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Learning to Control and Counteract Emotions Before They Cause Problems
Everyone deals with anxiety, anger and impatience from time to time, but attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) tends to magnify those emotions. In some cases, your changing moods can interfere with your job, home life or friendships, leaving you feeling helpless and demoralized. Obviously, this is no way to live your life.
ADHD medication can be very helpful when it comes to focus, anxiety and mood swings, but it’s not a universal cure. After all, ADHD manifests in different ways and it can be difficult to get the dosage right to fight off your particular set of symptoms.
If you find your moods are getting the better of you, it may be time to consult a psychiatrist to investigate further, but there’s plenty you can do on your own time to balance out your volatile temperament. Here are nine tips for managing mood swings right away.
1. Schedule Time to Vent
Letting feelings and reactions bubble up inside can be uncomfortable, and will probably end badly. Instead, put aside time each week — or each day, if you need to — to let off steam with a fun, energetic activity.
Dance around to loud music, watch an intense sports match, or join a fitness class at your local gym. Anything that works well as a stress release will do the trick.
Although venting your anger or frustration is crucial, it’s also important to put aside time to be calm. In both cases, physically scheduling the activity will help you stick to the plan and not feel guilty about taking time out for yourself.
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2. Learn to Shift Your Focus
Once you come to terms with your emotional whims, you can focus on getting through the mood swing rather than on why it has happened. Don’t waste time on blaming yourself or someone else, but rather learn strategies to help the problem pass more quickly.
Get in the habit of jumping into an activity when your mood changes. A book, video game or conversation can be enough to jar you out of your psychological turmoil. Remind yourself (out loud, if needed) that this mood will pass, and it’s best just to wait it out rather than try to dissect it.
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3. Expect Depression — and Prepare for it
In many people with ADHD, an exciting or successful event can bring about a depressing aftermath. It may seem strange, but once the stimulus has passed and the challenge is over, people with ADHD can miss the conflict and swing to the other emotional extreme.
Knowing this might happen, you can prepare for the blues by keeping some helpful distractions within arm’s reach. Have a list of positive, upbeat friends to call when you need a lift, and keep your favorite movies at the ready.
It’s also a good idea to store your exercise bag or equipment at the front door so you’re ready to hit the road or pop out to the gym and boost your mood as soon as you need the endorphin rush.
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4. Take Control of Your “Hyperfocus”
ADHD is often associated with a very short attention span, but that’s not entirely accurate. Rather, the condition involves an unregulated attention span, which can manifest in the very opposite way. Children and adults with ADHD sometimes focus very intently on things — and that can be a blessing or a curse.
Learn to use this hyperfocus to your benefit, rather than let it lead you into an emotional ditch. When a bad mood grabs hold, turn to your passion, whether that’s work or a hobby. Find ways to make the tasks around you more engaging so you can shake off the emotional burden and simply enjoy what’s in front of you until the mood drifts off.
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5. Exercise Often
When you stay active, you stay balanced. Although challenging exercises and competitive sports can stir up energy and aggression, the endorphins released will almost immediately lift your mood. Few therapies can get rid of stress, burn off frustration, and replenish concentration as much as regular exercise.
If you can’t fit a full routine into each day, don’t despair: studies show that several 10-minute sessions spread throughout the day can bring similar results as one long workout session. Find an exercise — or better yet, several activities — you truly enjoy and can do easily and often.
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6. Put Humor First
When you can laugh at yourself, you won’t stay angry for long. Learning to make light of your mistakes and poke fun at your ADHD slip-ups is a huge step towards better relationships and a happier lifestyle.
Impulsiveness, forgetfulness, hyperactivity and disorganization can be aggravating, but they can also be fodder for jokes. Sure, not every mistake should be laughed off — you do need to take responsibility for your own actions — but when you can playfully point out your own faults, you’ll find that the people around you are much more sympathetic and forgiving.
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7. Consider a Diet Change
Your menu can’t necessarily change your personality and emotions, but certain ingredients may have more impact than you imagine. Food additives and preservatives should be the first to go.
Many doctors and nutritionists agree that artificial colorings and certain food modifiers (namely MSG) can be detrimental to behavior, especially for children.
You can balance your blood sugar better and keep your hormones stable with a diet full of high-fiber veggies and whole grains, plus some lean protein to keep you full and energized for longer. Keep in mind that sugar and simple carbs (think white bread, rice and potatoes) can spike your blood sugar, and in turn, encourage mood swings.
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8. Set a Solid Sleep Schedule
Sleeping well is just as important as eating well, which means you need to take your sleep routine very seriously. Most people find that their moods, energy levels, and even their appetites are much better after a good night’s sleep.
A strict sleep routine is your best bet for restful and regenerative shut-eye. Go to bed at the same time every night, and don’t keep any electronics in the bedroom. Keep the evening routine low-key so you can gently ease into bedtime mode: some light reading before bed can slow down the mind and help you drift off before you know it.
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9. Compliment Others
Your ADHD can take up a lot of your attention, and it’s easy to get into a cycle of self-criticism and obsession over little worries. Try to break out of that cycle by turning your attention to the people around you.
Learning to notice others and empathize with their thoughts and feelings can take some practice, but this is well worth your time and attention. When you can focus on the positive aspects of others, it will distract you from your own feelings and build relationships in the process. Plus, paying a compliment and offering a smile will breed more happy interactions — after all, positive thoughts tend to multiply.
It’s important to realize that you have a lot of power when it comes to how you use, control and overcome your moods. Many people with ADHD suffer from a lack of self-confidence and have a hard time standing up for themselves, which can make for more moody situations — and more severe emotional spikes.
Don’t let the world control you and what you have to offer. As you learn how to advocate for yourself, you’ll find your confidence climbs and moods and interactions are easier to manage.