ADHD Awareness Month (October) is upon us once again. In previous years, I have written about Struggles All Catholics with ADHD Can Understand and Saints for Those Who Struggle with ADHD. This year, I would like to give you some prayer tips for Catholics with ADHD. While these are intended for those with ADHD, most can be beneficial for anyone who gets distracted in prayer.
Have the Right Environment
The first three rules of real estate are the first three rules of prayer: Location, location, location. Find a distraction-free environment or one where the distractions bring you further into prayer. In my house, I have a designated prayer area. I have a crucifix, pictures of saints, and other religious objects on display there. That is where I go to pray in my house.
This is also an opportunity to get your senses involved. What smells can you incorporate into your environment. How about sights? Sounds? (Rock some Gregorian chant) Heck, is there a way to get taste involved. You are limited only by your imagination.
Break spiritual growth into small, manageable chunks
Large tasks may seem insurmountable and cause overwhelm. However, if you break it down into small bite-sized pieces it gets easier to handle. This can apply to the spiritual life. Growing closer to God through prayer seems like a daunting task. However, breaking it down into manageable chunks will help you take small steps towards holiness.
For example, if you were to examine your prayer life and what is needed, you might find that a big step would be to simply start praying regularly. That may seem like that would be an adequate first step. However, it is not exactly clear how one establishes a regular prayer habit. You might need to break down this first step into smaller steps. You need to decide how long each day you should be praying, find time in your schedule (or make time) to pray, find a place to pray, figure out what type of prayer you are going to try first, and then actually start doing it. There is more to improving one’s spiritual life than this, but this is simply an example of how to start breaking down the seemingly insurmountable task of improving one’s spiritual life into small steps.
Relax into prayer
It is hard to pray when emotionally overwhelmed. Emotions can cause the brain to not be able to focus. Try some relaxation techniques before praying, and your focus might improve. Take some deep breaths, or try relaxing all of your muscle groups one at a time. To relax your muscle groups, start with the face muscles, and work your way down to your toes. Contract the muscles in your face, hold it for a few seconds, and then relax. Repeat this a few times, and then move on to the other muscle groups. Whatever method you choose to calm yourself, make sure it that actually works for you and is not just something someone told you to do.
Ask for the assistance of your Guardian Angel
Ask your guardian angel for help. Your guardian angel is always with you and is there for your benefit. Take advantage of his aid. Ask him to help you focus your thoughts on prayer. He loves you! In fact, the only one who loves you more than your guardian angel is God. Rejecting that kind of love is like rejecting the love of a puppy.
You can use the standard guardian angel prayer, but there are other options. You can also use your own words. Talk to him like he is a friend. Saints have also composed their own guardian angel prayers. Here is a guardian prayer written by Saint Eugène de Mazenod:
My good angel, my body may be here, but my heart is with God. You who are constantly at the foot of God’s throne, offer him my intentions, tell him that I love him above all things. Amen.
Movement aids focus for those with ADHD. You are allowed to move around as you pray. So, grab a fidget toy or take your Rosary with you on your run! Some of my best one-on-ones with God have happened while I was pacing.
The Burger King rule
BK’s motto “Have It Your Way” applies to prayer. Outside of the Mass, you do not have to pray any particular way. It is up to you and God. What will work best for the two of you to draw closer to one another?
The most important thing a person with ADHD can do for their prayer life is to persevere. Nothing I mentioned above is a surefire method for overcoming ADHD while praying, but it is important to never give up. The Lord knows that you did not choose ADHD, so He understands your struggle to focus. God still loves you, no matter what. The key is to keep trying. One of my favorite quotes on this subject comes from Saint Francis de Sales:
If the heart wanders or is distracted, bring it back to the point quite gently and replace it tenderly in its Master’s presence. And even if you did nothing during the whole of your hour but bring your heart back and place it again in Our Lord’s presence, though it went away every time you brought it back, your hour would be very well employed.