6 Ways to Take Good Care of Yourself: Back To The Basics with ADHD

Slow down to speed up.

I’m not going to lie; this is an often-repeated phrase that I occasionally want to ignore. 

While I know deep down this message is true.

My brain wants to convince me otherwise.

It loves to tell me, “let’s try the latest strategy or the newest app and take action immediately.”

But when I pause and really think about moving forward on my goals, I remember how important it is to return to the basics.

I remember the value of slowing down to take care of the non-negotiables and checking in to see if they’ve become…well, negotiable.

On episode 110 of the I’m Busy Being Awesome podcast, I share six core areas that we often overlook when schedules get busy.

And then, we explore how to get back to those basics and move forward on our biggest goals. 

Tune in now and learn how to slow down to speed up in your life. 

You can listen to the episode below, or stream it on your favorite podcasting app here: 

Prefer to read? No problem! Keep scrolling for the entire podcast transcript.

Listen To The Podcast Here!

In This Episode, You Will Discover… 

  • Six key areas we often overlook when schedules get busy
  • How to get back to the basics
  • Concrete strategies that help you slow down to speed up

Links From The Podcast

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Episode #110: 6 Ways To Take Good Care Of Yourself: Back To The Basics With ADHD (Transcript)

You’re listening to the I’m Busy Being Awesome podcast with Paula Engebretson episode number 110. Hey friends. Thanks for tuning in today. How’s it going? What’s new with you? Today on the podcast, we are going back to the basics. And I’ve got to tell you, it was so fun writing this episode. 

Now, if you are listening to this episode in real-time, we’ve officially reached the end of August. Today is the 30th, which means tomorrow is the first of September. And many people have either made the transition or are in the process of transitioning out of Summer mode and into Fall mode as we talked about in the last episode. With any kind of transition like this – whether it’s the end of a season, the start of a new year, whatever – we are often looking for a fresh start. 

And right now, in particular, a lot of us want to start the Fall season off on the right foot, dive back in, and hit the ground running. Usually, around this time every year, I often hear from people looking for some tips and strategies to help them do just that. I usually get an influx of questions about which planners to use, what calendaring system I would recommend, and the best ways to get yourself organized for the new season. And these are all great questions, which we will absolutely talk about – and have talked about – on the podcast.

Back to Basics

But what I see happen quite often when I get these types of questions is that we forget about the basics we know. We want to increase our focus and our motivation and our productivity and we feel desperate to find the latest tool or the newest app that will help us do that. And in the meantime, we forget about the basics. We forget about the core elements that allow us to show up and get things done in the way that we want to. In a way that represents how we want to show up each day. 

And here’s the deal, we know what the basics are. This is why we call them basics. But they are also the things that we see and think to ourselves, yeah yeah, I know that’s important. But let’s be real… Can you just give me a strategy to get more done? That would be great.

And I’m not going to lie; I’ve asked the same question too. And I have absolutely ignored the basics many many times. But what I have learned to be true, is that some of the most powerful and effective ways to reclaim your time, get things done, stay focused, and have that sense of balance is by implementing the basics first. It’s making sure you have them locked in.

So today we are hitting restart. Just think about when your computer starts running slowly. Applications take a while to load. Programs might quit on you unexpectedly. Weird glitches start happening. Sometimes all you need to do is restart the computer. You don’t need another app or a new program. You just need to empty your downloads folder. Delete all the stuff that sits in the trash taking up space. And then restart the computer.

And that is what we are going to do today as you enter the month of September — or frankly, whenever it is that you are listening to this podcast. Because it’s always a good idea to hit restart, to check in on the basics, and to make sure you have your bases covered.

Now, the way that I want to return to these basics – the lens through which I want to examine this concept – may come as a bit of a surprise for you. Because we’re really going back to the basics. What do I mean by that? Well, today I want to talk about the idea of treating yourself like a child. What? I know. Stick with me. 

Now here’s the deal. Whether you are a caregiver or a parent. Maybe you have nieces or nephews. Maybe you’ve babysat kids before or you’ve been a nanny. It’s likely that most people listening to this podcast have had the opportunity at some point in time to take care of a child in some capacity. And today we are pulling from that experience in order to better understand how treating yourself like a child could be one of the most effective ways to keep you showing up and doing the things you really want to do in your life.

You might not believe me yet, but again, stick with me. Hear me out. Because these basics are everything.

