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10 Steps To Overcome ADHD Overwhelm

Bari Fischer is the CEO and founder of Impulsively Aware. She is a leading ADHD & Executive Function Coach, renowned for transforming challenges into strengths through personalized strategies and support, and the creator of impactful, empowering coaching experiences.

 
Executive Contributor Bari Fischer

Adults with ADHD often search for effective strategies to manage overwhelm, seeking tools to help them break free from feeling stuck. The journey to overcome overwhelm can be challenging, but with a clear guide tailored for ADHD/Executive Function Disorder, it’s possible to kickstart progress in both your personal and professional life. Here's a roadmap to overcoming ADHD-related overwhelm and propelling yourself forward.


depression and anxiety with student on stairs with backpack

1. Anticipate overwhelm

Keeping a simple list of easy tasks is a handy way to calm down during stressful times. With enough practice, this can become a go-to method for quickly soothing those ADHD nerves, making it easier to stay cool and collected.

 

Easy ideas to think about

 

  • Taking a five-minute walk around the block

  • Doing a short series of stretches

  • Stepping outside for a breath of fresh air

  • Organizing a small area, like a desk drawer or a shelf

  • Listening to a favorite song

  • Watering houseplants

  • Doodling or coloring a picture

  • Preparing a cup of tea or coffee

  • Writing down three things you're grateful for

 

These activities don’t require much planning or effort, but they can be powerful resets for your brain.

 

2. Building self-awareness

Getting to know your personal warning signs is key for handling ADHD. It means paying attention to when you start feeling fidgety or can't keep your mind on track. Taking time to think about how you're feeling and writing it down can really help you deal with things before they get too much. This way, you can sort out what's going on in your head early on, which makes it easier to keep cool and carry on.

 

An example from a client

Anna knew the signs all too well. Sitting at her desk, the familiar itch of restlessness began—a sure signal that her focus was about to take a nosedive. Instead of spiraling as she might have in the past, she paused and pulled out the small notebook from her drawer. Each time she felt this way, she’d jot down what was happening: the time, what she was working on, even what she had eaten that day. Over time, Anna’s notebook became a map of her ADHD patterns. One day, she flipped through the pages and realized that her restlessness often struck mid-morning and late afternoon.

 

With that insight, Anna started scheduling short breaks during those times, just five minutes to step away, stretch, or just breathe. It was simple, but it worked. That little notebook was her secret weapon—turning her overwhelming tidal wave of thoughts into manageable ripples that she could navigate with knowledge of her ADHD.

 

3. Pause and breathe to reset

Mindful breathing is a transformative relaxation technique for those with ADHD, offering a way to mitigate anxiety and regain a sense of peace amid overwhelm. This practice, which activates the parasympathetic nervous system, reduces stress responses, improving calm and focus. Regularly integrating mindful breathing into daily routines enhances the way you manage your ADHD stress and supports sustained concentration for tackling life’s challenges. Additionally, using guided breathing tools can bolster this habit, reinforcing a calm and focused mindset essential for navigating ADHD.

 

Popular guided breathing tools


  1. Headspace: An app known for its guided meditation and breathing exercises, it’s user-friendly and great for beginners.

  2. Calm: This app offers guided breathing sessions along with relaxing soundscapes and meditations.

  3. Insight timer: With a vast library of guided meditations, it includes specific sessions for breathing and relaxation.

  4. Breathe2Relax: Developed by the National Center for Telehealth & Technology, this one focuses on diaphragmatic breathing to reduce stress.

  5. Prana breath: This app combines breathing exercises with soothing sounds and the ability to customize your own breathing patterns.

 

Remember, it’s important to find a tool that resonates with you personally for the best experience.

 

4. Engage in physical activity

Physical activity is an essential element in ADHD management, offering more than just exercise—it's a strategy to cut through ADHD-rumination and enhance focus. Simple activities, from stretching to walking, not only provide a mental reset but also boost brain function and mood, fundamental for ADHD symptom management. Regular movement, improves sleep and executive function, supporting a holistic approach to ADHD wellness. Integrating such activity into daily life establishes a proactive routine, key to managing ADHD and fostering overall well-being.


  1. Walking to clear the mind

  2. Stretching for focus

  3. Exercise as a mood booster

  4. Structured workouts to enhance executive function

  5. Yoga for self-regulation

  6. Team sports for social connectivity

  7. Resistance training for brain health 


In each of these activities, the key is consistency and finding joy in movement, which encourages regular practice.


5. Perform a mental clear-out

Organizing thoughts for adults with ADHD can be as crucial as decluttering a space, where a mental clear-out is an effective method to reduce cognitive overload. Writing down tasks creates a visible, manageable list, helping to prioritize and alleviate the anxiety of multitasking. This approach to ADHD management categorizes tasks, aiding in focus and productivity, while consistent clear-outs foster long-term organization and strategic planning. By establishing such a routine, individuals with ADHD enhance their decision-making confidence and daily task management.


