My Fellow Distractoids, 

Are you living in a state of Chronic Overwhelm? That’s when the tasks of normal life — not some acute, temporary situation like losing your keys, phone, and wallet all on the same day — are too much to manage. It’s when our executive functions don’t have the bandwidth to deal day-to-day. The result: high levels of anxiety and frustration, the constant feeling of always playing defense, the constant fear of something falling through the cracks, loss of confidence, and the sense of being ground down and defeated by life.

Often, Distractoids have been experiencing Chronic Overwhelm for years, without recognizing the seriousness of the situation or figuring out how to get a grip on life. Masters of Distraction recognize Overwhelm and know how to get relief.

Think of Overwhelm as like a juggler keeping a number of balls in the air. Say this juggler can keep seven balls going. But what happens when the the eighth ball is added? The juggler doesn’t just juggle a little worse: no, the juggler is suddenly overwhelmed, and all the balls go everywhere. Being in Chronic Overwhelm is like living with balls going in every direction.

So, what can we do about Chronic Overwhelm? Here are eight things to consider:

1. Reduce commitments and responsibilities by cutting out non-essential actions unless they are joyful and fun. Until you get a handle, things like coaching little league baseball or volunteering to be treasurer of the local Girl Scouts are probably not good ideas. 

2. Become very mindful of any time you are making an agreement that commits you to future actions. Until life settles, answer any claims on your time by either saying “no” or “let me check my schedule and think about that.” Banish the word “yes” as an auto-response to all agreements.

3. Recognize when you are letting perfectionism slow you down. Do you need to spend thirty minutes making a routine email sound “just right” when doing an adequate job only takes five?  

4. Reduce procrastination. Are you procrastinating a lot? Recognize that ADD people procrastinate for different reasons: for example, not knowing where to begin, lack of interest in routine tasks, perfectionism, and waiting for pieces of the puzzle to line up exactly are examples. Figure out how you procrastinate and take steps to get more efficiently into action.

5. Put more focus on the nuts and bolts of time management and planning — making sure essential tasks are accounted for and put on your calendar; and, looking at your calendar frequently to help ground you in time. If planning and making a schedule is too difficult or boring to do on your own, get help from family, a friend, an organizer, or coach. 

6. Consider the big picture and be realistic. Are there stress factors in your life that are not going away and not sustainable for you to cope with? Are you in a job that overtaxes your executive functions and depletes your energy? Is a toxic relationship at home or work putting constant strain on you? Are there things in your life that you definitely don’t want to be doing for another year? 

7. Seek support and broaden your support system. Would hiring a tutor, cleaning lady, professional organizer, assistant,  financial manager, or coach make a difference? Too often, ADDers act like the Lone Ranger. Why suffer alone when you can get help?

8. Don’t forget about the importance of fun and relaxation. Chronic overwhelm tends to crowd out fun and leisure. Life is reduced to frustration, anxiety, and soldiering on. And that only makes ADHD symptoms worse. It might be counter-intuitive, but if you feel chronically overwhelmed, life might be telling you that what you really need is an occasional break or even a vacation. 

Sometimes, getting out of Chronic Overwhelm is in itself overwhelming. I hope these tools make the process easier. If you try these techniques but still feel like life is out of control, it’s probably a good time to hire a coach. Let’s face it. The stress of being chronically overwhelmed is miserable and debilitating. It’s one of the worst things about out-of-control ADHD. 

Taming Chronic Overwhelm is one of the biggest steps a Distractoid can make on the road to  becoming a Master of Distraction. It’s not always easy, but you can do it! Good luck!


Coach Drew