Sleep is non-negotiable

The first area I want to explore in terms of treating yourself like a child as you return to the basics is making sleep a non-negotiable. Think about parents with young kids. Bedtime is a big deal, right? If you push back bedtime 30 minutes or 60 minutes, that can throw things off quite a bit, especially if there isn’t any consistent bedtime at all. 

What’s more, bedtime is not simply going to sleep. Usually, there is a routine or ritual around it. I know with my niece, it’s first bath time followed by storytime and then it’s time for bed. There is space to wind down and let your mind transition and get ready to sleep.

Now sure, every once in a while there might be a special occasion and we let kids stay up late. But that is the exception. It’s not the rule. And that’s because parents and caregivers know that is so much better for everyone involved when the child gets the sleep they need.

Guess what, friends? The same is true for you. You may not have the emotional meltdown the toddler might after a day or two of bad sleep – though you may want to. But even if you manage to keep your emotions in check with increased sleep debt, it will probably manifest in some other form whether that’s procrastination or getting distracted or not doing your best work. So as you hit reset and start again fresh, back to basics number one is to make your evening and bedtime routine as non-negotiable for you as you’d make it for a child. 


Up next is mealtime and more broadly the nourishment that you put in your body. Think about feeding kids. They may be picky eaters, which can certainly make things more challenging. And they may just want buttered rice or chicken nuggets every day. They may also just want to eat candy all day long. In fact, that may be the only thing they ask for. And that’s okay. They can want that. What’s more – it’s probably okay to have some in moderation (of course, depending on whatever you think is best.)

But my guess is that regardless of whether they only ask for buttered noodles, chicken nuggets, and candy, we also incorporate some fruit and some vegetables. We check in to ensure that there is some balance between the different food groups, right? We take care of them and ensure they’re slowing down to eat healthy meals regularly each day.

Now think about your meals. Are you regularly checking in to ensure you’re getting the food groups appropriate for you and what serves your body? Are you slowing down to make time for actual meals? Or are you quickly eating a protein bar in front of the computer and calling it lunch and grabbing whatever you can from the pantry as you run out the door for book club?

And please note – there’s no judgment here. These were questions I asked myself as I wrote this episode. Over the last several weeks, I’ve noticed myself eating my breakfast and lunch in front of the computer, which is not a habit I want to keep. And so I asked myself, if I were treating myself like my niece, what would I do in this moment? 

And the answer is that I’d probably slow down. I’d make space to actually focus on my meal. I would enjoy what I was eating rather than just absent-mindedly putting food in my mouth as I read email or answer slack messages. 

So that’s a shift I want to make as I hit the reset button this fall. What about you? Do you want to make any adjustments here? Pause with that question and see if anything comes up.

Get Outside & Play

The next area that I think we do a great job of with children and perhaps less of a great job for us as adults is going outside, getting fresh air, and making time to play. All through high school and then again throughout my grad school career, I did a lot of both babysitting and nannying. And one of the messages that every parent repeatedly told me was, if you could make sure that you get outside a couple of times today, that would be great. We would arrange playdates. We’d have fun activities planned. And there was always a priority on getting fresh air and sunshine. 

Now think about yourself. When is the last time you went outside just to enjoy the fresh air? When is the last time you had your version of a playdate when you did something for fun? Can you remember?

As I created this episode, I again paused and thought about this one for a while. I thought about new ways I can intentionally incorporate the “get outside and play” mentality into my own reset this fall. And I encourage you to do the same. And if you think of any fun ideas or you have any awesome playdates, I’d love it if you took a picture and tagged me on Instagram. I can give you a shoutout in my stories and we can inspire each other with ideas to get outside and play. 

Get Your Work Done First

Now the next area I want to talk about has a special caveat. So listen carefully so you don’t use this one against yourself. This is the message to get your work done first before you go out and play. 

Now here’s the deal, for children this is a great rule. I’m all in. Do your homework and then you can go play. Or complete your chores and then you can go play. And there are times when this mentality can serve us, too. Maybe you’re putting off some work, and you find yourself procrasti-working or doing something else instead. In situations like this, sure. Get your main project done first.

But the reason why I bring up this message. And the reason why I want to reinforce it with this theme of treating yourself like a child. Is that as parents or caregivers, we don’t continually add to the list of things the child must do after they finish their work. We don’t say to them, finish your homework and then you can go play. And then they finish their homework and we add six more assignments and tell him to clean the house as well. We don’t tell them do your chores and then you can go outside and play with your friends. And then they do their chores and we tell them they have to do all of their brother’s and sister’s chores too.

