts, peanuts), eggs, milk, cheese, whole grains (quinoa, rice, wheat), dark chocolate
Magnesium and B6: Magnesium and B6 are essential for overall brain function because they help the binding of neurotransmitters. Symptoms from a deficiency of magnesium include irritability, difficulty with concentration, insomnia, depression, and anxiety.
Not liking the food source options above? Got Picky Eaters? Neba Health has all 3 supplements in liquid form for children and is a great resource.
I would be utterly remiss not mention overall diet. Friends, anything natural (meaning from the ground or an animal), with bright and shiny colors – eat!
Protein is a must for ADHD’ers.
Fruits (especially blueberries, blackberries), vegetables, eggs and meat – offer your children something bright and shiny every meal!
MINIMIZE anything in a box: processed, with food dyes.
And yes, I’m going to say this…MINIMIZE (or totally eliminate – ha!) SUGAR. Nothing good comes from lots of sugar. A child with ADHD already struggles with impulsivity, inattention and hyperactivity – why are you bringing food into the home to fuel the fire here? Yes, you are adding fuel to the fire of ADHD and bringing out the worst aspects of ADHD when sugar (candies, breakfast cereals, food dyes, sugary drinks, etc) is part of your child’s diet.
Remember: who is buying the groceries? There are plenty of other alternatives that will fill up your child! Have the discipline in the grocery store to walk past all this stuff that is toxic for your child. If you need help with snacks, here’s a great article that will help!
With Much GrADDitude, (and healthy brains and body),
I love trampolines. I love watching children jump, roll, flip, laugh, giggle and smile whilst playing. They are my preferred choice of activity for our boys and if space allotted, I think every house should have one (or even two if there’s space for both). I love how multifunctional they are: yes – they are more than entertainment for our children. They are a hidden gem of ADHD hacks!
Trampolines are one of the best forms of entertainment and activities for children. They can be a study tool, an excellent means of exercise to release dopamine and they help with proprioception (awareness of where your body is in relation to the environment) in the body…all wrapped up in…well…can’t really wrap it up, but all presented in the round mass it is! Besides the obvious “fun” part of jumping and twisting and turning and falling, it’s total entertainment for those participating!
How Trampolines Help Those with ADHD
It’s been said that one hour of hardcore exercise (or trampoline jumping) is the equivalent of 3-4 hours of a focused mind (no brain fog): think homework, projects, studying for exams and reading comprehension. What would it look like if your child were able to sit and do homework for 2-3 hours without focus challenges? If an hour of exercise seems too long, what about 25 minutes? That’s easy for a child who loves to jump and fall and twist and maybe even shoot hoops on their trampoline.
Now let’s “jump” further along (all the pun intended here!): What about merging the two? A great study hack and tool is using the trampoline to study – how much more fun would homework and studying be for spelling words, memorization of math facts, history facts, etc, giving your children verbal quizzes while they are jumping all around – what about throwing a ball while they tell you definitions? How would studying look for them if the trampoline was perceived not only as a source to get the wiggles out, but also as a study tool and concentration? Maybe even allowing them to sit and do homework on the trampoline?
No, you don’t need go and buy a big one although they won’t break the bank! The one we own can easily be moved from room to room. And, no, you don’t necessarily need a trampoline, BUT, what ADHD’ers need to help with after school focus when the meds wear off is EXERCISE to trigger the dopamine which helps to activate the frontal lobe. So, whether it’s a trampoline, or jumping jacks, or running, or basketball, or Parkour EXERCISE, EXERCISE, EXERCISE after school, find something – anything – that your children will engage with exercise -wise! Why? Your body needs it to decompress from the day and your brain needs it to help better support its function of helping you focus.
It’s a joy to be able to coach and partner with so many awesome parents, adults and teens out there who are so committed to being better versions of themselves and their loved ones with ADHD. While I am confident my clients always take away something from my sessions, I know I am the one who is blessed when I hang up the phone or walk out of the room after a session ends. How do I know this? Because it’s a joy working with clients who are so teachable and open to self-discovery.
In the beginning of my coaching relationship, my clients quickly learn they need to take notes. There are many times I begin virtual sessions (by phone), and I’ve gotten so used to the flow of the conversation, I can always tell if the client is taking notes or not. In a normal session, we cover a great bit of strategies, facts on ADHD and about halfway through, I always ask, “How are you remembering this?” As the coach, I am writing all the pertinent information I need on my end, but my clients may not be because they are engrossed in the conversation and completely focused. (Shout out to hyper-focus ADHD!) They quickly realize they need to take notes!
This is a great way for me to learn about them, too, as we all have our own systems, styles and tools that work for us. ADHD and working memory are not the best of friends, if I may. In my first session with clients, they will forget or not even be prepared to write down goals or points as we are engaging in conversation. Inevitably they ask me to repeat what I just said and I will (yes I am a meticulous note taker for that exact reason), BUT I will only allow this one time.
