Help for Outbursts and Frustration in ADHD Now
Summer’s in full swing and for families living with ADHD that means freedom from homework headaches and school stress. That said, as we aim for a more relaxed, less structured summer, small setbacks can blow up into frustration, outbursts and meltdowns. What makes living with ADHD such a roller coaster of powerful emotions?
ADHD is a Condition of Emotional Dysregulation
When we’re stressed or triggered, our brain releases cortisol , a stress hormone, that acts like a bully in our brain, taking over our ability respond in a calm and composed way. In a neurotypical brain, the frontal lobe releases neurotransmitters that act like a drawbridge, safeguarding the brain from the bully stress hormone and allowing a person to manage and regulate oneself.
In the ADHD brian, neurotransmitters in the frontal lobe of the brain aren't operating the drawbridge effectively. This gives rise to an opening of the floodgates for emotional outbursts. This is why kids and adults with ADHD experience passionate thoughts and reactions that are more intense and impulsive. Their highs can be higher, and their lows can be lower, which means they can face happiness and criticism more powerfully than others.
Here are three ways to manage emotions so they percolate at a steady stream.
• Keep it simple: Have a picnic, go for a walk, or go to the park. Ease up on the planning and transitions out the door with undemanding activities.
• Provide Choices. Asking your kids (or partner) what outdoor activity they want to do shows you value their needs and opinions.
Create Optimal Tone in Your Home
Imagine the kind of mood you want to set in your home. When we are walking on eggshells we tend to let go of the tone we can create. However, there’s a lot we can do to influence the mood. Whether we have a loud home, a giggly home, a playful home or an angry home, we're the ones in control of our family dynamic.
• What do you want your loved ones to feel when they walk in your home? What do you want your kids to remember twenty years from now? How can you contribute to that?
• Take care of yourself, so you have optimal “emotional tone” within.
• Think positive thoughts, such as “it’s ok to make mistakes,” “I’m doing the best I can,” or “this is good enough.” Write these statements on post-it notes and place them where you can see them to remind yourself.
Recognize the Feelings and Re-Engage
Learning to handle intense emotions begins with being aware of them as they happen. The problem is that we (or our kids) get triggered before we are aware of when our emotions run away with us.
• Develop Body Awareness. Begin to notice how you feel in your body when you’re triggered. You may feel hot, sweaty, shaky, or nauseous. Once you recognize you’re feeling triggered, you can step away, grab a glass of water, or get a breath of air. You will then be in a better position to ask yourself what’s the monster story you’re telling yourself. What's a more positive story?
• Name the Emotion. This is what psychologists call labeling. When we experience acute feelings, we can have trouble identifying specific emotions. Experiment with words to identify your emotions and manage what you are feeling. You can do this with your kids too.
• Catagorize the Feeling. With younger kids, parents can assist by breaking down the feeling into categories, such as: mad, sad, glad, scared. Pictures can help identify facial expressions and contextual cues.
To sum up, ADHD is a condition of emotional dysregulation.
• Get outside
• Create Optimal Tone in Your Home
• Recognize the Feeling and Re-Engage
Try one or all of these and let me know how it goes for you!
PS. Need more support to regulate emotions and reduce overwhelm and stress and in your family?
Contact me for an ADHD Strategy Assessment and we can talk about a plan you can put into place now!
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