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Too many appointments, emails, or deadlines? Here’s how you can manage life when your ADHD is making you feel overwhelmed.
People with ADHD tend to experience life more intensely than others. This means that even if you’re hyper-focusing on a certain task or assignment in front of you, you can still have many other thoughts and ideas coursing through your brain.
It can feel like there’s always a lot going on, which may become overwhelming. If you have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and feel like almost everything overwhelms you, you’re not alone!
“Individuals with ADHD have weaknesses in sustaining their attention span,” explains Emily W. King, PhD, a Raleigh, North Carolina-based psychologist.
“This means it can be hard to complete a task or manage other executive function skills like making a plan, organizing the plan, starting the plan, sustaining attention to the plan, and shifting to something else when finished with the plan.”
“And, if something interrupts or distracts them, it can be hard to come back to the plan. So, they leave many things unfinished.” That emotional overwhelm can make you want to shut down, but there are ways to manage those overwhelming feelings so you can still get things done!
In general, King says the best way to combat that overwhelming feeling is to use things like:
- visuals reminders
“Many of the mistakes a person with ADHD makes are not intentional,” she explains. “Because their emotions can come on fast, or impulsively, those of us without ADHD need to be understanding when they’re feeling overwhelmed.”
Too many things to do and don’t know where to begin? Take a few minutes to do some deep breathing and calm yourself. Then, make a list of everything you have to do, step by step.
“Do each thing for a set period of time and then take a 5-minute break,” King recommends. “Then, move on to the next task.”
Kids are so busy these days. Between soccer practice, ballet, doctor’s appointments, and playdates, they have a lot on their plates — which means you have a lot on your plate, too.
On top of that, as a parent, you receive countless emails from school, camp, sports teams, etc. Juggling all of this at once is enough to make you want to hide in the bathroom and never come out.
But, don’t worry. There are ways to manage — and actually make it to — all of your kids’ appointments.
“Rely on technology for setting up reminders,” says King. “And, create a daily ritual of scanning through all of your texts and emails. Make sure you’ve replied to any important texts. Set up filters for your inbox to sort things into folders that you can review daily. This way, you’re going directly to the important emails instead of randomly scanning your inbox.”
Whoever created “Inbox Zero” clearly didn’t have ADHD. If they did, it’d be more like “Inbox Under 1,000.”
“If you’re a parent, you probably struggle with this even if you don’t have ADHD,” says King. “It can get overwhelming to see so many emails, and folders are a great way to manage this. And don’t forget about the search bar for when you need to that email you read a few weeks ago but can no longer see.”
“Also, to cut back on the clutter, delete emails at milestones like the end of the school year or the end of a commitment,” King adds. “It’s also helpful to create separate work and personal emails as well as a separate email that will attract spam to keep it out of your work and personal inboxes.”
Between the procrastination, disorganization, and the lack of motivation many of us feel around tasks that don’t give us instant gratification, it’s no surprise that the bills pile up until the stack becomes so high that it’s overwhelming: electric, phone, cable, mortgage, credit cards…
King has a simple solution: “Automate everything!”
Sign up for automatic bill pay through your bank or your providers. You’ll feel so much more relaxed when you no longer have the stress of paying bills on time or dealing with late fees.
Take advantage of smart home devices like Amazon Alexa or Google Home, use the notes app on your phone, or hang a blank piece of paper on your fridge.
“As soon as you realize you’re running low on something or you’ve used up the last bit, add it to your list,” King says. “Now you’ve created most of your grocery list!”
To make meal-planning and cooking easier, King recommends setting up a meal schedule, such as Meatless Mondays or Taco Tuesdays, so that there aren’t too many options to choose from. Then, rotate your favorite recipes each week so that weeknight meals are easy and predictable.
You can also subscribe to meal-planning sites like Plan to Eat, where you can download recipes from the web and add them to your weekly menu, which instantly creates a grocery list, saving you the stress of having to write down each ingredient you’ll need.
“Remember that your child’s brain is still developing, and they may take longer to develop the skills that other children have at certain ages,” King says. “Children with ADHD tend to develop social and emotional regulation skills slightly later than their neurotypical peers, so just because they are a certain grade or age doesn’t mean that they can do a certain skill.”
If you’re noticing that your child is feeling overwhelmed, King says the first thing you should do is listen to their point of view.
“When a child is overwhelmed, always connect and be supportive,” she recommends. “Once everyone is calm, then problem solve why something didn’t work and what kind of strategy the child needs for the next time they are faced with that situation.”
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with the day-to-day responsibilities of life, there are numerous tricks and tips that can help you take control and better manage each task.
But first, it’s important to determine if you’re feeling overwhelmed or overloaded. The former is based on emotions, while the latter means you’re not quite sure about what to do first, second, or third.
While both require simplifying what you can and creating things like checklists and reminders, an ADHD coach or therapist can help you learn how to prioritize your tasks so you’re no longer overloaded and have a better idea as to where to begin your to-do list.
You can check out these Psych Central articles for some guidance and tips:
- Tips on How to Focus with ADHD
- 9 Tips for Creating a Routine for Adults with ADHD
- Tips for Living with ADHD
- The 12 Best Apps for ADHD of 2021
- ADHD Resources: Support Groups, Books, Apps, and More
Once you know the proper steps to take, you’ll feel less overwhelmed. Using the right tips and tricks can make your day-to-day life easier!