Emotional dysregulation isn’t currently part of the diagnostic criteria for ADHD. However, it is commonly one of the most disruptive symptoms for many. When emotions get intense, here are some tools for practical grounding with senses. Practicing mindfulness is a great tool. Learning about how to implement it before emotions are out of control will make it much more effective in the moment. These can be taught to improve self regulation with ADHD. These can also be useful for an ADHD family member that needs a little help too.
Engage your sense of smell
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Essential oils are one of my favorite ways to engage our sense of smell. Check out my post here on essential oils for emotions. I start essential oils in our diffuser every morning. Check out our morning routine for success here. To have scents readily available no matter where we are when the emotions hit hard, we frequently wear either this bracelet or necklace. I love the bracelet for the ability to engage the tactile sense at the same time with the different textured beads.
Focus on your tactile sense
Touch can be a powerful sense in regards to emotions. There are also a multitude of options when it comes to mindfulness of touch. This fuzzy weighted blanket is a favorite for its hug like pressure effect, in addition to the soft fuzzy texture. This pack of pop bracelets has made it easy to have something on hand wherever we are. Another new favorite is a DIY play dough, which we add essential oils to for added benefit. Other things we have used include fuzzy or reversible sequins on clothes, stress balls, or even time petting our dogs.
What can you hear
Check out my current top 20 songs for encouragement here. I start positive music of some sort playing almost every morning. While we need to focus on school, I will usually use something mostly instrumental like Piano Guys or Lindsay Sterling. If Biggs needs some time for just her, she likes that these headphones fit her preteen ears. When its time for chores or something that words will be less of a distraction, we will often choose a mix with encouraging words like included in my list. I will also try to find positive words to speak when emotions are high. Sometimes the breakdown is due to feeling like nothing is going right. Hearing reminders of what is going right can help.
What can you see?
Read about some of the benefits of sunlight here. If it’s possible to go outside in the sunlight, it almost always improves my mood! My ADHD kiddo is no different, but even pointing through a window and looking at what you can see in the sunlight helps become mindful of what you see. For kiddos or adults that can read, I love having these posters displayed in these frames throughout the house. Being surrounded by beautiful pictures and positive messages gives an easy focus point when visual mindfulness is needed. I have had fun capturing some great scenes with this great camera to be able to create my own as well.
What can you taste?
Taste is a tricky one for some people with difficulty controlling impulses related to food due to ADHD. But it can still be a valuable sense to utilize for mindfulness. For the difficulty being calm and encouraging in a household affected by ADHD, I can use all the tools I can get. I love this new drink mix I found. Something healthy that tastes good and encourages me to drink more water? Sign me up. It tastes great, and doesn’t contain anything I question putting in my body.
When to use grounding with senses
Above I listed some examples of senses we use in our household. Now what? Well, with Little Bit, my daughter with undiagnosed ADHD, emotions can run wild. Changes and transitions are hard. She has less capabilities to recognize and cope with triggers such as being tired, hungry, or overstimulated. Whiles I try to structure our days to keep everything in balance, even little things can send her spiraling out of control.
For example, this morning we had a lot to accomplish. Little Bit was instructed to do 15 minutes of gymnastics with her sister. This or other exercise is usually part of our mornings before attempting to focus on a task like school. She came to me and asked what to do about having baggy pajamas on, since that makes some skills more difficult. I suggested rather than change clothes twice, we could save time and I could help her get her shower first. Changing the order of events threw her into a complete angry, crying tailspin. The change was to help her have time for a desired task, but all she could see was her disrupted plans. When the behavior is irrational, it can be easier to redirect them to pick 3 sensory things to focus on. Then once they are calm, it is possible to help them understand you are on their team.
How to direct grounding
How I accomplish this is completely change the subject and ask them to find something around them for a particular sense. This might look like me asking Little Bit if she can smell anything that makes her happy, or see something that makes her happy. Talk about what/how it makes her happy, and then move on to the next sense. This helps bring them back to reality, and has disrupted the spiraling emotions. It also helps redirect her to positive thoughts. Read about a related practice we use to cultivate positivity with our gratitude journal here. Keep in mind these strategies take practice, but will equip them with tools to use throughout their life.
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The content in this post is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is merely opinion based on personal research and experience.