Six Strategies to Manage Your Emotions and Problem-Solve
If you're a person with ADHD you may feel your emotions more strongly and react to them more immediately. You could be experiencing challenges with emotional control that's wearing down your ability to concentrate and problem solve. You're entitled to how you feel.
Our feelings influence how we behave and react to a situation, but for a person with ADHD everything is intensified. Positive emotions, such as joy or humor, make a person with ADHD exciting and fun to be with. But strong emotions, like anger, or irritability can have negative effects on our relationships and ability to overcome obstacles.
What Goes On in The Brain
It's not a matter of intelligence or willpower but the management system of the brain that can get in the way for a person with ADHD. Dr. Thomas Brown, PhD., explains that these challenges with feeling emotions more intensely and immediately reacting to them start within the brain. That powerful emotion becomes so strong that “it gobbles all the space in the brain like a computer virus can gobble up all the space in a hard drive.” The focus on that one intense emotion squeezes out important information that could be used to help regulate the person's anger or behavior.
So what can you do to manage your emotions, have better focus and get things done?
Here are Six Strategies to Stay on Track with Your Emotions:
Get Curious with Yourself
ADHD can lead into impulsive thinking, where you may latch onto the first thing that comes to your mind, making it difficult to see different perspectives. You could be overwhelmed with negative thoughts that this is the worst thing that could ever happen and be unable to problem-solve.
Quick Tip: When you're intensely involved with a feeling, ask yourself some questions and get curious to guide your thoughts:
- Am I jumping to conclusions?
- What's another way of looking at this?
- What else is possible?
When going into a stressful situation, prepare how to respond to what someone may say or do. If there is a sensitive topic that might be discussed, prepare in advance how you can respond.
When preparing for a new or stressful activity, stop and think beyond the immediate to make sure you have everything you need.
Quick Tip: You're going on a job interview and you're excited and nervous. Pause and think, and make sure you have everything you need, like your wallet, keys, resume, directions and a full tank of gas.
Assume Best Intentions
Assume the person you’re reacting to is doing their best, especially when you’re reacting to people you’re close to.
Quick Tip: For example, when you know your kid or partner is having a bad day, you can assume best intentions to help you to not take things personally and react defensively.
Managing stress is an important step in regulating emotions. Taking care of yourself by exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and eating healthy foods are important ways to take care of ourselves.
Quick Tip: Learning to say no so that you don't overcommit is also key to managing stress.
When you are burdened by emotion in the heat of the moment, “press pause” by taking a physical or mental break. Walk it off and don't be afraid to tell the people you're with that you need to take five. People will respect that you're taking care of yourself.
Quick Tip: If you can't remove yourself physically, think about something that cools you down, such as a special place where you feel relaxed.
Own Up to Your Reactions
Recognize and manage your strong feelings. Explain what you really meant, apologize and take ownership. Tell people who are close to you, such as family, close friends and colleagues that you may initially react strongly to situations.
Quick Tip: You can also let them know how to respond to you when this occurs.
What Works For You?
When you acknowledge you have strong reactions to situations, you are choosing steps towards making changes that work for you.
Look at your past successes.
What worked for you?
What obstacles got in your way?
What strategies you are willing to experiment with?
Need help with your ADHD, or managing your emotions and problem solving?
Contact me for a complimentary consultation and we can talk about a plan to support you.
All my best,
Dr. Thomas Brown , Smart But Stuck: Emotions in Kids and Adults with ADHD.
Ari Tuckman, PsyD, Understand Your Brain, Get More Done, the ADHD Workbook.
Helping individuals and parents living with ADHD transform their lives
As a mother of three grown kids who have learning disabilities, anxiety and ADHD, I understand the challenges of living with ADHD, disorganization and distractibility. I'm committed to helping other adults who are going through what I’ve seen my kids go through and what I've lived through with them myself. Given support and a chance to explore you can make changes to live your life with more calm and joy.
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