Part of the coaching process is for the client to become more accountable and put systems in place that work for them to succeed. I have clients who have an ADHD spiral notebook where everything about our sessions and ADHD is written. Others have planners or a scheduler where they write notes/goals and just need the “bare bones” of our sessions to write what they’ve chosen to work on. I have students who use all kinds of apps and timers to help them stay on task and write/type things down.
But when I ask the client, “How will you remember this?” it’s not just the next week’s goals I need them to remember. I know by asking this, I’m also asking a very important life long successful strategy question. Why? Because it doesn’t stop with our sessions. ADHD’ers are constantly needing to be reminded of things…every day. Helping them figure out what works best for them is crucial to their success in business, family life, social life and their confidence. They need to know what system works best for them. AND it may be different based on their environments. What works well for our client sessions may not be the best for remembering details about a work meeting or what their children need for afterschool events.
Point being, they need to figure out how they will remember pertinent things every day to keep them successful. Part of what I do as a coach is tie that one question into our present coaching session and then bring it full circle to how they can use it in their everyday life.
Parents, you can ask this one simple question too! It is a great means of holding your teen responsible and accountable for homework, schedules, chores, etc. Try it and see what they chose as their tool for remembering – they may surprise you!
As a parent of an ADHD teen, I feel I’m always reminding my son of the importance of being flexible when there’s a change of plans. Each morning, before our boys walk out the door, we talk about what’s happening after school. It’s amazing how they look forward to their after school time! I really can’t blame them – they are “on” all day long and their afterschool time is their own to unwind and do as they please.
On the VERY rare days when there’s a change of plans, I’ve learned (and failed many a time) that it’s the delivery that matters when we need to communicate the need for flexibility in such circumstances. My teen with ADHD does not look on change of plans favorably, unless it benefits him…sound familiar? Others with ADHD thrive on last minute changes and love the excitement of it and are able to adapt, be flexible, and even creative, but not my son!
Therein lies the mystery of ADHD – it presents itself differently to all!
So, what to do when you know you’re responsible for throwing the curveball that just might send your loved one over the edge into a downward spiral of emotional angst and outburst?
You have to prime the pump!
Just like any transitions, be it physical or psychological, time is on your side! They need time to process and prepare for what they are about to hear and/or do. Do NOT just blurt out, “We are going to the grocery store and grab your car keys.” That’s a front row seat to a mega meltdown! Instead try these steps:
Give it a minute and ask them to tell you when they are prepared to hear what you are about to say. By doing this, you are showing your loved one respect and allowing them to control the timing of information shared with them.
When they are ready, share the change of plans. Remind them of the importance of being flexible in life and how plans change each day.
Acknowledge it’s not comfortable for them (when things change), but you are confident they are capable of being flexible and stepping up to the challenge.
Another helpful hint is to ask them to share another time they had to be flexible and what they experienced. Chances are, it’s not really the actual event that’s taking place that’s annoying them, but the transitioning of their mindset, processing and thinking that’s their challenge! It’s a learned skill for those with ADHD – a work in progress, just like all of us.
I’m a work in progress, are you? I’m so structured that I struggle with flexibility as well. So when my son throws me a curveball and asks if we can go get ice cream after school, how do you think I respond? We go get ice cream (cookie dough for me please)!
The holidays are meant to be full of celebration, but there’s a lot of preparation that goes into creating those joyful moments. Activity, that when added to your already long daily to-do list, can really overwhelm your executive functions leaving you exhausted and very Scrooge-like.
Here are some helpful hints to keep you in the holiday spirit:
Make 2 lists: “The Master List” and a “Today List”. On the Master List, write down everything that needs to happen this month (and add to it as needed). Then each morning, review the Master list and write out your “Today List”. Just remember – if your “Today List” is too long, it will be overwhelming to your ADHD brain and very little, if anything, will get accomplished.
When you have your Today List listed, ask yourself a few questions: “What’s MOST pressing?” “Is someone relying on me?” “If I don’t get this done today, what will happen?” “Is there a deadline to meet?” Then number the activities so you know what’s most important to get done that day.
Set up a system to remember what to do each day. Will you write it down (consider where), record it (how will it sound and how often will you listen to it?) or just remember? What will help you train your brain to remember? Knowing your own style of remembering will assist in being productive.
Don’t try and do everything all at once. Maybe you can organize by doing quicker/easier things first? Or maybe you decide to tackle the most time consuming, less interesting items first.
Make sure you take a short break when you become tired and resume when you are able to focus again.
Reward yourself when you accomplished your “Today List”!
Every day, all day, the ADHD brain needs things broken down into smaller pieces. Honor this. OWN it. It’s how your brain works!