How to Stop Self-Sabotage if You Have ADHD?

— by Dr. Sandip Roy.

If you are someone with ADHD, putting these tips into action can help you better handle your self-sabotaging behaviors.

These tips are more about boosting your overall quality of life, not just helping achieve higher rates of success at work.

30+ Strategies To Prevent ADHD Self-Sabotage

Some of the most common self-disruptive behaviors associated with ADHD are — negative self-talk, perfectionism, people-pleasing, risk-taking, procrastination and ADHD freeze, making excuses and blaming circumstances, emotional outbursts, overcommitting, and substance abuse.

Negative Self-Talk

  • More self-compassion and less self-criticism.
  • Practice self-awareness and challenge negative thought patterns.
  • Learn to value your efforts and discipline. See mistakes as an inevitable part of the learning process.

Perfectionism

  • Set realistic goals and create a plan to achieve them.
  • Get a growth mindset — see obstacles and setbacks as opportunities to grow and improve.

People-Pleasing

  • Set boundaries on your time and energy.
  • Prioritize your tasks and leisure.
  • Learn to say “No” more often.

Risk-Taking Impulses

  • Seek feedback from others to gain perspective and improve decision-making.
  • “When in doubt, don’t.” Don’t rush in to do what can be done later.
  • Avoid times and scenes when that make you take risks.
ADHD People Can Interrupt Their Self-Sabotage Cycle

Procrastination & ADHD Freeze

  • Voice-note or write down your thoughts, feelings, and to-dos, daily.
  • Break tasks into small steps to achieve “easy wins”.
  • Use visual aids and reminders to stay organized and on track.
  • Allow time in your daily schedule for movement activities like walking and dancing.
  • Design a consistent routine to create structure and improve focus.

Excuse-Making and Blaming

  • Start taking responsibility instead of wasting mental energy on making elaborate excuses.
  • Stop trying to blame external circumstances when you need to fix your inner world.

Emotional Outbursts

  • Get proper sleep.
  • Meditate mindfulness daily.
  • Seek professional support from therapists, coaches, or ADHD specialists.
  • Regular physical activity is one of the best friends of ADHD people to improve focus and happiness.

Overcommitment

  • Prioritize your tasks and your mental range to handle things.
  • Stop saying “Yes” whenever asked to do something. In fact, make this your default: “I am too tied up today. I’ll tell you when I get free.”
  • Set boundaries — and enforce those boundaries.
  • Delegate less specific tasks to others.

Substance Abuse Risks

  • Seek professional help to address substance abuse and alcohol dependence (recent findings say alcohol is always harmful, even as an occasional weekend drink).
  • Introspect your deeper issues. Learn how to cope with your stresses, triggers, and cravings.
  • Build a support network of friends, family, or support groups to keep you on the right track.
  • Establish routines and structure to reduce reliance on substances.

Burnout Prevention

Now, let’s jump into the strategies in more detail:

Overcoming negative self-talk

  • Notice and challenge negative thoughts: Notice your inner chatter and identify negative self-talk patterns. Challenge these thoughts by questioning their validity. Replace them with more positive and realistic statements.
  • Practice self-compassion: Treat yourself with kindness and understanding as you would do to your best friend. Tell yourself that everyone makes mistakes, and has flaws. Be gentle with yourself during challenging times. Forgive yourself.
  • Be more self-aware: Mindfulness techniques can help you become more aware of your thoughts without judging them.
  • Surround yourself with positivity: Do things and spend time with people who lift and support you. Create a positive environment that realistically boosts your self-worth and confidence.

Overcoming procrastination

  • Break tasks into smaller steps: Divide tasks into manageable chunks to make them less overwhelming and easier to start.
  • Set specific goals and deadlines: Establish clear objectives and deadlines to create a sense of urgency and accountability.
  • Use time management techniques: Utilize tools like to-do lists, calendars, and timers to prioritize tasks and stay organized.
  • Eliminate distractions: Identify and minimize distractions in your environment to maintain focus and productivity.
  • Reward progress: Celebrate small achievements along the way to motivate yourself and reinforce positive behavior.
  • Practice self-discipline: Develop a routine and stick to it, even when faced with resistance or distractions.

Overcoming people-pleasing

  • Set boundaries: Clearly define your limits and communicate them assertively to others. Learn to say no when necessary and prioritize your own needs.
  • Practice self-compassion: Develop self-awareness and self-acceptance, recognizing that it is okay to prioritize your well-being and happiness.
  • Identify underlying beliefs: Explore the reasons behind your people-pleasing tendencies, such as seeking approval or avoiding conflict. Challenge these beliefs and work on building self-confidence.
  • Focus on authenticity: Be true to yourself and your values, rather than trying to conform to others’ expectations. Embrace your uniqueness and express your true thoughts and feelings.

Overcoming risk-taking

  • Evaluate consequences: Before making decisions, consider the potential risks and benefits of your actions. Reflect on the short-term and long-term outcomes to make informed choices.
  • Seek advice: Consult trusted friends, family members, or even professionals to see things from other sides, and get insights on the risks involved.
  • Set boundaries: Set self-boundaries to prevent impulsive or reckless behavior. Define the things you won’t do, the people you won’t mingle with, and the places you won’t go.
  • Develop coping mechanisms: Find healthier ways to cope with stress, boredom, or other triggers that lead to risk-taking. Mindfulness, relaxation techniques, and enjoyable hobbies help manage impulsive emotions.
  • Increase self-awareness: Learn to see these thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as soon as they start. Stopping them at the early stages is easier than later. Work on understanding the underlying reasons for seeking thrills or excitement through risky activities.
  • Focus on long-term goals: Align your actions with your values and long-term objectives. Consider how risk-taking behaviors may impact your future well-being and success.

