Beating Boredom When You Have Adult ADHD

Eileen Bailey | July 27, 2016

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A message from the experts

In their book Driven to Distraction, Drs. Edward Hallowell and John Ratey write that people with ADHD have “a tendency to be easily bored.” While this is often seen as disinterest, it is instead the inability to sustain attention for a period of time.

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Recognizing the signs

When faced with boredom, children and adults with ADHD have difficulty completing projects or staying tuned in to what is going on around them. It can lead to problems in school, at work, in relationships and with overall life satisfaction.

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Getting ahead

It is impossible to completely avoid any boring situation. But you can develop strategies that help make it more tolerable. The following tips are for adults with ADHD.

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Channeling bored behaviors

List several ways you can fidget that keep you occupied without getting up. This can include using a stress ball, doodling, taking notes (try doing so with a multi-colored pen), tapping a pen on your leg (so it doesn’t make noise), or fiddling with a small stone. When heading to a boring meeting or lecture, have your fidget tools with you.

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Preparing for the unexpected

Create a boredom pack. You never know when you are going to get stuck waiting: in a doctor’s office, in traffic, standing in line. To keep yourself occupied during those times, fill a bag with things to occupy your attention, such as a book of crossword puzzles or Sudoku, a book to read, or have apps on your phone or tablet that you use only when you are bored.

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Making time for your passions

Spend time every day doing what you love. You might find it easier to get through the boring moments in life if you know that later you can engage in something interesting.

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Organizing your options

Create a list of activities you find interesting. When you get bored, you might find you can’t think of a thing you want to do. Keep a list on your phone and at home. No matter where you get bored you can refer to the list and choose one thing to do.

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Staying curious about the world around you

Learn something new. With phones and tablets always close by, it is easy to get online and research a new topic. Along with your list of interesting activities, keep a list of topics you want to learn about. Take time while in a waiting room, on a bus or in line to bring up your browser and start learning something new.

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Building a productive and stimulating schedule

Keep your day structured and busy. If you have already planned out what you are doing for the day, you leave less of a chance you’ll end up sitting around being bored. Plan out your day but don’t forget to leave a few times unplanned for spur of the moment opportunities.

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Checking off daily necessities

Plan ahead for boring activities. Have your fidgets with you. Make sure you have eaten, visited the bathroom and are dressed comfortably. Minimize distractions so you are less likely to need to get up and leave the room.

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Changing your perspective

Get involved in what is going on. If you are at a lecture you find boring, try looking at the subject matter differently to make it interesting. Take notes. Ask questions. The more you are actively involved, the less you will be bored.

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Making ordinary moments entertaining

Play games in your mind. If you are standing in line, guess how many people you can find with a yellow shirt, then look around and count. If you are stuck in traffic, check out license plates to see how many different states you can find.

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Becoming your own expert

Know the signs of boredom. Pay attention to when your mind is telling you it is bored. Do you get squirmy? Irritable? Angry? Understanding how you react to boredom can help you put strategies into place immediately before your boredom gets you into trouble.