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OVERWHELM: A Three Part Approach

Updated: Mar 23, 2023

“Overwhelm” is a big reality right now. But if ADHD is part of your equation, overwhelm can happen more quickly and more often. Make no mistake, overwhelm happens to all of us, regardless of whether we have ADHD or not. ADHD will simply make it more challenging.

The pandemic has made this little experience we call “overwhelm” a common state for so many. We all have too much to do in “normal” times, but with the current social restrictions, remote work, and learn-at-home requirements for students, our plates are overflowing. A three-part approach following these steps can help:




Step 1 - Awareness: When we are overwhelmed, the fight, flight, freeze reaction is triggered in the brain (amygdala) and access to the “planning and reasoning” part of the brain (prefrontal cortex) is impaired. Just knowing this can motivate and prepare you to begin thinking about changing your behavior. Understanding and being aware of your personal reactions under stress or overwhelm can motivate change in behavior.

Step 2 - Action: Just being aware of an issue can spur you towards positive action. Practicing “non-critical awareness” -- in other words, having awareness without judging what is going on in our thoughts and behavior -- will enable better actions. Metacognition is an executive function that facilitates this awareness and enables the action to regulate thinking and behavior.

Step 3: - Maintenance: Once you understand that “overwhelm” describes you and what actions you should take to regulate thoughts and behaviors, maintaining the momentum becomes key. Understanding how ADHD might play out in this practice of maintenance is essential. Notice that I say PRACTICE! No one is perfect and we all get off track. Recognizing that slip-ups are part of everyday life can be a huge attitude shift. The most wonderful thing about “practice” is that the next opportunity to hit the ball out of the park comes with the next pitch!

Do the best you can until you know better.

Then when you know better, do better.

Maya Angelou

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