But this is what we do to ourselves all of the time!

We say, “I’ll take a break after I get everything done.” and then of course those are our famous last words, because we never get everything done. As idea machines and goal-getters, we always have a new project or idea on our mind. So rather than setting a clear limit of either time (meaning, at 5:00 I get to close my computer for the day) or task (meaning, once I’ve finished recording the podcast I’m done for the day). Rather than making that clear for ourselves, we just say “once I’m done with my work.” And then we continue adding to the list and we never make time for play. So again. Treat yourself like a child. Make a reasonable expectation, and when you’ve met it, give yourself that time to get outside, breathe in the fresh air, and play.

Limit Screentime

Speaking of setting limits, I also want to take this from the opposite perspective in terms of limiting our screen time. We hear a lot about screentime for kids and how much time is too much. As someone without kids and absolutely zero experience or knowledge in this category, I have nothing to add to that conversation. There’s so much nuance there for every situation.

But what I do want to offer is that you get to decide what you want your screen time to be as well. How much time do you want to spend on social media? How much time on your computer? Or how much time streaming videos? Again, there’s no judgment. And in fact, I think there are a lot of beautiful things about screens. I love them. They are how I get you this podcast every week. It’s literally how I talk to every single one of my clients. So I think that screens and technology are a gift.

That being said, as with most things, it’s helpful when we’re intentional about how much time we want to give to these different areas. so check in with yourself. And now, there are even built-in apps (in the iPhone at least) that let you block access to various apps at different times of the day. For example, I can’t access my apps aside from my calendar, podcasts, audible, and text messages between the hours of 9:00 pm and 6:30 am. They’re grayed out and off-limits. Alternatively, you have the ability to set a time limit so you can only spend x amount of time on a particular app each day. Meaning, I could set a time limit to 30 minutes or 45 minutes on Instagram. So there are some great supports available to set these limits.

So the question is, do you want to limit your screen time? And if so, what would that look like? Because if you’re anything like me, time can slip away quite quickly as you scroll through Instagram stories.

Take a Time Out

The last area but I want to suggest as you consider treating yourself like a child, return to the basics, and hit reset on your routines is to use timeouts as needed. Now, I’m not talking about time out as punishment. Rather I’m talking about using a timeout when you need some space for yourself.

My husband taught Elementary music for several years in public schools, and in his classroom, he had something called a “take a break” chair. And if students were having a hard time, they could go chill out in that chair. Maybe they were over-stimulated from all of the noise and hustle and bustle of an elementary Music classroom, and they were having a hard time settling in. They might be really squirrelly or fidgety. Perhaps they kept talking out of turn. Maybe they were really distracted and not paying attention to what was going on in class.

Whenever it seemed like the child needed some space, Ryan would let them take a break and go hang out in that chair and collect themselves. They weren’t in trouble. It was just a place to step back and have some time. And he would check in with them and say “Hey! How are you doing? Do you need anything right now?” And whenever they were ready, they could come back and join in on the activity.

And I love this concept. Just imagine if we had our own “take a break” chairs. Imagine if you’re feeling frustrated or short-tempered or and you’re tempted to say something you don’t mean, and you had a place to step away and collect yourself. Or maybe you’re feeling really overwhelmed and your mind is racing with all the things you need to do and you had a space to step back and clear your or mind do some journaling. Or maybe you’re feeling super distracted and not feeling very present in the moment.

What would it look like to allow yourself that time out? What would it look like to take a break for just a minute? You’re not in trouble. You haven’t done anything wrong. You’re taking care of yourself and you can return when you’re ready. What might that look like?

So for those of you gearing up for a busier fall season, for those of you with kids going back to school, and frankly for all of you who might be feeling like you need a reset, I encourage you to think of yourself as a child as you go back to the basics.

Check-in on what that means for you. Are you getting enough sleep and following a regular bedtime routine? Is sleep a non-negotiable for you? Are you making space for meals and giving your body what it needs? What about making time to get outside, breathe in the fresh air, and play? When do you want that to happen? Are you setting limits for yourself – both in terms of work so you know when it’s time to stop and play AND in terms of screentime and tech. And finally, are you giving yourself the breaks you need to step away get some clarity?

These may seem basic, and that’s true. They are! But if we don’t have that solid base established, we can’t build on it with more complex strategies and tools to take things to that next level. And as busy awesome humans, I know that’s what you’re all about.

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