How this can be put into practice

 

  1. Morning mind dump: Start each day with a "mind dump" where you spend a few minutes writing down everything on your mind — tasks, worries, ideas, appointments.

  2. The visual to-do list: Create a visual to-do list on a whiteboard or using sticky notes on a wall. Color-code the tasks by priority or category.

  3. Evening reflection and planning: End the day with a reflection on what was accomplished and what needs to be tackled the next day.

  4. The 'one thing' rule: When feeling overwhelmed, choose just one thing to focus on. Write it on a sticky note and place it somewhere visible as a reminder.

  5. Scheduled brain breaks: Set aside scheduled times for short, meditative breaks to clear the mind during the day.

  6. Categorize and delegate: Divide tasks into categories: 'urgent', 'important but not urgent', and 'low priority'.

  7. Use a task management app: Employ a digital task manager to organize thoughts and tasks.

  8. Mind mapping for complex projects: For complex or large projects, use mind mapping to organize thoughts visually.

 

By regularly engaging in these mental clear-outs and organizational strategies, individuals with ADHD can alleviate the mental clutter that exacerbates their symptoms, leading to improved focus, productivity, and overall mental well-being.

 

6. Identify stress-relieving tasks

Choosing and completing a single task that yields significant psychological benefit is an effective ADHD management strategy, offering a sense of achievement and reducing stress-related symptoms. Whether it's a creative project, physical exercise, or a simple chore, completing this task can boost productivity and motivation, especially for those with ADHD. This focused action, by releasing dopamine, helps break cycles of procrastination and sets a positive tone for the day. Integrating this practice into a morning routine aids in creating a structured, balanced approach for daily ADHD management.

 

7. Assess your current state

It's important to regularly check in with yourself when you're managing tasks, especially if you have ADHD. This helps you make sure the tasks fit what you can handle right now. If a task feels too big or complicated, try splitting it into smaller, more manageable pieces. This approach helps prevent feeling overwhelmed and keeps you moving forward, bit by bit. Each small step you complete is a win worth celebrating. By adapting tasks to fit your needs, you can stay productive and reduce stress, making your daily life smoother and more manageable.Top of Form

 

8. Evaluate your overwhelm

After you finish a task, it's helpful to take a moment to think about how it went—especially how it made you feel and what you thought about it. This is important for managing ADHD because it helps you understand what parts of the task were tough for you. By figuring out why certain tasks feel overwhelming, you can make small changes to how you handle things next time. This kind of self-reflection helps you learn and grow, and it lets you fine-tune your strategies for dealing with ADHD. Over time, this can lead to better ways of managing your day-to-day tasks and challenges, making things smoother for you in the long run.


9. Take a break to recharge

Taking breaks is important when you have ADHD, not just to stop working for a bit, but to give your brain a chance to rest and get back its focus. ADHD can make it hard to pay attention consistently, so these breaks help improve your mood and help you manage your emotions better. It’s good to do something you enjoy during these breaks, something that relaxes, makes you happy and gives your brain a hit of dopamine. Making a habit of taking these mindful breaks throughout your day can help keep stress low and maintain your productivity and emotional balance. This is super helpful for anyone trying to manage ADHD effectively.

 

10. Repeat to create a positive cycle

Practicing good strategies like preparing for tough moments, taking breaks to clear your mind, and breaking big tasks into smaller steps is key to managing ADHD effectively. When you make these actions a regular part of your routine, they become habits that make dealing with ADHD a lot easier. These habits help improve your focus and give you better control over your day, leading to a more balanced life.

 

Over time, by consistently using these strategies, you build a strong foundation that helps you deal with ADHD challenges more effectively. This doesn't just help you in the short term; it builds your resilience and supports your well-being in the long run.


In short, by turning these helpful behaviors into everyday habits, you make it easier to handle the ups and downs of ADHD. This way, whenever you face obstacles, they feel more like small bumps in the road rather than roadblocks, helping you move steadily toward your goals and live a better life.


 

Bari Fischer, ADHD & Executive Function Coach

As an ADHD & Executive Function Coach, Bari is dedicated to guiding individuals on a journey of self-discovery, rooted in honesty, trust, and meaningful conversations. She works closely with clients to navigate the intricate dance of life's choices and consequences, shining a light on their strengths and celebrating every achievement along the way. This path is more than just ticking off milestones; it's about stepping into the lead role of one's own life story, understanding and embracing one's unique brain wiring. With Bari, the coaching journey is an exploration of discovery, growth, and the joy found in every step forward.

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