For adults with ADHD, the workplace can be a stressful place. At a time when employers are expecting more and more from employees, the lack of focus and organization, missing deadlines and having to stay confined for long hours can cause anxiety. As you struggle with workplace challenges and work hard to hold on to your current job, the stress can be overwhelming. Besides fearing lay-offs or feeling the pressure of meeting higher expectations, adults with ADHD often worry about losing their job because of symptoms of ADHD.
A survey completed by the ADHD Awareness Coalition in 2011 explored how ADHD impacts different areas of life, including jobs. According to the survey, approximately 60 percent of the respondents said they had lost or changed jobs because of ADHD symptoms. Over one-third stated they had had 4 or more jobs in the past 10 years. A little over 6 percent had been at 10 or more jobs during that period of time.
The following are some tips for managing stress in the workplace:
Take care of yourself, in and out of work. Eat healthy foods and break up meals to eat small meals throughout the day. Set aside some time each day to exercise, trying to exercise outdoors as much as possible.
Get enough sleep. Many adults with ADHD have trouble sleeping, which can increase stress and irritability. Create a calming bedtime routine, such as taking a hot shower or bath just before bed. Stick to going to bed and getting up at the same time each day, even on weekends.
Pay attention to signs of stress at work. Signs of stress can include irritability, losing interest in your job, fatigue, headaches or stomachaches. Knowing the signs can help you take steps to combat anxiety.
Use time-management strategies to help keep you on track. Create a plan each morning before you begin work with important tasks clearly marked so you can tackle them first. If possible, delegate tasks that you don’t need to do yourself. While many adults with ADHD balk at the idea of a structured day, planning your daily routine can help you stay focused and reduce your stress.
Plan your day according to your internal clock. If you routinely get more accomplished in the morning, plan the most intense tasks during that time. On the other hand, if you work best in the afternoons, work on less important task in the morning and focus on more important tasks after lunch.
Plan breaks into your day. Take advantage of mid-morning, lunch and mid-afternoon breaks to get up, walk around (especially if you can take a short walk outside). Use this time to clear your mind, relax and recharge. Use relaxation techniques to help you.
Find balance in your life. While work is important, you also need to make sure your day includes time for your family and enjoyable activities. Make sure your day includes down-time for you to recharge. A balanced life will help reduce overall feelings of stress.
Recognize symptoms of ADHD and create strategies to help manage those symptoms. Rather than feeling down on yourself because you missed a deadline or were late for work, acknowledge that you have ADHD, make a list of what symptoms are interfering with your ability to succeed at work and then find techniques you can implement to improve those areas. Work with your doctor or an ADHD coach to help find strategies that will work for you.
Use tools to help manage your time. Cell phones, watches with alarms or even your computer can be used to set alarms to go off periodically during the day to remind you to stay on track or move to the next task.
Keep track of strategies that work for you. When you find a technique that helps, write it down and stick with it. As an adult with ADHD you might be great at following a routine for a few days and then let it go by the wayside. Stay with those ideas that help until they become habit.
If symptoms of ADHD are interfering with your job, or other parts of your life, talk with your doctor. Treatment options, such as medication, can help you increase your focus and decrease impulsiveness and restlessness. Rather than moving from job to job, talk about what treatment options would be best for you.
"Stress at Work," 2012, December, Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., Melinda Smith, M.A., Lawrence Robinson, Robert Segal, M.A., Helpguide.org
"Staggering New Statistics About ADHD," 2011, Oct 11, ADHD News Blog, Additude Magazine
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.