The ADHD Core Four
The “ADHD Core Four” is what I call the first line of prevention when managing our ADHD Symptoms. What I mean by that is that these four things are the very first things I recommend that we check in with ourselves about. These are the four things I encourage parents to check in with their kids about.
The Core Four first line needs aren’t specific to ADHDers, however – ADHD folks are much more likely to ignore one or more of these four needs. Because we have issues with time blindness, prioritization, energy shifts, and forgetfulness – it’s very easy for us to overlook these very important four needs.
So What Are The ADHD Core Four
Nourishment looks different for different people. Notice that I’m not saying “eat healthy” or telling you what your body needs. It needs to be lovingly nourished. You know your body best. Nourish your body in ways that make you feel good. Folks with ADHD forget to eat meals or snacks until a while day has gone by. Medications may make us not feel hungry. So it is important that we take the time to nourish our body. My one piece of advice when it comes to nourishment is to make sure your ADHD brains getting adequate protein in some way, our brains function best when we have protein fueling it.
Hydration. This is my own personal downfall. Making sure that our bodies are adequately hydrates is important for both physical and mental health. When we start to get dehydrated it impacts our kidneys, our skin, and our cognitive functioning. Excessive dehydration can lead to delusions, confusion, and heat-related illnesses. Keeping ourselves hydrated is like keeping oil in your vehicle – it keeps everything running smoothly.
Many wellness providers will label this “exercise” – but for me that word can be scary and full of big feelings, and unnecessary. Your body needs movement. Traditional exercise is great and if you enjoy it or find ways to make it work for you, that’s great. However – if you are like me it’s just not your jam. So I reframe it as the need for our body to move. Move in ways that you can, in ways that make you feel good. Take time to stretch. Take a walk. Do a 2 minute dance party in your chair. When we have ADHD, movement really stimulates our brain and releases dopamine. Expert Tip: If your child is struggling with sitting still while doing homework – try letting them move more – standing while working, bouncing on a chair while working, taking a dance break – all things that may help your child with ADHD focus better.
Rest, not just sleep, but real rest – refreshes the body and the brain. Yes our brain needs sleep, but it also needs down time. Relaxation time. Time for joy. Breaks from screen time. Breaks from people. Breaks from overstimulation. Taking time to rest our bodies and brains help us function better, think more clearly, and access our coping skills more easily. I take a “brain break” on work days where I block two hours mid-day to rest. Some days I take a nap, other days I watch a trashy tv show, some days I play with the dogs, and others I read outside. I feel so much more able to tackle the second half of the day once I put that into my schedule. Find ways to rest that make you feel good.
Just A Few Tips
For those of us with ADHD, remembering the core four is tricky. I thought I’d include just a few tips that might help you out. As always take what works for you and your family and ditch the rest. You know you (and your family) best!
- Timers and Alarms – I set my alarm to go off when it is my brain break time. You can set up alarms to remind you when to stop working, when to start getting ready for bed, etc. You can block off days/times on your calendar so you don’t schedule yourself during your “rest time”
- Light Up Water Bottle – I’ve seen these on Amazon – it’s a water bottle that lights up every so often to remind you to take a drink! As long as you keep it in sight, it can work well to remind you.
- Night Routine – creating a night routine for yourself or your child will help your brain associate “rest time”. It may include setting your alarms for the next day, taking night time medication, reading a story, turning on a noise machine, or music, making the room dark, etc. This promotes better rest.
- Use Music for Movement – turn on music that makes you feel like dancing. While you are doing the dishes, folding the laundry, doing your meal planning for the week, or whatever boring task you must complete. Listening to music that makes you feel like dancing often encourages us to do just that – dance – ie. movement! Even little bits help!
- Accountability Buddies – This can be a friend who you walk with or play tennis with. It can be someone you sit with at a coffee shop to relax and rest. It can be a coach who checks in with you on your goals. It can be a partner offering to walk with you. Body Doubling and Accountability Buddies are some of the most effective ways to manage certain ADHD related symptoms – like task avoidance or struggles with task initiation.
Reach Out For Help Creating Routines and Habits
ADHD folks face the complicated love-hate relationship with routines and habits. We truly benefit from them, but also hate implementing them and sticking to them. So we start and ditch routines with alarming frequency, and eventually give up and decide that we “can’t do routines.”
While it’s true that it is a struggle for many of us, it is also true that there are many ways that you can try so that you can find what works for your specific brain and sensory needs. I am a person who has said all my life that I can’t stick to routines. But I found out that when I found one that works for me, motivates me the way I need motivation, and meets all my sensory needs – following a routine has gotten so much easier. I now have a ready-for-bed routine that works for me MOST of the time. I still forget some times, or things knock me off my routine – but it’s easy to pick back up the next night because it works for me.
If you need help figuring out a routine that works for you, or are struggling with your core four, or you feel like you have tried everything already, consider reaching out to an ADHD Coach like me. I can help you brainstorm, notice what works, figure out roadblocks, and introduce new tips and techniques that you may find helpful. Just book a free discovery call with me today to talk about it!