Going from 0 to 100 “real quick” isn’t just a catchy Drake lyric. For people living with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), regulating emotions can be a struggle, with many experiencing quick outbursts of frustration and anger. According to one study, more than half of people with ADHD have trouble managing their emotions.
Not only are emotions felt more intensely (i.e., a sad scene in a movie may bring on feelings of depression), they may have a hard time censoring their emotions and can take longer to relax after feeling heavy emotions.
“What might take an hour for a non-ADHD-er to calm down from, could take someone with ADHD the whole day. Part of this is due to difficulty refocusing attention away from the strong emotion,” says Roberto Olivardia, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist and clinical instructor in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
If any of this sounds familiar to you or someone you know with ADHD, here are 10 tips to help manage your emotions.
1. Make time to blow off steam. It takes work for a person with ADHD to remain focused and organized. Set time aside every week or even every day to truly let yourself go in a safe way. Play loud music and dance, yell at the top of your lungs, jab at a punching bag – allow yourself a few moments to let go without fear or restriction.
2. Exercise. Exercise is a proven mood regulator. The trick – especially for people with ADHD – is to do the types of exercise you actually enjoy. This will help prevent boredom.
3. Don’t criticize yourself. Feeling your emotions isn’t a bad thing. Don’t allow yourself or others to make you feel that you’re “too emotional” or “too sensitive.” Remind yourself that you are working on ways to better cope with your emotions.
4. Set boundaries about interruptions. Interruptions can cause people with ADHD to become angry and frustrated at the people or situations that stop their focus. If you know that you dislike being interrupted when you’re working, communicate your “Do Not Disturb” status.
5. Have a mood management toolkit. Big changes in emotions are inevitable, so plan accordingly. Know which friends you can call at the drop of a dime when you’re feeling angry or sad; have a go-to meditation or affirmation you can say; know of safe spaces like parks or movies – places that make you feel good – that you can go to.
6. Celebrate your successes. You’re putting in the work to manage your emotions, so take the time to celebrate even your smallest victories. Did you stop yourself from snapping on a co-worker? Celebrate! Did you smile at the person who cut you off in traffic? Celebrate!
7. Make self-care a priority. Take time every day to do something relaxing. Read, journal, meditate, do yoga.
8. Know your triggers. Know what types of situations may be overwhelming for you and when you feel increased stress. If you’re working on a large project for work, see if you are able to work from home to meet the deadline. For women, you may be more sensitive around the time of your menstrual cycle and may want to schedule more time to relax.
9. Check your medications. If you are taking medication for your ADHD and still find yourself having outbursts, talking with your doctor about the dosage may be helpful.