ADHD and Overwhelmed

These days life is overwhelming from almost the minute we wake up. If you are a woman, like most of my clients are, you have the added responsibility of most of the household chores, child-rearing responsibilities, and possible caregiving responsibilities of an aging parent. Your place of employment is likely expecting you to do more and more with less and less. Although it’s the expectations that are unreasonable,  you blame yourself.

These responsibilities are overwhelming for a neurotypical person, but you are particularly challenged because you have ADHD. You wake up make your first cup of coffee and immediately become overwhelmed because you are behind before you even get started.

What’s the first thing to do? Where do you start? What are you forgetting? Before you know it, you’ve been lost in a task for 45 minutes, and you’ve lost an hour of your time. 

ADHD and Overwhelmed. Some reasons for the struggle.

Why are we so overwhelmed? We are overwhelmed because life is overwhelming!  The constant state of overwhelm we are in has an impact on our stress, your immune system, and can harm our ability to think clearly and get things done. It’s a vicious cycle. Below are five reasons you might feel overwhelmed.

Our brain hasn’t caught up with the modern day demands

1. Your brain isn’t cut out for this. The pace of modern-day life is not comfortable for our brains. They evolved to perform functions that were useful thousands of years ago. None of those functions are really useful in our current world. In the workplace and at home the pace at which we move is not a pace that is comfortable for our brain.


2. Technology is bad for us. Technology is currently putting demands on our brain that it cannot keep up with, and ADHD brains are even less comfortable with technology than neurotypical brains are. Recognizing this can help us to implement a stress solution that is effective for your brain.


3. The insistence  that we multitask is harmful to our brains. We lose glucose each time we do this. Multitasking has increased dramatically over the years. According to Alan Brown, the average worker use to shift tasks every 45 minutes, now the average worker shifts tasks every 45 minutes. We check our emails 74 times a day and we switch computer tasks 500 times a day! This is stressful for our brains.


4. Most of us are checked out of reality. We behave as if we are on autopilot, and we are not checked in to our lives. Behaving without conscious awareness can often feel like we are working very hard but are not getting anything done. This is sort of like a hamster on the wheel.When your constantly behaving as if you are on autopilot, and your decisions and concerns about what to do next are not conscious, at the end of the day you may have worked hard but not gotten anything done.


5. People with ADHD spend a lot of their time in Worry and rumination. When your mind is trapped in the cycle of worry and rumination, it is exhausted. Linda Roggli of ADD Diva describes this as a constant hopping from one foot to another instead of making forward progress. This adds to the state of adhd and overwhelm.


Three Things You Can Do to help yourself with Adhd and Overwhelm.

 “The only people who refer to their customers as users are drug dealers and technology companies.” -Manoush Zomorodi

1. Reduce Screen Time

Screen Time wastes our time and our energy and increases our stress level. If we use our screens with mindfulness they can be tools for work, personal development, or connection, however, most of what we do on our screens is MINDLESS.

Reduce your screen time. According to Alan Brown, we  spend 100-200 minutes a day on social media.

Ask yourself and be honest, How many times are you  using technology to do something constructive and values-based? Work on identifying a media behavior that is overwhelming you and taking up your time. Eliminate that behavior set boundaries around it and watch some of your overwhelm decrease.


2.Touch it only once.

Create the rule for yourself of touching something only once. Mail, email things to do around the house that pile up, if it can be done quickly don’t set it aside to be done later, do it immediately, and ” touch it only once”. Turning a quick task into something with more steps or a bullet point on your to-do list makes it less likely that you will get to it and turns it into something that will weigh on your mind. It doubles your stress and your workload.


3. Multiple Reminders.

Set multiple reminders and use multiple calendars. Write appointments down in a paper and electronic calendar.  Have reminders on sticky notes. Set a reminder  the day before in the morning, the night before, three hours before, one hour before and fifteen minutes before your appointment   Whatever your current system , if you find yourself forgetting appointments, add multiple reminders.

4. Eliminate don’t add to your to do list.

If you’ve ever tried to make a to-do list and wound up feeling more overwhelmed and stressed you may be feeling the full effect of what is called the Zeigarnik Effect. This explains why we remember unfinished tasks more than finished ones. If you have a list of tasks that you aren’t getting to it will increase your  level of stress and overwhelm. I know clients who will abandon their to-do list because of this level of overwhelm. Simplify your to-do list by moving tasks that you are less likely to complete to a different list called “might do”. This should decrease your stress and help use the to-do list more effectively. You can visit your might do list occasionally but it doesn’t have to be something you visit regularly. This will improve your overwhelm and decrease your mental energy. Get things off your to-do list that don’t need to be there.

This information was from a workshop with Linda Roggli and done with Alan Brown on
ADHD and Overwhelm

Medical information obtained from this website is not intended as a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you have a problem, you should consult a healthcare provider.