Odd Ways of Coping with ADD

Unique and effective ways people have adapted coping strategies

There are no trade secrets about how to cope with ADHD – the use of a daily planning system, organization skills, to-do lists, breaking down large task into smaller steps – we all know what works.

Thus, a first reaction to these “usual suspects” by adults with ADHD is along the lines of, “I know what I need to do, but I just don’t do it” or “I’ve tried all of those things and they don’t work for me.”

So, let’s focus on a couple of unorthodox coping strategies.  These are two of many clever innovations discovered by my clients themselves, ones that helped them successfully personalize some familiar ADHD strategies.

The reverse shopping trip as an ADHD Coping strategy

The Reverse Shopping Trip

A woman with whom I was working, call her Susan, struggled with crafting the household menu and then the corresponding shopping trip.  She had difficulties organizing and tracking the different ingredients and repeatedly changed the menu.  

Even after she had settled on a menu, the trip to the store was overwhelming with all of the options, tracking down items, and sensory overload.  Many a shopping trip ended with an abandoned, partially-filled cart in the middle of the store.

At one point, Susan and I reverse engineered examples of better shopping experiences.

Creativity was one of Susan’s strengths and she recalled times in a store when she saw items that triggered ideas for meals to prepare, which prompted inspiration and follow through.

She agreed to an experiment with this sort of “reverse shopping” – plan a trip to the store and figure out the menu while there.

The result?  To our delight this ended up working quite well for her. She allots more time for shopping because it takes her longer, but she finds it’s much less frustrating.

Man screams at computer

Take a Breath… And Then What?

Mike had problems with over reactions of anger towards others stemming from ADHD. In examining his triggers for anger and impulsivity, he had been bullied during middle school. Hence, he was prone to misinterpret innocuous comments or looks by others as insults.

Now in his mid-twenties, Mike is muscular and intimidating, and, on at least one occasion, came very close to getting into legal trouble due to physical aggression instigated by a perceived affront.

Mike outlined how he wants to act towards others in order to have more friends and avoid over reactions. He identified some of his “tells” for rising anger, such as increased heart rate and muscle tension.

An easy-to-use suggestion was that he take a deep breath when activated, which would at least somewhat neutralize his physiological reaction.

At Mike’s next session, he said that he successfully used the plan in a recent interaction. I invited him to elaborate on it:

Mike: “This guy kept looking at his phone and I started getting angry, so I took a breath. I kept listening to him but as the pressure built up and I got really uncomfortable, I realized that it was really not worth getting upset about.”

Therapist: “Wait, what do you mean about the pressure building up and being uncomfortable?”

Mike: “Holding your breath that long, all of a sudden you are not focused on being angry.”

Mike had taken the advice to “take a breath” as to mean “and hold it!”  All inhale and no exhale.  We had a laugh about it but also came to realize that he had found a brilliant coping strategy for himself.  In fact, he continued to use it with good results moving forward. 

The lesson?  You can apply your creativity and modify, customize, and tweak standard coping strategies and tools to fit your personal situation.  Unconventional strategies can be ideal for anyone who has an unconventional mind.

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