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Zebra Stripes for ADHD

A monthly newsletter of stories tips and news for those concerned with ADHD, Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder, No. 27

Sarah Jane Keyser : ADHD Coach

Surviving Overwhelm

Many of my coaching clients struggle with overwhelm. There are kids to be picked up, birthday presents to buy, bills to be paid, and shirts to be ironed. There is fear of opening envelopes and seeing the negative bank balances and the unpaid bills. Fear of going into stores to buy necessary items and wasting time and money on impulsive flings. Plus illness and emotional affronts which take the brain captive. It all adds up to a paralyzing sense of doom.

I know what its like even though my kids are grown (I still worry about them) I have fewer immediate demands but I still get overwhelmed some times.

Today's hectic world puts tremendous pressure to perform on everyone, but when ADHD is present the pressure is magnified several times over.

Here are some ways ADHD contributes to this sense of being submerged.

First is poor organization, or difficulty sequencing actions (or papers thus the unmanageable piles) ADHD is known as the disorder of disorganization. Difficulty organizing the events of the day is just one of the problems.

The second problem is an elastic sense of time which makes it difficult to estimate how long tasks will take adding to the problem of planning the day.

Third is what I call the slipping clutch or problems getting started which means that when you do fix a time to do a task it doesn't get done because you can not start. Instead you get sucked into the internet or the TV; for me it is cross word puzzles and now of all ridiculous distractions, sudoku.

Finally, the lack of boundaries makes it difficult for people with ADHD to say "no" so they find themselves with too many things to do. Poor boundaries also mean that they absorb more than their share of emotional flooding; other peoples problems swamp the brain and make it difficult to think coolly about what needs doing.

Here is what you can do about it.

  1. Recognize that overwhelm has captured your brain and is interfering with your ability to plan and get things done. Observe how you are feeling, take several deep breaths into the abdomen and exhale slowly
  2. .

  3. Listen to your self-talk. Change negatives to positives: tell yourself "you can do it". Talk out loud to yourself at each step as though you were explaining to a another person (your coach for example) what you need to do.

  4. Make a list of the tasks you need to do, estimate the time needed including travel or set up time. Then weigh the importance and urgency of each task. Could some items wait until tomorrow or next week?

  5. Consider what help you can get. Could a husband or a friend pick up the kids?

  6. Plan the day. Group tasks according to location. If you have to go out, consider the time of day, driving at commuting time could double the time it takes. If you must go at commuting time allow extra time.

  7. Write out the day's route map and put it in your purse or place where you can't forget it.

Ready! Set! Go! You can do it!

Some tips to avoid overwhelm in the future.

  • Make a list of common tasks and time yourself doing them. Your planning will be more effective if you know how long each task really takes. One client was surprised to find that it took her two hours to cook a meal that she estimated at one hour.

  • List your regular tasks like laundry, paying bills, and shopping and group them into routines to do on a fixed day. Routines are automated plans; they reduce the need for day to day planning and decision making.

  • Learn to use an agenda, have it with you at all times and consult it often.

Joey, the zebra with no stripes, is on vacation with Thomas the Organizer but he thought you might enjoy hearing about his distant cousin, Roadie.

Roadie was born and bred to be a race horse, but Roadie didn't like racing. He always caused trouble and won zilch. He was on his way out where ever no-good race horses go when a guardian angel stepped in.

A young trainer liked his looks and decided to give him another chance. Again Roadie came in last.

This time his new owner sent him to a woman who competed in jumping and dressage events. He very quickly proved exceptionally gifted for his new calling and won many blue ribbons.

His full name "A Long Road". (From Equus, July 2007)


For more About Sarah Jane

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