With routine, my life is simple.
Without routine, my life is complex.
But routines are hard for people with ADHD to develop. The dopamine receptors in our brains are craving new stimulation at every second. Chasing this stimulation has made me moderately successful but brought with it suffocating issues, from depression and anxiety to full on breakdowns.
Sometime around 29 years old, I realised that if I was going to live a joyful life I would need to deal with my compulsive need for stimulation. I’d read from many people that the path to success was through thousands of boring, and repetitive, tiny actions.
For someone with ADHD that’s tantamount to torture. Once something becomes familiar, it no longer becomes interesting enough to motivate ourselves to do it.
Complexity is the enemy of the ADHD brain.
A routine removes the need to think about what you need to do next. For all of the glorification of morning routines, it’s just that - the thoughtlessness - that really matters. So it doesn’t matter so much what you do, so long as you do something that primes you for the day in a way that requires no thought.
Exercise is great. So is yoga. And meditation. Journaling, breathing exercises, showering (cold or hot), making the same thing for breakfast everyday and wearing the same clothes. It doesn’t matter. Just do something on repeat every morning.
When you get caught up in the details of whether this routine or that routine is better, you’re creating more thoughts in your head. And those thoughts lead to compulsive action. Sadly, compulsive action - for the ADHD brain is often a short burst of energy, followed by boredom and then a drop in mood because we feel useless.
How to make this happen in your life
Don’t worry about what other people are doing. Researching morning routines is just another excuse to procrastinate. Instead, keep it simple:
1) What wakes you up?
What wakes you up in the morning? Do that. It could be anything. But make sure it’s something that’s disconnected from the internet, and preferably nothing on your phone or TV. It could be as simple as drinking a pint of cold water - which is good because your body is dehydrated from sleeping.
2) Wake up at the same time everyday
It doesn’t matter what time. There’s scientific evidence to prove that we all have differing circadian rhythms. I wake up early. Some of my colleagues wake up late and work into the night. If you’re not sure what works best for you, ask yourself if you feel energised in the mornings. If yes, you’re probably a morning person. If not, you’re likely a night owl. Don’t overthink it. Wake up tomorrow at a time that is best for you and then stick to it without any thought of changing it.
You can see now that we’re attempting to remove the need for our thinking brain from getting in the way. Counter-intuitively, it’s our thinking that often makes our lives more difficult.
3) Follow the routine everyday
Once you start, don’t break the chain. I hacked this part by using a habit tracker so that I felt guilty if I missed a day. I no longer need the tracker because this routine is etched into my brain. Missing a day now feels like torture.
What routine can you create for yourself, today? Keep to it, each day, and see what happens in your life!