Achieving Optimal Work-Life Balance When You Have ADHD

Photo of parent with short hair and facial hair standing in open doorway, hugging two childrenWhat do you consider an optimal work-life balance? People may have slightly different views on what an “ideal” work-life balance is for them, but there is a general consensus, from medical and mental health professionals alike, that maintaining this balance is important to overall well-being.

In today’s society, it is often difficult to achieve this ideal balance between professional and personal life. For those who experience symptoms of ADHD, it may be even harder. More specifically, individuals with ADHD may find it challenging to keep up with their workload in addition to aspects of their personal life. They may often feel as if they are always trying to play catch-up, or merely trying to stay afloat, as they attempt to get things done. A lack of downtime, or anxiety about not getting anything done during downtime, may impede enjoyment of life and prevent people from feeling successful about the things they have been able to complete.

Furthermore, many people who have ADHD use tools to help them cope with their symptoms. While these tools are often extremely helpful, they may increase the amount of time needed to complete various tasks. For example, it may take extra time to set up an app or calendar to get and stay organized before completing a particular task or tasks.

Another common dilemma some may experience while striving to obtain an optimal work-life balance is whether it’s better to work longer hours in order to stay organized and on top of work tasks or work more standard hours and have more personal time but potentially be less effective or successful at work. The answer to this question is likely to depend on each person, along with a number of other factors.

The following suggestions can help everyone, especially people who experience symptoms of ADHD, take steps toward achieving their ideal work-life balance.

1. Identify your optimal work-life balance. 

Does this mean you work longer hours at the office if needed but never take work home? Does it mean you never respond to work emails over the weekend? Does it mean you leave work early twice a week to coach your child’s team and work later on certain nights to make up for it? Identifying solutions that are ideal for you can help you begin taking steps to achieve them.

2. To the extent that is possible, choose a job that interests you and plays to your strengths.

If you frequently have new ideas but struggle with doing the same thing over and over again, you might consider a job where each day is different and you don’t sit behind a desk all day. If you struggle with small details, a position that does not require you to complete highly detailed projects may be ideal. If you find it hard to work under pressure and it takes you a long time to complete specific tasks, especially on deadline, you may want to avoid private sector jobs where you would be penalized for billing too many hours, and so on.

3. Consider the impact your mental health can have. 

Anxiety can often co-occur with ADHD, especially in relation to work and home life. If you are anxious about getting all of your work done and balancing things at home, you are likely to be even less successful in both places. Thus, taking charge of any anxiety, and taking steps to address it, is an important aspect of work-life balance. Using tools to prioritize time more effectively can often help. Delegating more (when feasible) is another helpful strategy. It’s possible to take some steps individually, but it is also encouraged to seek support from a professional, such as a therapist or coach, when working on developing these types of skills.

Depression can also frequently occur with ADHD, especially after prolonged periods of difficulty at work and home. Developing the ability to be more on top of work tasks and personal goals and needs may help reduce symptoms, but it is often difficult to minimize depression symptoms without professional help. With the support of a trained and compassionate counselor, you can begin learning strategies to reframe negative thoughts and better understand any underlying issues and conflicts. In some cases, therapists may also refer a person for medication, when such an intervention may be helpful.

This list is not exhaustive. It is simply intended to get you thinking about your optimal work-life balance and factors (ADHD as well as others) that could be inhibiting it. Once you have considered these things, you may find it easier to begin taking action to improve your work-life balance and take care of all of your needs.

If you are not happy with your current work-life situation, I encourage you to begin making what changes you can on your own. The support of a mental health professional can also be greatly beneficial as you figure out how to make your aspirations a reality in order to obtain as much satisfaction from life as you possibly can.

References:

  1. Jans, T., & Jacob, C. (2013). ADHD in families. In Surman C. (Ed.) ADHD in adults: A practical guide to evaluation and management (161-190). Totowa, NJ, Humana Press.
  2. Tejera, V. A. (2014). Work-life balance issues among mental health professionals capstone. MOJ Public Health, 1(1): 00005. Retrieved from http://medcraveonline.com/MOJPH/MOJPH-01-00005.php

© Copyright 2018 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Carey A. Heller, PsyD, therapist in Bethesda, Maryland

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Carey H

    Carey H

    March 16th, 2018 at 11:21 AM

    Thank you for reading this article.

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