Well, first, let’s get this out of the way.
Man, they were some of my favorites back in the 80s.
You’re reading along, just eating candy for breakfast and listening to Bon Jovi because that was a form of parenting then, knowing there’s some big pivotal thing coming, and then you must decide!
Do I turn to page 28 to see what happens if Nancy and the Hardy Boys take the speedboat across the lake?
OR, do I turn to page 31, and find out if their smoke signal worked?!
I’m sure my love of choose or own adventure books has NOTHING to do with my crippling perfectionism and fear of making bad decisions.
Still, I needed lay some groundwork here because it turns out some of you maybe did NOT spend your childhood reading about “girl detectives” and Chet and his jalopy and trying to make impossible decisions at 10 p.m. on a school night.
But don’t let all this dissuade you.
The key to a good choose your own adventure morning routine is loading up only good options and only things you actually want to do.
We’re going to be OK. Really.
WHY You May Need an ADHD Morning Routine
I’ve been excited to share about my ADHD morning routine, because it has been so incredibly helpful for me.
But I also want to be upfront about this tricky bit:
- When you have ADHD, it can be really hard to create routines.
- Then, routines get boring, and then you don’t want to do them anymore because some ADHD brains require military-grade caffeine and slot-machine like levels of dopamine to do anything.
I’ve been joking recently that I have two modes:
- ADHD-fueled hyper-focus that means I can accomplish inhuman amounts of work
Both are hard for their own reasons, but I would say Couch is harder because Couch is where the existential dread starts to creep in, and I start to question things like, “life,” and “meaning” and “purpose,” and why some people spend so much money on baby shoes.
So the goal of a good ADHD morning routine is to warm up slowly,
like a geriatric athlete.
My routine is a way to bring structure, first thing, before the Give-A-Mouse-A-Cookies take over and I open too many coffee cans.
At the same time, it’s ALSO a way to not throw myself into a straightjacket without first getting a feel for the day.
Your minute may be two minutes or it may be 30, but I think a key to happiness is to not lock in ANYTHING until you’ve had some water and looked outside and maybe seen how much overnight cat frat-house barf you need to clean up.
That’s actually why part of my morning routine includes asking three questions.
But oh my gourd. Spoiler.
Is It Really an ADHD Morning Routine if it isn’t Set in Stone?
I mean, I’m not a doctor, and my sample size is one, but definitely, YES.
When Do I Start an ADHD Morning Routine?
At one point, my morning routine was watching the Today Show in my pajamas while nursing a baby.
At another, it was reading books with a 3-year-old in my pajama pants while nursing a baby.
And for about two weeks in 2009, my morning routine was literally being woken by a tiny person who had removed their diaper and climbed into bed with me to hand it to me.
So this is what I need you to know:
I have a lot of experience as a hands-on, responsive parent who would have eaten glass for my kids, so I understand that there are times in life when you don’t have control over your morning routine.
- You don’t have control over your body.
- You might not even know where you are.
- Your alarm clark is a person.
- Uninterrupted peeing is a luxury.
And this is the time when SLEEP is your morning routine.
AGAIN, I CAN NOT OVERSTATE THE VALUE OF THIS WISDOM:
“More Sleep = More Resourced.” – Tiffany Han
So more valuable than anything else is rest. Because being as rested as possible will help you with all the other impossible, vital, nonsense, necessary things that you have to do.
I know there are people who say, “just wake up 30 minutes early,” and to them I say:
Instead, I encourage you to baby-step into any morning routine as your children learn how to do things like:
- hold up their own head
- not eat marbles
- not rely entirely on you or other adults for survival
My point here is that you can start a morning routine when you are ready, but you don’t need to start one tomorrow.
You certainly don’t need to start the one I am about to outline until like me, you have experienced:
- removal of one or more organs
- sending a kid to college
- a colonoscopy
- a complete loss of skills communicating with anyone under 16
- a resurgence of your third-grade sticker collecting obsession
In a way, it sucked, because it would have probably, you know, made several life things easier to know sooner.
But, I do have the advantage that my children can drive, buy groceries, work, bathe independently, use the toaster and one of them can vote.
So – please, please, please don’t look at this routine I’m about to share and think – must be nice, lady.
This is just what is working well for me, 11 months since I was diagnosed, happily taking medication that is helping tremendously, and living as a crone who has to sleep with a humidifier or else I turn to stone/a mummy.
The ADHD Choose Your Own Adventure Morning Routine
The key, I think, to an ADHD morning routine is just enough structure mixed with a blend of radical rebellion that makes you feel like you’re skipping school.
Like a nice temperate snow day that they called too soon because the superintendent didn’t want to have to decide at 4 a.m.
