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How to cope with ADHD and anxiety

The challenges of living with ADHD can be a source of stress and anxiety. In fact, many adults with ADHD also live with an anxiety disorder. 

Both conditions can be disruptive to everyday life, making it challenging to keep up with responsibilities at home and work. The good news is, there are effective treatments, coping strategies and supports that can help with both ADHD and anxiety.

Here are six tips for coping with ADHD and anxiety:

1. Talk to your doctor

If you’re experiencing some of the symptoms of anxiety, and they’re impacting your day to day life, it’s important to get help. Anxiety is treatable and can get better with the right support. Getting help sooner than later can lead to better outcomes.

Writing down your symptoms in a diary is a good idea. This can help you keep track of what you’re experiencing, and may help you and your doctor spot patterns. Bring your symptoms diary to your doctor appointments. Having a bigger picture of what you’re going through can help your doctor tailor your treatment plan better.

Talk to your doctor about any medication you’re taking. Some ADHD medications can contribute to anxiety symptoms in some people. Your doctor may also be able to recommend a mental health professional, support groups in your area or other services that can help.

2. See a mental health professional

A mental health professional can give you tools and strategies to minimise your anxiety and cope better. There are many different types of therapies, and your doctor will recommend options based on your needs.

Many people living with anxiety and ADHD benefit from cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT helps you understand your thoughts, feelings and behaviours better. This might involve recognising unhelpful thought patterns, understanding the motivations of other people or using problem solving skills to find solutions. CBT can also give you techniques to calm and relax your body and mind.

Other therapies include:

  • Exposure therapy (behaviour therapy)
  • Mindfulness
  • Narrative therapy
  • Interpersonal therapy

3. Manage your schedule

Staying organised and effectively managing time can be a challenge for people living with ADHD. If you’re struggling to keep up with work responsibilities, meet deadlines or prioritise your time, it can become a source of stress and anxiety. 

There are many different tools, apps and systems that can assist with organisation and time management. Try using a scheduling app to keep track of things you need to do and task lists to help you do things in order of priority. If you struggle with hyper focus, set a timer to help you move onto the next task. 

It’s common for people with ADHD to underestimate how long things will take, which can lead to stress when your schedule is overloaded. If you’re struggling to stay on top of things, try reducing your workload or cutting back on certain activities. Having more time to rest and unwind can help with managing your anxiety.

4. Get enough sleep and exercise

Sleep, diet and exercise can all have an impact on your mental health. Making small lifestyle changes in these areas could help with managing anxiety symptoms as well as boosting your overall health.

Try getting at least eight hours of sleep every night. Develop a sleep routine to help you go to bed at the same time each day. If you have trouble falling asleep because of anxious thoughts, try doing something calming before bed. Exercising during the day can also make it easier to sleep at night.

Staying active can help alleviate feelings of restlessness and nervousness. If anxious thoughts start to overwhelm your mind, try going for a jog around the block or doing a yoga routine. Exercise can also help if you’re struggling to focus at work or if you’re feeling a creative block.

5. Get support from employment services

ADHD and anxiety can both have an impact on your work life, which can be a source of further stress. If you are struggling to cope at work because of ADHD or anxiety symptoms, support is available.

If you’re living with ADHD and unable to hold down a job, you could be eligible for government-funded disability employment assistance. A local provider will work with you to get the support you need to find a job or stay in your current role. 

This may include services such as:

  • Career advice
  • Finding suitable job opportunities
  • Applying for jobs and preparing for interviews
  • Accessing mental health services
  • Funding for workplace accommodations

6. Ask for workplace adjustments

Workplace adjustments are changes to your job responsibilities, schedule or environment that help you do your job safely and properly. In Australia, employers are required to make reasonable adjustments for employees. You and your employer may even be eligible for funding to make reasonable adjustments.

Reasonable adjustments are tailored to your unique needs. Examples include:

  • Time off for mental health appointments
  • Working from home
  • Part time hours
  • Organisation apps and tools
  • Special equipment

If you feel comfortable, you can ask your employer directly for adjustments. You can also get support from a Disability Employment Services provider to access adjustments that are right for you. If you don’t know what kind of support you need, a Disability Employment Services provider can do a workplace assessment to get you the right support.

In conclusion

Living with both anxiety and ADHD can be challenging and can have a large impact on day to day life. If you’re struggling to cope, it’s important to reach out for help sooner than later. Support is available to help you manage your health and succeed at home and in the workplace.

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