Lifestyle Supports for Women with ADHD
Combining a formal treatment plan with lifestyle supports can be effective in addressing ADHD symptoms and reducing stress. Many women work with a professional, a close friend, or a relative to help them organize or create systems and routines to improve daily life and employ strategies for success at their workplace.
Women can include various supportive approaches in a personalized plan to address ADHD symptoms. They can also choose to work with a variety of professionals, including an ADHD specialist, a mental health professional, an organizing professional, or an ADHD coach. Some women choose to work with healthcare providers who offer a complementary or integrative treatment approach, and may include supports such as dietary changes, nutritional supplements, and neurofeedback in their treatment plan.
By including lifestyle supports and learning how to better manage their symptoms, women can reduce some of the stress they carry. By better meeting their own needs, they can better meet the needs of others in their personal and workplace lives.
Consequences of stress caused by ADHD
When ADHD is diagnosed in adulthood, women are more likely to have depressive symptoms and feel stressed, anxious, and less in control of their lives. To reduce these feelings, they may engage in coping strategies that are self-protective or that remove them from the situation in some way, rather than strategies that are task-oriented or actively solve problems.
Women may experience a higher level of stress due to their cultural role as family manager, which often assigns them more responsibility for home and children than their partner. This stress and misunderstandings about ADHD symptoms can create tension between partners that, if unaddressed, can lead to damaged relationships.
Chronic and unresolved stress can take a toll on a woman’s health. Chronic stress is known to:
- lower one’s immune system, making one more susceptible to illnesses
- contribute to stomach and intestinal distress and conditions
- contribute to ongoing fatigue and “brain fog”
- contribute to blood pressure and heart conditions
- be linked to weight gain
- cause disordered functioning to the reproductive system
- aggravate co-occurring conditions, especially depression and anxiety
- make one feel uneasy and emotionally on-edge with no discernible cause
Addressing ADHD symptoms through a treatment plan and by creating systems and routines that help to automate life as much as possible can help to reduce stress levels. Delegating responsibilities is another way to reduce stress-causing situations. This may mean having family members be more involved with home management and childcare, creating a team-based work situation, or outsourcing some tasks (examples include hiring someone to do housework, provide pet care or virtual assistance, or perform other daily errands).
Sometimes women find it helpful to work with a professional to learn effective ways to reduce stress or with whom they can safely talk about stressful situations. Health insurance providers and CHADD’s Professional Directory are good places to search for mental health professionals who specialize in ADHD.
Parent training. In most families, the primary caregiver is the mother or the woman in a mothering role. Women are often expected to be the household and family manager—roles that require focus, organization, and planning, as well as the ability to juggle multiple responsibilities. ADHD typically interferes with these abilities, however, making home management much more difficult.
Women who are parenting may need training on how to best parent a child who has ADHD, especially if she also has the condition. The evidence-based parent training programs found to be effective for children with ADHD are also recommended for parents with ADHD. Parent training approaches may be less effective if the mother, parent, or caregiver has high levels of ADHD symptoms, so it may be necessary to include adult ADHD management strategies into parent training programs.
Group therapy. Social problems for girls and women with ADHD develop early and appear to increase as they mature. Women with ADHD have greater self-esteem problems than men with ADHD, and often feel shame when comparing themselves to other women. Therapy groups specifically designed for them may provide a place where they can feel understood and accepted by other women.
ADHD coaching. ADHD coaching developed in response to the need some adults have for structure and support. Coaching can be done in several different ways, depending on the client’s need. The coach and client can meet in person, talk on the phone or by video chat, or use email and text messaging. Learn more about life coaching for ADHD in Complementary Treatment: Coaching [https://chadd.org/about-adhd/coaching/].
Professional organizing. Women with ADHD typically struggle with high levels of disorganization in many areas of their lives. Some women are able to maintain organization at work, but at the expense of an organized home. For others, disorganization is widespread, which increases the challenges and difficulties of living with ADHD. A professional organizer can provide hands-on assistance in sorting, discarding, filing, and storing items in a home or office and help to set up systems that are easier to maintain. For more information on organization, see Organizing and Time Management. [https://chadd.org/for-adults/organizing-the-home-and-office-space/]
Career guidance. Women with ADHD, especially those struggling in the workplace or about to begin careers, may benefit from career guidance. This can help them take advantage of their strengths and minimize the impact of symptoms on work performance. Sometimes a career or job change is necessary to reduce stress and better further the career or aspirations of an adult struggling with ADHD symptoms. A career counselor who is familiar with ADHD can provide valuable guidance. For more information, see Workplace Issues. [https://chadd.org/for-adults/workplace-issues/]
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