OK – so how do we capture this feeling?
We need to do some things to make our morning routine feel like a routine.
For me that includes sound, light, smell and caffeine.
So I start some tea, put on some gentle background music or ambient sound, and then I light up my house just like this, but with zero people.
It’s winter now, basically, so I turn on my happy light.
(I am already getting so much done! Look at me!)
Then, I put some essential oils on my wrists, and I light a 20-minute candle.
If you haven’t heard of these, they are candles that burn for 20 minutes.
And they are a perfect gentle timer! I love them so much.
And then I close my eyes.
2. The Adventure
Sometimes, that is enough.
This is like meditation, only it’s informal, so I can do it because if I open my eyes or just quit, it’s fine. There are no rules!
If I am stuck or just looking for an easy A, I ask myself three journal prompt questions:
The Three Morning Questions:
- How do you feel?
- How is your energy?
- What do you need today?
Doing that part alone – asking yourself these three questions, is a game-changer.
It’s all about reaching out to your ADHD brain and saying,
“Hi Friend. How are you? Do you need toast? A bath? A quick walk? More glorious silence? OK. I am here for you.”
Which leads me to …
How to Manage Adventure Ideas
The whole reason this routine is working well for me is options combined with structure, so I have a list of options on a little card that I can reference.
Notecards here / stamp here / Papermate pens here, / gray stamp pad here.
Remember, the whole thing is that YOU choose your adventure options. Make them things you like and want to do.
Don’t worry if you only have 2 or 3 to start.
I am finding that this system builds up itself, which is how one of my most recent morning adventures has become … genealogy?! Yup!
Here is my current list of adventures:
- listening to a recorded meditation
- pulling cards
- Morning Pages
- writing a Letter From Love a la Elizabeth Gilbert
- genealogy 🤷♀️ – just a little gentle digging
To dive a bit deeper into each adventure …
I like free journaling and journaling with prompts or asking my three questions (above) and sometimes I just end up doodling or making lists or venting.
(Part of what works well for my ADHD brain, I’m learning, is writing things down in a safe place. Even if it’s messy. Then I can trust that I’ll be able to find it again, and I don’t have to drag it around with me like a pet bunny on a leash.)
It might not feel like it, but it is.
Before we start anything, we have to decide what we are going to do, and lists are my BFF.
>>(Need some journal assistance? Go check out my incredible friend Ashley’s Year-Long Journal group!
Not only do you get daily prompts and a chance to connect with other journalers and refine your craft – she hosts LIVE JOURNAL PARTIES. 🎉)<<
I do like meditating sometimes.
I love a good card deck.
Sometimes, I’ll pull a card and meditate on it, (just thinking, really) or journal on it. Other times, I just want some inspiration for the day.
You know this one already.
Although, I will say, I tend to read non-fiction in the morning.
I keep a morning book basket with a few books I can dip in and out of easily.
- The Comfort Book
- Mary Oliver’s New and Selected Poems: Volume 1
- Journey to the Heart
- My friend Kortney’s BEAUTIFUL new poetry book, Elemental
I have yet to actually finish or really even read The Artist’s Way, but I do love Julia Cameron’s suggestions to wake up and write three pages as soon as you can.
I’ve ended up writing journal-type entries, starting short stories and book chapters …
(Again, freedom within some gentle confines).
A Letter From Love:
This is a practice I learned about from Elizabeth Gilbert.
It’s just what it sounds like. Write yourself a letter from love.
This is lovely for those fear/worry/overwhelm days when it seems impossible to center myself, and I just want to crawl back into bed.
A Letter from Love is a practice in self-compassion, and I find that many of us diagnosed with ADHD later in life need self-compassion plopped on us like whipped cream at a waffle bar.
We’re only just realizing that we aren’t just bad at life.
So this is our new goal, OK?
Drown yourself in self-compassion. Use a shovel. Pile it upon yourself like free beach sand.
Why This ADHD Morning Routine Works For Me
I think there are a lot of reasons that this routine has stuck:
First, again – it’s a chance for self-compassion, and listening to myself and thinking about what I actually need.
Second, it’s a chance to look at the day through the filter of mood and energy.
My daughter coined the term “awake points,” and some days, we just have more awake points that other days.
Finally, The Structure (above) is auto-pilot.
It’s easy. It’s simple.
There aren’t decisions to make.
I just need to grab some supplies (which I keep all together, so I just roll in my journal cart) and put my bum in the seat.
And THAT is enough.
That’s all it takes, really.
Well, that and tea.
And then, I see what happens.
It’s a little magical.
And somehow, it’s just right, every time.