ADHD and Self-Compassion are not often discussed together, but they can coexist.
Most ADHD women actually lack self-compassion. It just isn’t top of mind in our day-to-day lives.
If you would rather listen than read, here is the audio version of ADHD Women and Self-Compassion.
You get the diagnosis, and then you are pretty much left to navigate treatment on your own.
As you learn more about how your ADHD brain is wired and what works you will eventually (I promise) get to a place where you are ready to move forward, and practice self-compassion.
The Negative Thought Vortex of ADHD, combined with the Executive Function difficulties inherent to the condition, make it difficult to manage emotions, plan ahead, and maintain meaningful relationships.
You will certainly have days that feel like a struggle.
But you will also have progress. And days where you feel like anything is possible.
What I love about the practice of self-compassion is that you can do it on your own at any time. It’s another tool in your ADHD toolbox.
4 ways for ADHD women to have more self-compassion
Know that you are human
Humans FEEL things. And that’s ok.
I often tell my Enclave members, “Having ADHD is like being SUPER human.”
Think about it: The wiring of the ADHD brain perfectly exemplifies the astounding complexity of the human mind. All humans share a unique gift – the ability to analyze and apply specific learning through our sensory experiences.
We with ADHD sometimes have trouble applying our prior knowledge, and we get caught up in the emotional ups and downs of life.
According to Dr. Kristin Neff in her book Self-Compassion, part of taking control over our emotions is realizing that we are human.
And as humans we are, “the expression of millions of prior circumstances that have come together to shape us in this moment.” (affiliate link. See my full disclosure)
In effect, we all have personal history, genetics, culture and other things that make us unique. Including ADHD. But we are all equally flawed and you are never alone in the experience of FEELING things.
According to Neff, “if you allow pain to just be there, freely, it will dissipate on its own.”
So give yourself a break and just feel it.
Accept your emotions
You and I both want to be happy. But I guarantee neither of us can actually define what happiness feels like. We are trying to achieve something that we cannot even define, which is an exercise in frustration.
But really, you cannot feel happiness without knowing the feeling of pain. Suffering is part of being human. And guess what – suffering doesn’t last forever.
You cannot replace negative emotions with positive ones, but you can accept them and know that this too shall pass. If you allow yourself the space to work through them.
Self-soothing mechanisms that actually work:
Talking to yourself out-loud
Making video/audio recording of yourself venting (to be deleted)
Stepping outside for fresh air/exercise
Journaling the racing thoughts
The reason these methods work is because they are not suppressing emotions, they are helping you to process them.
Build Emotional Resilience
As I’ve talked about and written about MANY times before ADHD has a way of producing a lot of anxiety and feelings of inadequacy. This is something we all deal with.
What separates the people who are making the best of it, from those that are not, is resilience. And YES, you can give yourself a boost in this area.
First, start to notice the physical sensations in your body when you go into bad headspace. According to Neff, “When we experience our emotions on a physical level, rather than thinking about what is making us unhappy, we can stay present.
When you are frustrated or tired, does your head hurt?
When you are nervous, do you sweat?
Tune into your body. That will help you to stay present without going into the negative thought vortex.
Next, develop a self-compassion mantra. This was my favorite part of the book.
Part of building emotional resilience is staying present in your body, so a mantra is the perfect go-to when you are struggling. Basically, you combine all of the points of self-compassion into a memorized set of sentences.
This is so simple, it’s brilliant!
Below is an example I took from the book. You can adapt it to suit your needs.
I am having a moment right now.
Everyone feels this way sometimes.
This too shall pass.
I can be kind to myself.
Manage your own self-talk
Because I’ve written an entire post on this topic, I don’t want to sound totally repetitive.
Self-talk is discussed by Dr. Neff in her book, so I thought I would break it down into the basics.
Practice noticing your self-talk. If you tune in, you’ll notice that it’s running in the background all the time.
Externalize it in some way. Talk to yourself, write it down in a journal, record your voice. Do whatever works for you.
Instead of saying, “I’m a terrible mother” you might try “Everyone feels like a bad mother sometimes.”
Identify the emotion at hand. Are you angry, frustrated, or scared? Then come into your body and FEEL the emotion.
Self-talk is a perennial problem for ADHDers. But then so is lack of self-compassion.
You will never be free of negative emotions. But you can learn how to practice self-compassion when you most need it.
You aren’t just part of the ADHD tribe, you are part of the human tribe.
We have learned so much about the best ways to treat ADHD over the lifespan. There are some really smart people researching and spreading as much knowledge as possible.
ADHD and self-compassion are not often discussed together, but they can coexist and make your life better.