ADHD presents itself differently in everyone who has it. But one consistent factor that I’ve noticed in my work as a coach is that adults with ADHD are chronically overwhelmed with everyday life.You wake up feeling like you’re behind on life, and you spend your whole day either trying to catch up, or feeling guilty because you’re not doing enough to catch up. By the end of the night you feel even further behind than you were when you started! Then you go to bed and wake up just to do it all over again.
Eventually, the overwhelm catches up to you, and you burn out. Then you go through a period—a day, two days, or even a week—when your brain (and maybe your body) just feels shut down and you can’t seem to accomplish anything. You repeat this cycle of overwhelm and burnout over and over again and one thing is clear: You are stressed out!
The biggest problem here is that stress makes ADHD worse. The good news, though, is that the more you control your stress, the easier it is to manage your ADHD. I call this “The Golden Rule of ADD Management” and it’s quite simply this:
Stress management = ADHD management
Breaking the cycle of overwhelm is all about learning how to manage your stress. And there are two important things to focus on in order to do that:
- You have to learn to slow down.
- You have to practice excellent self-care.
I know that the idea of slowing down is counter intuitive when it feels like you’re running behind on life. But I’m sure you know that you’re just not as effective or productive in the face of chaos. When you feel speedy—either physically speedy or mentally speedy—that’s when you make mistakes.
Learning to slow down on a regular basis is exactly what will help you get to a place of being calm, centered, and relaxed. And when you’re calm, centered, and relaxed, you’re in a much better position to tackle all the things on your to-do list, and you do better work to boot.
The next thing to focus on when learning to break the cycle of overwhelm is practicing excellent self-care. Self-care is about making sure that you’re functioning optimally before you try to take care of those around you. When you’re taking care of yourself, and you feel happy and fulfilled, you have so much more to give to those around you than when you feel overwhelmed or burnt out! Everyone benefits when you take good care of yourself.
Breaking the cycle of overwhelm is not an easy skill to master. It starts with small steps, like allowing yourself time to relax and unwind every day, and paying better attention to self-care basics like sleep and nutrition. Small changes can make a big difference when it comes to building this skill.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that stress management = ADHD management. The more you do to manage your stress, the easier it becomes to manage your ADHD.
P.S. You can learn more about the 5 Essential Skills for Managing Adult ADHD
in my book, Odd One Out: The Maverick’s Guide to Adult ADD.