Sometimes meds aren’t an option. Luckily, there are plenty of other tools that can help you learn how calm down and stay focused naturally.
Some of the top ways to achieve focus and calm naturally include journaling, exercise, cognitive behavioral therapy, meditation, and proper nutrition, including vitamins. What works for one person may not work for another, so a bit of trial and error will be required before you find what works for you.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders occur in as many as 50% of ADHD adults. Not only can these conditions coexist, but the challenges that ADHD poses worsen anxiety by their very nature. You may often wonder what came first, the ADHD or the anxiety?
Natural Remedies For ADHD And Anxiety
How do you know if you have anxiety disorder or are just experiencing everyday anxiety? A handy table by the ADAA lists a few ways, including the comparison between being anxious over a specific event (job loss or break-up) compared to unsubstantiated worry that interferes with daily life.
When it comes to treating ADHD and anxiety, health professionals are trained to treat the disorder that’s causing the most impairment. Medications and cognitive-behavioral therapy are popular treatments for both.
“If ADHD is the cause of anxiety, treating the ADHD may reduce the anxiety. If anxiety is independent of ADHD, however, a doctor will determine the proper medication. One health professional may decide to treat the anxiety first; another may treat both conditions simultaneously,” the ADAA reports.
1 – Journaling
Journaling has the magical way of taking the power away from the items that are causing the anxiety. Don’t know what’s causing your anxiety? Journaling can help you uncover this as well. There is no right or wrong way to journal. It can be something as informal as buying a blank book and keeping a diary.
The University of Rochester Medical Center recommends journaling daily and making it as easy as possible to do whenever you need to do it. Try not to get caught up in structure, they recommend, and write down what feels right (not worrying about spelling, etc.) In no way should you fel obligated to share your journal with anybody, but if sharing portions of it with those you trust can be helpful, this is okay too.
“Keeping a journal helps you create order when your world feels like it’s in chaos. You get to know yourself by revealing your most private fears, thoughts, and feelings,” explains URMC. “Look at your writing time as personal relaxation time. It’s a time when you can de-stress and wind down. Write in a place that’s relaxing and soothing, maybe with a cup of tea. Look forward to your journaling time. And know that you’re doing something good for your mind and body.”
Here are a few of my top journal picks:
- My favorite blank book for “lazy Bujo” – I personally use this blank book (aff), which is a good starter for bullet journaling because it already has the numbered pages.
- A good planner for the workplace – For a quick and dirty “what do you need to do today” captured in a clean, fun format, allow me to recommend the Panda Planner (aff). Even though I don’t use mine every single day chronologically (because: ADHD), I pull this one out when my brain’s been a bit too loosely goosey and needs some law and order.
- The best wellness planner – There’s another part of me that wants to talk about feelings, water intake and other topics that just don’t quite fit with invoices or reports. For this, I use Silk and Sonder (aff). This beautiful journal is sent to you monthly and invites you to find a quiet corner, perhaps with some tea, and really get in tune with your intentions.
- Best “big picture planner – For the part of me who’s jacked up about a long-term project or goal, it’s all about the BestSelf (aff) journal. Capturing your life in quarters, you set some grand declarations at the start of the journal, which then gets broken into baby steps.
2 – Physical Activity
Dance it out. Or walk it out. Or run it out. We’ve all heard the many benefits of physical activity, and they are things that help both ADHD and anxiety symptoms. Not only are endorphins released when you exercise (nature’s painkiller!), exercise is also known to improve concentration and prolong focus. Since it’s something you’ve probably had on your list to do anyway (if you aren’t already), you can kill two birds with one stone by helping ease both conditions with a single activity.
So how much exercise should you do? First, make sure you’re picking an activity that you enjoy or forget about it! Start with short mini-goals of 10 to 15 minutes a day. Once you have that on lock, you can start to build it up, either shooting for one long exercise session or multiple mini-sessions throughout the day. The Mayo Clinic recommends that adults receive at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week. Need help staying motivated? Try wearable technology such as the Bellabeat (aff) – which doesn’t require constant charging! – to track your progress in a fun, pretty dashboard.
