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When you have ADHD and depression, every day can feel like Alexander’s terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day. Depression is present in adults with ADHD 2.7 times more than adults in the general population. The depression can either exist concurrently with ADHD or as a byproduct. While your first course of action is to see a professional for the proper diagnosis and treatment, there also are some habits you can bake into your daily routine to help.
I’ve been trying to follow these four steps to start living a more intentional, inspired life and have found that it’s helped both my ADHD and depression. Combined with the proper professional medical care, these four things have really moved the needle for me.
Regular exercise is mood-lifting and can keep you motivated. Modern science credits exercise helping ADHD by increasing dopamine and norepinephrine in the brain, which is linked to regulating attention. Similarly it releases endorphins, which deliver feelings of euphoria.
When maintaining a healthy lifestyle, it was important for me to be able to set realistic benchmarks that I could track easily. Setting a daily step goal and using a fitness tracker ended up being the best option for me. Because you’re sporting wearable technology, you don’t have to worry about tracking workouts, and a lot of these devices already have nice, clean dashboards that do all the guesswork for you.
The only challenge will be to keep your fitness tracker charged. For me, this means always keeping my charger in the same place where I can access it at any time – my make-up bag that stays in a larger tote bag that goes to work with me. My personal choice is the FitBit Charge, but anything that tracks steps will do the trick.
Engaging in activities to occupy your mind benefit both depression and ADHD by giving your mind something to focus on that’s positive, like gardening. Boredom, frequent in ADHD-ers, can commonly trigger symptoms of depression. Pack a one-two punch and listen to podcasts and audiobooks during your exercise routine. Keep a collection of adult coloring books in the house.
Believe it or not, for me having this blog was key in keeping my mind engaged. Before I started writing about my battles with ADHD, I pretty much just watched A LOT of TV. While I’m not bashing Netflix binging (and I still manage to get in plenty of hours of it), I have noticed an improved mood after finding something that I can really be excited about day after day. The challenge will be maintaining that level of engagement over the long-term. By being more organized with my time and planning ahead, I’m hoping that I will avoid burning out. So far it’s been working well for me.
Meditation can alleviate depression by interrupting negative thoughts and improving your mood. In fact, a 2014 study reveals that it can be just as effective as antidepressants. According to psychiatrist Dr. Lidia Zylowska, meditation also helps ADHD-ers by improving the ability to control their attention.
I have to say that I was at first skeptical that meditation could be so powerful, but after working with a hypnotist over some anxiety issues, I completely believe it now. There’s something powerful that happens when you focus your mind on themes and ideas that build you up as a person rather than bring you down. I used to think my grandparents were mystical in their ability to be able to harness this power; I know now that they probably just put in the work.
Any deficiency in nutrients can impair the body’s ability to function properly. Conversely, eating foods rich in protein and omega-3 can help both depression and ADHD. In addition, sticking to quality foods will keep your brain clear and alert and your body feeling better.
As you design your own vision of what living with ADHD and depression will be like, you may consider healing your relationship with food either through therapy or a support group. I have always been a fan of Weight Watchers, although I must be careful not to be so focused on the scale that it threatens my relationship with food.
If you’re battling ADHD and depression concurrently, it is my hope that you’ll also enjoy the snowball effect of how helping one condition also enhances the treatment of the other and vice versa. Along the same token, I’ve found that when I don’t practice these acts of self-care, I tend to experience the drawbacks on both fronts.
How do you manage your ADHD and depression? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.