6 Challenges of the Changing Seasons for ADHD (and 3 Steps to Overcome Them)

Oct. 31st, 2016

When it comes to the ways that ADHD affects people’s lives, there are so many parts missing from public knowledge. One of the ways not widely known has to do with changing seasons, particularly when temperatures change and when we move from leisure to work. With the fall comes a plethora of stumbling blocks. Of course many of these are more extreme the further north you go, but any change can throw our unique brain wiring for a loop.

1. Change in Routine

Moving from summer vacation or a summer job back to school, or from a relaxed routine to a more inflexible one can cause overwhelm for anyone. For ADHD, of course, it can be devastating. We are so resistant and resentful of routine and structure that the demands of a new season can impact us hugely.

2. Different Clothing

Where are the hats and coats? Do your boots still fit? Why is this sweater so itchy? From the practical challenge of finding and organizing the clothing needed for cooler weather to the issues of sensory sensitivity, fall can be rife with pitfalls to do with all those extra layers. To say nothing of the extra time it takes to dress, exponentially increased with more and younger children.

3. Sickness

To make matters worse, sickness of varying degrees and types increase when the weather gets cooler. This is just one more thing on our minds, whether trying to avoid catching something or having to perform regular (and already challenging) daily tasks while not feeling well.

4. Light Levels

Depending on where you are on the planet, changing seasons can cause light levels to change at different times. Here in northern North America we are having our sunlight decrease. That, in addition to cloudy days and more clothing, decreases our exposure to the sun and vitamin D. This can cause or exacerbate all kinds of problems.

5. Sitting Around Inside

When temperatures drop it becomes harder to get the exercise that can help everyone and ADHD in particular. All the challenges I’ve already mentioned can contribute to this.

6. Gearing Up for Holidays

In this last third of the calendar year we are faced with many holidays, depending on what we celebrate. Remembering what is needed for each event or even remembering what days affect businesses, if we don’t celebrate them, can be incredibly challenging.

So what can we do in the face of all these things? Not every strategy will work for every person. That being said, I have found the following to be generally helpful principles.

Step 1: Back to Basics

Consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. When things get overwhelming or fall apart, start at the bottom of the pyramid (food, sleep, hydration) and work your way up. Nobody can perform tasks at their best if they are lacking basic human needs.

Step 2: Importance

When we are considering the demands of an ADHD life, something that stumps us time and again are decisions and prioritization. Not knowing what is top priority can sink us into a miasma of paralysis and despair. Find a way to prioritize the things needing to get done. Do whatever you need to in order to accomplish this. Use a friend as a body double and bounce ideas off them, talk to a counselor or a coach, use an app that works for you.

Step 3: Everything Else

Whatever is leftover from steps 1 and 2 that is still tripping you up, form into a question. For example, if the problem is a particularly picky eater in the family making mealtime stressful and time consuming, the question could be “How can I feed a picky eater nutritiously?” If you suspect the challenge is related to ADHD, try and include that somewhere in the question as solutions for ADHD challenges often look very different to those of different brain types. Google the question with a notebook handy and jot down any and all ideas and information pertinent to your situation. The idea is that nobody can tell you how to fix your problem because they cannot know all the details. So googling the problem and seeing how others handled it can help spark ideas that will help. Always try and keep an open mind. If the results run out of useful information, try rewording the question.

Remember: No one is alone. Every day there are people going through similar problems. By sharing our ideas we generate hope.

What unique challenges do you face as the seasons change?