3 – Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Have you ever considered cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as a means to get both ADHD and anxiety under control? According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, CBT is a scientifically proven practice that is in short supply as demand for therapists in this field is high.
“The core principles of CBT are identifying negative or false beliefs and testing or restructuring them. Oftentimes someone being treated with CBT will have homework in between sessions where they practice replacing negative thoughts with more realistic thoughts based on prior experiences or record their negative thoughts in a journal,” NAMI reports.
If access to a traditional therapist is a barrier, you may consider trying BetterHelp (aff). Even though I’ve seen a traditional cognitive behaviorist for more than a decade, I tried this tool out during the pandemic as I needed more frequent touch points.It was really convenient to be able to do this through text and instant messaging and honestly I communicate better through those methods versus the phone.
4 – Meditation
Meditation’s commonly associated with anxiety, but did you know it is also used to treat ADHD? Much like journaling, meditation forces you to slow down that pinball-like mind. There is no right or wrong way to meditate; all you must do is find the right place, the right position, and the right set of exercises that work best for you. For me, it’s laying in a dark room with complete silence, with my Himalayan salt lamp dimly lit and a hypnotherapy recording running through my earbuds. Sometimes I’m so zoned out I almost fall asleep. This may not look the same to you. You may find that you prefer sitting upright or participating in movement while you meditate.
It can be hard for us ADHD-ers to sit still long enough to meditate. Another thing I try is taking a nature walk or soak in a hot bath while listening to one of relaxation channels on Brain.fm (aff). One of the things I like best about Brain.fm is that it’s backed by science. Through a patented process they have coined “phase locking,” their music and sounds are optimized for “allowing populations of neurons to engage in various kinds of coordinated activity.” (I actually interviewed the CEO, which explains this way better than I can.)
5 – Proper Nutrition & Vitamin
At the 2020 Virtual Annual International Conference on ADHD keynote speaker Dr. Kathleen Nadeau spent some time on this topic during her lecture “How Lifestyle Determines our Future”. Citing research from Russel A. Barkley that the lifespan of ADHD patients is significantly lower on average, Dr. Nadeau included proper nutrition as one of the ways ADHD’ers can help combat this trend.
In recent years, researchers have been conducting tests on several different supplements to see if they can help alleviate the symptoms of ADHD. So far, the most promising of these supplements include Iron, Magnesium, Melatonin, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and Zinc.
It can be hard to keep track of all of these vitamins when one is likely already juggling medications as well. For additional help, you may consider a service such as Care/of (aff), which takes the guesswork out of which vitamins you need and delivers them personal vitamin packs so that you’re not constantly fumbling with jars of supplements and pill boxes.
6 – Weighted Blankets
Weighted blankets like Mosaic Weighted Blankets (aff), use deep touch pressure to help you relax and sleep better. The weight within the blanket lowers stress and cortisol, and creates a calm feeling by raising serotonin levels in the brain. Adding weight and pressure to the muscles relaxes, calms and causes a secure feeling. From anxiety to insomnia, there are many ways ADHD women can utilize this weighted blanket as a treatment tool.
I tried the Mosiac’s lavender minky blanket a few months ago and even though it was like really heavy in the box, it didn’t feel too heavy on me – it felt just the right amount of heavy. It also wan’t too hot, and that’s saying a lot as I live in Texas and temperatures were in the 90s when I was trying it out. One of my faovorite things about it is that it’s just made of this really soft and plush material.
None of these natural remedies for ADHD and anxiety are probably a shocker to you, but what may be surprising is how, when strategically executed, they can pack a real punch to your ADHD and anxiety symptoms. Journaling or exercising may sound like fine advice in isolation, but when you start to see the same recommendations re-emerge for multiple conditions, it’s even more motivating to give them a try.
In my experience, one small habit snowballs into another. Once I start my morning off with a nature walk, for example, it’s easier to pick up my journal before I start the work day because it’s as natural as brushing my teeth now. Similarly, while one small habit such as a quick daily walk may seem small, the compounding effects over time can have a real impact on your general well-being.
Image: Unsplash/Milada Vigerova