ADHD is often associated with poor behavior and learning disabilities, neither of which is fair. These stereotypes, along with the belief that mood altering medications are the only way to control the condition, lead many to resist or reject an ADHD diagnosis, even when symptoms fit.
ADHD is actually a neurobehavioral disorder involving an imbalance in brain chemistry that impairs brain function. Deficiencies of specific neurotransmitters, the brain’s chemical messengers, alter the way information in the brain is passed around and can affect attention span, the ability to control emotions and impulses, and executive functions like organization. Those with hyperactive ADHD say they can’t slow their brains down, while those with the inattentive variety often describe it as a constant brain fog that makes concentration and recall more difficult than it should be.
Functional medicine has a variety of ways to cope with ADHD that don’t involve medicines or their side effects. We attack it holistically with nutrition, supplementation, testing and enhancement of the microbiome, as well as a number of helpful coping strategies for minimizing the frustration and life disruptions that often accompany it.
Make Sleep a Priority. Lack of quality sleep can affect even those who don’t have ADHD or experience brain fog, but research shows that ADHD is linked to disruptions in normal circadian rhythm function that can lead to trouble falling/staying asleep, waking refreshed, trouble relaxing at bedtime, etc. Because getting enough sleep is vitally important for memory, cognition, focus and emotional health, symptoms of ADHD are exacerbated without adequate rest and repair. It’s very important to keep sleep/wake routines consistent, get plenty of physical exercise, and avoid stimulants past a certain time of day, which may vary by individual.
Keep a Planner and Working List. Whether hardbound copy or on your phone, write down appointments and commitments as soon as you make them, so you’re less likely to forget. Because impulsivity often makes it easy to say “yes” to requests without thinking about the consequences to the rest of your schedule, review your current list before adding to it, but if you accept, prioritize obligations according to what needs to be done now, in the next few days and at some point. Going over the next day’s schedule the night before helps you plan.
Your working list is a dynamic document where you jot down creative ideas or tasks that pop into your head — people you need to call or the solution to a problem you’ve been having — that you can’t get to right away. Journaling these ideas will relieve anxiety associated with possibly forgetting them, and free up brain space for other tasks. When you get back to it, determine which additions stay and which aren’t as important as you thought. Keep both your planner and lists in a safe place where you can always find them.
Control the Chaos. Brain fog makes it hard enough to remember where you put things, so an organized environment where important items like keys, glasses, and necessary papers are always in their place makes things easier. Avoid sitting things down where they don’t belong, even if you’re distracted by something else, because chances are you won’t be able to find it later.
Set Frequent Alarms. Some believe inattentive ADHD is misnamed because people who have it can become hyper focused on things in which they are particularly interested, often to the point they lose all track of time. Setting alarms to make sure your favorite tasks don’t consume too much of your day can be helpful, while those same alarms set for undesirable duties can keep you focused while offering subconscious assurance that those tasks won’t last forever.
While these and other strategies are proven to help people navigate their brain fog and live successfully with ADHD, they can seem overwhelming at times, so don’t be afraid to ask for assistance when needed. Consider hiring someone to help with decluttering, or even occasional housecleaning, to keep things straight and organized. If regular sleep seems elusive even with a commitment to sleep hygiene practices, talk to someone about ADHD-associated sleep disorders or about creating habits that lead to a better night’s rest. And if you suspect nutrition, food sensitivities or an imbalanced gut microbiome could be a trigger for some of your symptoms, look into integrative nutritional counseling or food sensitivity testing.
There is holistic help for ADHD symptoms. Contact us to discuss diagnostic and treatment options.