Back in 2017 I created a self-care checklist for what I thought was burnout. I couldn’t get through the day without these practices that centered my thoughts and helped me “push through”. Today, I know that it wasn’t just burnout that I was dealing with - it was undiagnosed ADHD.
With that, I’ve adjusted my original practice that brought me back from burnout, and curtailed it to accommodate an ADHD brain.
ADHD Self Care - Before the Checklist, Know This
We ADHD adults aren’t always the best at remembering to do things or following through even if the thought crosses our minds. THat’s why I have formulated this into a checklist. It’s easy to follow, you can print it out and stick it to your mirror and it serves as a constant reminder.
However, we can also look at checklists and immediately swirl into panic because it looks so daunting. Please don't assume that you should be doing these all at once. Instead, ease into them! Start with one practice, make it a habit, then move on to the next.
Personally, I try to do as many things on this list as possible, but I'm rarely perfect at it. Why do aspire to do them all? Because the more I do, the better I feel. The better I feel, the more I want to keep it up.
The reverse is also true. The less I do on this list, the crappier I feel and the less I want to do it even more. Thats when the downward spiral begins. For me, that’s missed workouts, eating crappy food, over-drinking and getting overwhelmed and stressed.
I try to avoid falling into bad habits because they debilitate me.
Self-Care Customized For Your ADHD Brain
The self care list below explains why each practice is important for ADHD brains specifically. I have also included a shorter printable version, along with a blank template checklist so you can take what you want from my list, and make your own.
The stuff at the top is what I call, “big rocks”. They are the foundation of good health for ALL brains, but they’re extra critical to our sparkly ADHD brains.
ADHD Self Care Checklist for Women
Sleep 7 - 8 hours a night
Our brains need sleep to repair, process and help our nervous systems stay in parasympathetic mode. When we are under-slept, our energy is low and we’re generally at our worst. What little energy you have is used up by the body just to get through the day, so your brain function gets depleted. If you’re not sleeping enough now, make this your top priority
Move your body for at least 30 minutes every day
Do this preferably in the morning. Movement sends oxygen to our brains, giving us a dopamine boost and a good 2 to 3 hours of focused attention immediately following our workout. Starting your day this way gives you an amazing start! If you need recommendations on workouts, I have plenty.
Moving is also a great way to help with emotional regulation. If you find yourself in negative rumination, get up and move! Go for a walk, do jumping jacks or put on a great song and dance your face off. This will take your brain out of it’s Default Mode Network and back into Task Positive Mode Network where you can get back into your body and the present moment.
Meditate or Tap (Emotional Freedom Technique)
Both methods are great for calming the nervous system and leave you feeling centered and grounded. Even just 10 minutes a day can make the world of difference. If you find meditation to be difficult to focus on, try Emotional Freedom Technique, aka tapping. It will give your hands something to do, but will also calm the nervous system.
Take your meds
This goes without saying, right? If you tend to forget (as I do), put them somewhere you will remember, like beside your tooth brush. Also, considered getting a pill organizer so you will never have to remember if you took your meds or not (<-been there, done that).
Start your day with a protein rich meal.
If you prefer fasting in the morning, that’s fine, but try to make that first meal of the day something that will avoid spiking insulin. That will give you a sugar rush, which inevitably follows with a sugar crash. Protein gives your body sustained energy, so try eggs, protein pancakes, plain Greek yogurt or a protein smoothie (but hold the fruit juices and bananas).
Get ready in the morning,
Even if you’re not going anywhere. One thing ADHD people struggle with is transitions. This can only be exasperated if you spend half your day in pajamas. I’m not suggesting that you get dressed up if you’re just hanging out at home, but dress for the way you want to show up that day. For me, that’s typically workout wear as I want to show up for my workouts and daily walks.
Walk 10,000 steps a day
This is good for everyone, but research has recently shown that walking at least 30 mins a day, just 3 days a week, can improve memory, brain function and reduce the risk of Alzheimer's. Walking is one of those things that’s hard to overdo, so if you can do more than 10,000 steps, even better.
Practice Future Self Journaling
Knowing who you are and how you want to show up authentically in the world is so important to the ADHD person. We’re not wired for fake interests, so the sooner you know what makes you tick, the sooner you can start living true to who you really are (and that’s when our super-powers kick in).
Future self journaling is an intentional practice of crafting that future self you want to be, then gradually stepping into that person as you continue to write daily. I have some future self journaling prompts you can use to get you started.
Yoga will not only improve your mind-body connection, but it also helps with balance and calms the nervous system. Honestly, if there was only one form of movement I could recommend for every ADHD’er, it would be yoga. I know it can seem boring at first, but if you’re able to push past the initial boredom, your brain will settle into the practice and you can completely lose yourself in the moment. It’s wonderful.
Commit to learning and maintaining boundaries
This is a much bigger topic than I can address here, but it’s worth mentioning, because it’s an important part of self-care. Setting clear boundaries, in your relationships and with yourself, will give you the capacity to take better care of yourself. Self-care takes time and commitment and the people around you need to understand that the better you take care of you, the better you can show up for them.
Find your tribe
Since my diagnosis, I’ve started connecting to other amazing women who also have this style of brain. I find that we understand each other’s struggles perhaps better than the average person. If you’re looking for a place to connect, give this facebook group a try. I love the energy and the willingness to help.
Get an ADHD coach
Did you know there is such a thing as an ADHD life coach? This is someone who is trained in the fundamentals of coaching, but also has specialized training in ADHD and often they have it as well. I’m currently working through coach certification myself and plan to start taking clients in the next several months. If that’s something that interests you, get on the wait list and I’ll send you more info when my calendar opens up.
ADHD Self-Care Checklist (Printable Version)
This printable version is designed to give you space to add the practices that light you up. Maybe that’s golf or crafting. Whatever it is that ignites your brain is something you should make time for every single day.
Do you have any other ADHD self-care practices that you would recommend?
Caren is a certified yoga teacher, fitness instructor and ADHD Coach. As the founder of The Fit Habit, she shares ADHD-friendly self-care, food & fitness inspiration, along with practical ways to foster mind + body wellness.