How to manage ADHD in adults: Your environment is key

Graphic image of 2 brains representing one scrmbled and one ordered representing the importance of learning how to manage ADHD as an adult

How to manage ADHD in adults: Your environment is key

Graphic 2 abstract brains - one neat, one messy, depicting helpful strategies for with ADHD

Ever struggle with nasty self-talk? Silly question, you say. Doesn’t everyone? Once upon a time I would have thought it was impossible to be free of distressing thoughts because they were so common for me. But I was wrong. Little did I know then that it IS possible and that the key is learning to be more mindful. And for me, this was critical to learning how to manage ADHD as an adult.


The vast majority of people experience negative self-talk. Well before my ADHD diagnosis, I was once at an event with well over 100 people, many of whom were psychologists, when the presenter asked us to raise our hand if we ever experienced negative self-talk. Almost every person put their hand up. I was one of the few who didn’t.

That was perhaps twelve years ago and I can’t tell you how happy it makes me that I still never have thoughts of this kind. It certainly wasn’t always the way. From early adolescence, I struggled with an out-of-control seriously disturbing inner critic. But shortly after I made living mindfully a non-negotiable priority, it completely stopped.

Learning to be more mindful was absolutely key

I had it in my head that ‘evolved’ meditators and yogis experience complete serenity and a life that flows beautifully all the time. Of course, nobody’s life is like this all the time. I also thought that was some far-off goal that would take twenty or more years to achieve.

But it was within only a matter of weeks I felt a little more calm. And then about a year into meditating regularly, my mental health was transformed. What we’re actually doing by practising mindfulness is changing our INTERNAL environment. We’re ‘re-wiring’ our brain! I understand that the hardest part can be just doing it though.

I’ve even seen a number of my Coaching clients have a marked reduction in the amount – as well as the overwhelming nature – of incessant thoughts in a matter of weeks of practising mindfulness regularly. These clients were having a really rough time and sometimes that’s what it takes, to give us the kick up – going to a really dark place – to give us the kick up the bum we need to give something a good go. As Thich Naht Hahn, a Buddhist monk who taught a lot of Westerners mindfulness, says “No mud, no lotus”.

It’s not so surprising then, that many of us who are grappling with how to manage ADHD as an adult find that mindfulness helps manage our symptoms a lot (IF they can get over the the all too common attitude that mindfulness is ‘too hard’ or an outright hatred of any mindfulness practice!)

The mind in relationship to yourself and the outside world

There are many ways to work with your mind instead of against it, regardless of whether you’re neurodivergent. This is the subject of this wonderful episode of The Ezra Klein Show podcast, which is produced by the New York Times. I hope it inspires you to endeavour to live more mindfully.

Every week Ezra has a conversation “about something that matters”. This episode is called Our Workplaces Think We’re Computers. We’re Not. Don’t be fooled by the title or for that matter the intro. This podcast is by no means only relevant to work and productivity. It is a wonderful discussion about the nature of our mind with author Anne Murphy Paul who wrote a book called ‘The Extended Mind’.

As Ezra says early in the show, one of the main ideas is to work with your mind, not against it. While this principle is important for everyone, it takes on a whole new layer of importance for those of us with different brains.

As they continue with the conversation, they discuss the massive problem with the analogy of the mind with a computer. The main point here is that computers will perform the same way regardless of their environment, regardless of how long they’re working for or whether it’s day or night.

The human mind on the other hand is dramatically impacted by both its external and internal environments. This isn’t revolutionary thinking, we already know this. But the problem is that the analogy of comparing the mind to a computer has infiltrated the way the whole world – along with everything we do – has been designed.

As adults with ADHD, in our quest to function as well as possible, we need to make sure we understand and factor in the importance of our ‘mental extensions’.  These are all the things that dramatically impact our mental functioning. We don’t put nearly enough importance on the role the body plays in thinking effectively.

Busyness and ‘doing’ have been ingrained in us as markers of worthiness. Unless you develop healthy mental habits, in other words slowing down and being more present, to counter these ideas that have been drummed into you all your life, you’re not likely to achieve optimal mental functioning.

For example, traditional thinking says that taking a walk is leisure time, whereas Anne Murphy Paul argues that taking a walk is imperative for maximising our capabilities so that we can achieve our goals.

No wonder mental health problems are through the roof

There is simply no denying that in so many ways we have been programmed to work against our minds. Is it any wonder they go into overdrive and turn on us? How can we possibly feel good about ourselves when so many of us have been set up to fail by impossible expectations?

One of my favourite parts of the podcast is when Anne talks about the things that our brain does “effortlessly” because of the way we evolved. For example, we evolved outside, not inside buildings. This is why being in nature or even a lovely view from a window or having indoor plants is so good for our mental wellbeing.

For me, becoming more mindful was also instrumental to letting go of a lifestyle that was not working WITH my mind. Who and what we surround ourselves with is so important to optimum functioning.

But it’s not just our external environment that matters. It is through cultivating more presence, through increasing our ability to be more mindful, that we can create the changes in our internal environment that help us to work with our mind instead of against it. Happiness and success really is an inside job.

By tuning in, moment to moment and without judgement, we can also get better at effectively managing ADHD as adults because it becomes much clearer what supports us to thrive and what doesn’t. And then, most importantly, we can make the necessary changes you need to make in order to have great mental health and function at your best. And far more importantly, being able to enjoy our short lives as much as we’re able to to!

You deserve to have peace of mind and to have a joyous, fabulous life! And it really is possible. If I can turn my mental health around so can you.

What’s one thing you can do this week that will support your mental wellbeing? (Hint, that you ENJOY, not something that feels like work!!!)

Is it time to start truly living in your strengths?


If I can do it, so can you! Let me show you how.


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