It’s just too much.
You have too much to do – too many people making demands, too many decisions to make, too many commitments to keep. And they may conflict with one another!
You are stressed to the max.
Everyone becomes overwhelmed on occasion, of course. But, in addition…
- your brain wiring and ADHD symptoms contributes to your overwhelm. Check out ADHD and Five Steps to Countering Overwhelm for more on this.
- and your stress exacerbates your ADHD Symptoms. Think about how your ability to focus, attend and regulate your emotions are compromised when you are overwhelmed.
Because of your ADHD you may experience stress more acutely and more often than other people. So, if you want to create an effective solution to address your overwhelm, it is important to tackle the part your ADHD plays in contributing to it.
The solution for managing your overwhelm and stress will need to be uniquely suited your needs and preferences.
Consider which of the following options make sense for you.
Only I Can Do This?
Part of your overwhelm is likely a result of having too much on your plate.
If that is the case for your, it is time to account of all of your tasks, and ask yourself, “Am I doing this task because…”
- “… I enjoy it, but it is not the best use of my time?”
If you gave these type of tasks up, how might that add to your enjoyment in other areas of your life?
- “… I don’t trust others to do it as well as I could?”
Could someone else do the task well enough so you could focus on the areas that are most importance to you?
- “…I am not comfortable delegating?”
Where could you look for support in learning how to do this better?
- “… I don’t plan far enough ahead to be able to delegate.”
Again, how could get support in planning ahead so you could delegate better?
- “… I don’t want to spend the time showing someone else how to do the task?”
Think about how training someone will be helpful for you in the long run, though it may take a lot of your time now.
- “…it is just easier to do it myself?
Consider whether it is really easier in the long term.
- “…I am not comfortable spending the money to hire someone to do it?”
What could you do with that found time?
For each task you do ask yourself, “Am I the only person who can do this? Should I be the person to do this?”
What is coming off your plate today?
Just Say “No”
To reduce your stress, in addition to taking tasks off your plate, you might also need to consider just saying, “No!”
True, saying it that abruptly may get you into hot water in your personal and professional life. Luckily, there are more gracious ways of setting your boundaries, like:
- “Unfortunately, I am not available now. But I do have time___________(insert date). How does that sound?”
- “I could do ‘X,’ but then I would not have time to do ‘Y.’ Do you have a preference as to which of these I do now?”
- “Would you mind if I throw out another idea?”
- “Let me think about it and get back to you by____________(insert date).”
- “I would really like to do that, but my plate is full. What if we reconnect____________(insert date), and talk about it then?”
- “I’m afraid if I added that project I might not be able to give the other project enough attention. Could we look at what is on my plate, and figure out where I should spend my time?”
- “I can’t do all of this. Let’s sit down together and figure out our priorities.”
Of course, sometimes it is perfectly ok to simply say, “No, I can’t do that.”
Where do you need to say, “No?” How are you going to say it today so you will be less overwhelmed?
Does This Even Need To Be Done?
You may do some tasks in both your professional and personal life because, well, you have always done them. It is a habit.
So, you just assume you need to do them.
Try challenging some of these assumptions by considering whether the value you get from doing a particular task makes it worth the time and energy you put into it.
Start by asking yourself:
- “Does this need to be done?”
- “What would happen if it did not get done?”
Consider these examples of potentially expendable tasks:
- accepting certain meeting request. Do you add enough value and receive enough value to go to all of the meetings you are currently attending?
- doing all the reports. Are they all necessary?
- balancing your checkbook. Do some research to see if it still makes sense to do this.
- trying to get your inbox to zero. If having email in your inbox does not get in your way, then do you need your inbox at zero?
- making sure your desk is perfectly straightened. If you can find what you need in a reasonable amount of time, it might be good enough.
I am not recommending you stop doing any particular task. Just question you assumptions.
Is there something expendable on your plate you can just stop doing that would help you feel less stressed?
Self-Care Is the Number #1 Strategy
While all of the above strategies are key to managing your overwhelm and stress, self-care is the number #1 way to do this, and in turn manage your ADHD.
And ideally this would be the place to start.
But the reality is that it may seem too hard to focus on practicing good self-care when you feel like you are under a tsunami of work!
So, you might start with the above strategies in order to feel you have the space and time to focus on the self –care examples outlined below.
Yes, most people find exercise helps them to reduce their stress because they are more calm and are in a better mood after working out.
Adults with ADHD also find that exercise helps to wake up the understimulated executive function component of their frontal cortex. So, the additional payoff is the increased capacity to slow down, evaluate options and make better choices.
This leads to… a reduced stress level. Nice, right?
How would curbing your impulsivity and need for immediate gratification through exercise help reduce your overwhelm?
You know lack of sleep causes most people to feel more overwhelmed by their daily circumstances than if they were well rested.
As an adult with ADHD you also already have a compromised ability to process information, focus your attention and manage your emotions, a few of the ADHD symptoms.
Lack of sleep can make these ADHD symptoms worse. Conversely, adequate sleep can help you manage your emotions, attend better and process information to the best of your ability.
And when you can do this to the best your ability, you will experience less stress.
Ready to get more sleep?
Of course, nutrition, like sleep, has a direct impact on everyone’s overall well-being.
In your case your ADHD symptoms, like impulsivity and emotional dysregulation, will also become more pronounced without proper fuel in the tank. And you will have a greater chance of just stalling out or overheating, leading to greater stress.
So, what steps can you take toward better nutrition in order to manage your ADHD and stress levels?
4. Slowing Down – Meditation
For many having ADHD often also means having a very active mind.
If this is true for you, consider using meditation to slow down and prevent the “spin cycle” that occurs when you are overwhelmed. This can help minimize your stress levels in the short run.
In the long run, preliminary research also shows that meditation may lead to structural changes in the brain, resulting in a reduction of ADHD symptoms, such as inattention and impulsivity. Improvement in your ADHD symptoms can also result in less stress.
Ready to try?
5. Managing your Thoughts
You are what you think, right?
And, if you have a pervasive pattern of negative thinking, your stress levels will likely be elevated.
ADDed Perspectives Bottom Line
Practice good self-care is definitely the number one key to reducing your overwhelm and managing your stress. Hopefully, you can find a place to start taking better care of yourself. Step by step…
At the same time, the other key to managing your stress is making decisions about what tasks you are going to keep on your plate.
Because you can only do so much, right?!