Strategies For Managing ADHD Neurodivergent Thinking

Medically reviewed by Nikki Ciletti, M.Ed, LPC
Updated April 1, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) tends to be one of the most common mental health conditions diagnosed in children and young adults. Individuals with ADHD may experience impulsive behavior, difficulty focusing, and hyperactivity. Similar to conditions like obsessive-compulsive disorder, Tourette syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, and other neurodevelopmental conditions, ADHD can be seen as a type of neurodivergent thinking. This generally means that individuals with ADHD may process information and see the world differently from neurotypical individuals.

While neurodivergent thinking can be a strength, learning to harness it as a tool can be challenging at times. Strategies like lifestyle changes, time management techniques, organization tools, mindfulness practices, and mindset shifts can be helpful. A licensed therapist, whether in person or online, can help those with ADHD manage their symptoms and use neurodivergent thinking to their advantage.

Learn to use neurodivergent thinking to your advantage

What is ADHD neurodivergent thinking?

The term neurodiversity usually refers to the range of how people may think about and function within the world. ADHD is a neurodevelopmental condition that typically impacts how a person thinks and acts in their everyday life. Those with ADHD may have a hard time focusing for long periods, struggle with controlling impulses, or have trouble sitting still. This may make it challenging for children or young adults to focus in school or at home, especially when completing tasks or assignments that they don’t find interesting. 

Although there can be challenges to living with ADHD, there can also be many beneficial neurodivergent traits associated with the disorder. One strength that can be associated with ADHD may be an elevated level of creativity

Another potential strength in individuals with ADHD is that they may be good at detail-oriented work because they tend to take in sensory information that a neurotypical brain may filter out.

Challenges of living with ADHD 

While individuals with ADHD often have many strengths, it can also be important to recognize the difficulties that may be associated with this disorder. Neurodivergent people, including those with ADHD, may face challenges when it comes to functioning in a world that is usually designed for neurotypical people. Some of these challenges may include the following:

Interpersonal relationships

Individuals with ADHD may struggle to get along with others, especially when they are young. In early childhood, individuals with ADHD may have a hard time controlling impulses, which can make activities like sharing and taking turns challenging. As people with ADHD become more aware of their symptoms and learn how to manage them effectively, they may be able to form more productive and long-lasting relationships.

Focus and motivation

While individuals with ADHD can often focus intently on something that’s meaningful or important to them, it can be challenging for them to focus on tasks that are menial or perceived as boring. 

Fidgeting

Fidgeting or uncontrolled movement in and of itself may not be a huge challenge. However, for individuals with ADHD, this can mean struggling to make it through a meeting or presentation without moving around.

Forgetfulness

With so much information coming in, individuals with ADHD may struggle to remember every important detail. Therefore, it may be important to develop coping skills for effectively tracking and remembering information. 

Carelessness

For individuals with ADHD, focusing on directions and paying attention to organization can be challenging. This, combined with a tendency toward distraction, can lead to seemingly careless mistakes on everyday tasks. 

It can be vital to understand that individuals with ADHD can live productive and highly fulfilling lives. Embracing neurodiversity and understanding the strengths and challenges that individuals with ADHD can face may be a good starting point when considering strategies for managing ADHD and neurodivergent thinking. 

A woman sits in a grey arm chair in her living room and taps on the cellphone in her hand with a serious expression.
Getty/Nitat Termmee

Strategies for managing ADHD 

A combination of lifestyle adjustments, coping strategies, therapy, and medication (in some cases) can effectively manage ADHD symptoms. Always consult your doctor regarding questions about medication. Some of the lifestyle changes and coping skills that may be effective for individuals with ADHD include the following:

Lifestyle adjustments

Adequate sleep, nutritious food choices, and regular exercise may all play key roles in managing ADHD.

Individuals with ADHD may be able to set themselves up for success throughout the day by getting a good night's sleep. This generally involves practicing good sleep hygiene by creating an environment that is conducive to rest, avoiding screen time an hour or two before bed, and reducing caffeine consumption in the afternoon and evening. 

Eating a variety of nutrient-rich food and getting plenty of exercise throughout the day can also make it easier to manage ADHD symptoms. Choosing nutritious foods can ensure the body gets what it needs to function at a high level, while exercise can lead to greater mental focus and clarity.  

Time management techniques

Some of the main challenges of living with ADHD may be managing time and focusing on tasks for an extended period. Developing a time management strategy can help people with ADHD focus for longer periods and with more attention to detail.

While there may be many different time management techniques, it can be important to start by looking at a “zoomed-out” view of time as it relates to a task. This may mean starting with the task’s due date and breaking the task into manageable chunks, rather than focusing on the entire task at once. 

Organization tips and tools

Staying organized is often challenging for individuals with ADHD. Having a set of organization tips and tools can help a person keep things in order and manage the complexities of everyday life. For organizing events or a daily schedule, keeping track of responsibilities with a checklist may be beneficial. 

Organization is generally about finding what works for the individual, and what works for one person may not necessarily work for another. It can take time to test different strategies before you devise a routine that works. 

Cognitive behavioral strategies

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that is frequently used to manage a wide variety of conditions and disorders. In CBT, individuals may identify negative thought patterns and actively work to change their default narrative. 

CBT can be an effective technique for managing the anxiety and stress that may occur due to ADHD symptoms. For example, when given a project at school or work, it may be overwhelming for a person with ADHD to manage the task as a whole. However, positively reframing it as a series of small, manageable steps can make the project seem less daunting. 

Mindfulness and relaxation techniques

As with CBT, mindfulness and relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, journaling, and yoga can calm the mind and body, reduce anxiety, and improve focus. While an individual with ADHD may struggle to concentrate, grounding their thoughts through mindfulness can center the mind and body. 

Mindfulness techniques can be practiced in short spurts throughout the day to manage symptoms. Deep breathing before a presentation, a quick yoga session after lunch, or writing in a journal before starting a task can all be ways to center the mind and bring focus to the task at hand. 

Mindset shifts

Although living with ADHD or any form of neurodivergent thinking can be challenging in some ways, it can be important for individuals with ADHD to recognize the positive aspects of their unique way of seeing the world. By recognizing the value and power of neurodivergent thinking, individuals may be empowered to leverage their strengths.

Embracing this mentality can position ADHD not as a weakness or something to suppress but as a tool that can be used to enhance everyday life. 

Getty/AnnaStills
Learn to use neurodivergent thinking to your advantage

Seeking support for ADHD

Managing the symptoms and impacts of ADHD can be a difficult task to conquer alone, and leaning on support from friends, family, and mental health professionals can be beneficial. 

Benefits of online therapy

Traditional in-person therapy can pose unique challenges to those living with ADHD. Because it is in a new, unfamiliar location, it may contribute to increased anxiety and difficulty focusing. Online therapy may be beneficial for individuals with ADHD as it generally allows for therapy to take place in a familiar environment, which can reduce the probability of overstimulation and increase comfort levels.

Effectiveness of online therapy

Studies show that online therapy can be an effective intervention for managing ADHD symptoms, and it can have lasting effects on individuals with ADHD. Those who wish to use their neurodivergent thinking to their advantage may benefit from working with a licensed therapist online.

Takeaway

While living with ADHD can present challenges, individuals can take various steps to reduce symptoms and improve overall focus. Making lifestyle adjustments, incorporating mindfulness, and implementing time management strategies can help individuals with ADHD stay focused and minimize symptoms. In addition to these individual strategies, working with a licensed therapist in person or online can be an effective way to develop long-term strategies for success.

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