Overcoming procrastination and ADHD freeze

The ADHD Freeze, or ADHD paralysis, is a state that makes ADHD people feel crushed, immobilized, and too overwhelmed to focus or complete tasks.

It can present as procrastination, task avoidance, and difficulty prioritizing and organizing responsibilities. There is often a sense of dread and being stuck in a state of inaction due to cognitive overload and challenges with executive functioning.

Though a common experience in ADHD’ers, it’s not a medical diagnosis.

  • Break tasks into smaller steps: Divide tasks into manageable chunks to make them less overwhelming and easier to start. This approach can help individuals with ADHD tackle tasks more effectively.
  • Use visual aids and reminders: Utilize visual cues, such as sticky notes, calendars, or task boards, to keep track of deadlines and priorities. Set up reminders and alarms to prompt task initiation.
  • Create a structured routine: Establish a daily schedule that includes dedicated time blocks for work, breaks, and relaxation. Consistent routines can help individuals with ADHD stay organized and focused.
  • Implement time management techniques: Use tools like timers, Pomodoro technique (work for a set time, then take a short break), or task prioritization methods to improve productivity and reduce procrastination.
  • Practice self-compassion: Be kind to yourself and acknowledge that ADHD symptoms can make tasks challenging. Avoid self-criticism and instead focus on progress and effort.
  • Physical activity: Regular exercise can help improve focus, concentration, and overall well-being, making it easier to overcome procrastination and ADHD freeze.

Overcoming making excuses and blaming circumstances

  • Self-reflection: Reflect on your thoughts and behaviors to identify when, why, and how much you make excuses or blame circumstances. Ask yourself why you shirk your responsibilities.
  • Reframe your thoughts: Replace self-defeating thoughts with more positive and empowering beliefs. Reframe challenges as opportunities for growth and learning rather than excuses for inaction.
  • Set realistic goals: Establish achievable goals (that stretch you a little), and create a plan to work towards them. Break tasks into smaller steps and track your progress to stay motivated and focused.
  • Ask for feedback: Ask trusted people for input to gain perspective on your behavior and decision-making. Listen to constructive criticism and use it to improve your approach.
  • Practice problem-solving: Instead of making excuses, focus on finding solutions to overcome obstacles. Brainstorm alternative strategies and seek support if needed to address challenges effectively.
  • Develop a growth mindset: Embrace a mindset that values effort, perseverance, and learning from mistakes. View setbacks as opportunities to grow and improve, rather than reasons for making excuses.
  • Start taking responsibility: First, avoid blame-shifting and scapegoating others for things that happened under your watch. Next, start challenging yourself to take ownership. Gradually, acknowledge your role in more failed situations.

Overcoming overcommitment

  • Be realistic: Even if you can do anything, it doesn’t mean you would do everything. Assess your capacity and limitations realistically. Be honest with yourself about what you can realistically accomplish, and avoid taking on multiple tasks simultaneously.
  • Communicate in clear terms: Tell them what they should and should not expect from you, and then ask them if they understand your availability and limitations. Make your default reply, “I am too tied up today. I’ll tell you when I get free.”
  • Set boundaries: Establish clear boundaries for your time and energy. Teach yourself how to decline requests or delegate tasks when necessary to avoid taking on too much.
  • Learn to delegate: Delegate tasks to others when possible to lighten your workload and prevent overcommitting. Trust others to handle responsibilities and share the workload.

Overcoming substance abuse and alcohol dependence

  • Address underlying issues: Explore the connection between ADHD symptoms, impulsivity, and substance abuse. Identify triggers that lead to substance use and develop coping strategies to manage cravings and urges.
  • Develop healthy coping mechanisms: Replace substance use with healthier coping mechanisms such as exercise, mindfulness, hobbies, or social activities. Find alternative ways to manage stress, anxiety, or boredom without relying on substances.
  • Create a support network: Build a strong support system of friends, family members, or support groups who can provide encouragement, understanding, and accountability during recovery. Attend therapy or support group meetings for additional guidance.
  • Establish routines and structure: Implement daily routines, schedules, and healthy habits to create stability and structure in your life. Consistent routines can help manage ADHD symptoms and reduce the likelihood of turning to substances for self-medication.
  • Educate yourself: Learn about the risks and consequences of substance abuse, as well as the impact of ADHD on addiction. Understanding the relationship between ADHD and substance use can empower you to make informed decisions and seek appropriate help.
  • Practice self-care: Prioritize self-care activities such as adequate sleep, healthy eating, exercise, and stress management techniques. Taking care of your physical and emotional well-being can support recovery and reduce the risk of relapse.

Final Words

ADHD’ers also tend to hyperfocus, keep losing track of time and are always late, have difficulty switching gears between tasks, go mind-wandering while talking to people, and miss important social cues (that they regret later excessively).

If any of your ADHD-related behaviors become overwhelming, a cause for concern, outright problematic, or uncontrollable, consider seeking support from a therapist, counselor, coach, or ADHD specialist.

So, start feeling empowered to navigate your ADHD challenges. It’s hard, but you owe it to your mental peace and progress in life.


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