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How to Find The Calm in the Morning Chaos Even if You Have ADHD

Does chaos run your morning? It does mine, if I'm not careful.

For adults with ADHD mornings can feel overwhelming and the challenge of getting ready and out of the house each day can become wickedly exacerbated. Mornings can become chaotic and disorganized. Wouldn’t it be nice to find the calm in the morning chaos?

For me, mornings are one of the hardest times of the day. That’s when I seem to feel the crunch the most, and I know I’m not alone here. I had someone tell me the other day, “Every morning is a disaster at my house, trying to get the kids ready, everything packed, and out of the door on time. Why does this have to be so chaotic, I mean we do it every day?”

Getting ready each day is challenging for many adults with ADHD, kids or no kids, and as life gets busier this issue can create a lot of stress.

So I like I did for my How To Get Unstuck article, I thought, “What would my friends and clients have to say about this challenge? “ So, I asked. I sent an email out to them with a short one-question quiz…

“What is one thing you do to help you get ready in the morning in a calm and organized way?”

And wow, did they come up with some terrific ideas! I have to say, people have all sorts of ideas on how to keep the chaos to a minimum in the morning! There were definitely some themes in the results of my little quiz, so I’m sharing them here with you so hopefully you can give a few of them a shot and create more organized and balanced mornings for yourself!

The Results

Pre-Morning Prep

This was by far the most common piece of advice people gave. It seems that people find it really helpful to prepare for your morning the night before. This can mean doing things like:

  • Planning your outfit and actually laying out your clothes

  • Prepping your breakfast or lunch

  • Packing your bag and having it ready to grab on your way out the door

  • Even getting your coffee ready so you just have to press a button in the morning

Some people like to do as much as they can the night before, but if that’s not possible for you then try doing just one or two things. Take inventory of what takes you the most time in the morning. Is it cleaning up after yourself after you make breakfast or lunch? Then do your prep work the night before and clean the kitchen before bed. Is it getting dressed? Then pick out your outfit each evening so it’s ready to go in the morning! Find out what’s taking the most time in the morning and make sure to build that into your evening routine the night before.

“I have my clothes assembled so I can just shower and dress without having to make any decisions.”

Create a “Launching & Landing Pad”

Sometimes it’s the scrambling around trying to make sure we have everything we need for the day that becomes a morning time-sucker. To counteract this, people said to try using a launching and landing pad for yourself - organize your things so that everything you need for each day is in one place in the morning – this means your keys, your purse, your briefcase, your cell phone, etc. Train yourself to put these things back on the “launch pad” every evening when you get home or once you’re done using them. That way, they’re always there when you need to leave! You can also create launching and landing pad areas for each member of the family, so your cell phone doesn’t end up in your son’s lacrosse bag.

“I set a place by my door as a launch pad for keys, purse, backpacks, etc. Lunches go there too first thing in the morning. Otherwise I waste time running room to room to find things, getting distracted on the way.”

Develop a Routine

Some people responded that having a routine – following the same schedule and doing the same things – every morning helped them stay focused and organized. When you do this, your morning becomes automatic. Oftentimes we get behind in time when we have to make decisions. Trying to pick out what you want for breakfast or trying to decide “Do I want to shower first this morning or read the paper?” can take more time than we realize. One big time trap for many of my clients is the temptation to “do one more thing” and look up something online, check email, or clean out the fridge in the mornings. These “extras” are not part of the morning routine and often cost too much time, leaving them scrambling and often running late. When you start to follow a routine, you develop habits, which cut down on the decision-making and “extras” significantly. It can also help to write your routine down so you can follow it without having to remember what’s next.

“Automaticity, when I do the same things in the same order and stick to my timeline, this works. For me I notice that setting times on reminders in my iPhone to remind me to transition to each next new thing makes the most difference. Also, being careful not to do things that are too interesting that take me off track helps a lot!”

Make Space for Quiet Time

Starting the day with some quiet time is a helpful practice for others who responded. Some people said things like meditating, mindfulness practices, praying, and journaling are activities that helped them get centered and grounded before the hustle and bustle of the day began.

These activities don’t have to take a lot of time. One respondent recommended trying an activity called morning pages (developed by author Julia Cameron). In this activity, you just write down what’s on your mind. It doesn’t have to be elegant or creative or even nice – just whatever thoughts are sitting in your brain that morning. You write for 3 pages each morning – no more and no less – which only takes about 15 minutes. If that sounds like too much, then how about a gratitude list? Write down three things (no more) that you are grateful for today before getting your day started.

Writing isn’t for everybody, so meditating for a couple of minutes before you get out of bed can have a lasting effect on your day. If you want to try to create more mindfulness practices in your life, check out MindfullyADD, a mindfulness website I created specifically for people with ADHD.

“Practicing the art of breathing. Shallow breather that I am, I am practicing feeding my brain with a breakfast of oxygen: Ten deep belly breaths, 10 second intervals. In for 5, out for 5. It helps with being calm, clear, cool and collected. So does using a good deodorant.”

Get Up Early

Another tactic that people use is to simply create more time for themselves in the morning. By getting up earlier, especially before their kids wake up, people said that they have more time to do other things that help them to stay organized, like meditating and making to-do lists.

“If I can wake up before my 2 year old, I am showered and have time to make a to-do list and schedule. Then when she wakes up, I'm with her to stay on task.”

Be Intentional With Your Time

The biggest take-away I got from these responses was that being intentional with our time is the greatest tool to defeating morning chaos. That means that we are calling the shots in the morning and deciding how we spend our time. Relying on that one thing you do to help you get ready in the morning in a calm and organized way can help. Whether you choose to prepare for your day the night before, commit to following a routine in the morning, or try meditation for 5 minutes before you get out of bed, the most helpful thing about your choice is that you’re in charge of your time. You’re running your morning, not letting your morning run you.

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