Getting Over Overwhelm


Those of us with ADHD often talk about feeling overwhelmed. What does that mean?

Sometimes it means there’s just too much going on, and you feel burnt out and you just shut down.

What leads to overwhelm or burn out?

  • Too many competing thoughts in your head.
  • The need for things to be perfect
  • Trouble prioritizing.
  • Saying yes too easily.
  • Fear of missing something.
  • Feeling the need to work longer hours just to stay on the same level as everyone else.
  • Always playing catch up with laundry, food shopping, cleaning, taxes, e-mail etc.

The good news is that overwhelm is not a permanent state, although when you’re in the midst of feeling overwhelmed it might seems that it is.

What are the symptoms of overwhelm?

  • Exhausted can’t get out of bed in the morning.
  • Cry easily.
  • Pessimistic.
  • Irritable little stuff bothers you.
  • Overwhelmed.
  • Don’t know what to do first.
  • Can’t concentrate.
  • CRS (can’t remember shit)
  • Loud negative self-talk.
  • Feeling physically sick.
  • Socially isolated.

Here are some quick and simple strategies to help you stop feeling overwhelmed and get you back on track even if you don’t have much time.

If you only have five minutes you can:

  • Breathe deeply
  • Stretch
  • Meditate
  • Phone a friend
  • Read something inspirational or funny
  • Do a brain dump, get the thoughts out of your head and on to a sheet of paper
  • Organize a corner of your desk.
  • Throw out five pieces of paper.
  • Listen to your favorite piece of music.
  • Drink a big glass of water.

If you have an hour you can:

  • Get an extra hour of sleep every night.
  • Prepare your favorite food.
  • Take a hot bath.
  • Have lunch or dinner with a friend.
  • Get a massage.
  • Get a Mani/Pedi.
  • Go look at art
  • Listen to music that makes you happy.
  • Go for a walk in nature.

When you take an action step, (even if it’s a baby step) toward self care those feelings of being stuck and overwhelmed will start to diminish and you’ll begin to bounce back.

Kathy Sussell is an ADHD coach in Brooklyn, NY. She helps teens, college students and adults with ADHD with time management, planning and prioritizing, getting started with and finishing tasks, organizing paper and objects and improving social skills. She is the organizer of the ADHD Women’s Meetup Group that meets every month in downtown Brooklyn. For more information visit her website: or email Kathy at

2 thoughts on “Getting Over Overwhelm

  1. This post is a revelation to me! When I’m overwhelmed I’m get so disconnected that I forget there are simple things I can do to feel better. I think you just changed my life. Thank you Kathy.


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