Four Ways to Stop Ruminating and Unlock Overwhelm with ADHD

Do you feel overloaded with a tsunami of stuff to do and worry about getting it done? Do you consistently feel like you’re in a state of overwhelm but your racing thoughts shut you down?  

Common to individuals living with ADHD, ruminating is when you get locked in a spiral of persistent, self-defeating thoughts. When you replay ideas or concerns in your mind repeatedly, it’s difficult to shift out of your head and take action.  

ADHD, Rumination, and Stress 

Rumination is stressful because when we fixate and rehash situations in our minds, it magnifies the circumstances, causing us to feel powerless, flooded, and stuck.  

When we're stressed, a structure in our brains, known as the amygdala, releases stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline. These stress hormones allow us to react immediately (without thinking or planning) to threatening situations.  For example, we slam on the brakes when a car in front of us stops suddenly. We don’t think about it, we just do it. That’s the amygdala in action.

The problem is that stress negatively impacts executive functioning.  When the ADHD brain is flooded with a deluge of cortisol and adrenaline, this saps its ability to access executive functions, undermining one's capacity to plan, organize, and self-manage. When that happens, you want to be in the driver's seat, but it's as if you have one foot on the gas and the other on the brakes.


Here are four ways to stop ruminating and unlock overwhelm so you can accomplish what's important to you with less stress when you live with ADHD.  


Get It Out of Your Head  

Regardless of whether you’re thinking about past regrets or future opportunities, ruminating has you lost in a cocoon of your own thoughts. The process of mulling over lots of thoughts can be stimulating for the ADHD brain but can also take up a lot of mental energy. As you strive to hold onto all your ideas about what you need to do, what you or should have said or done, and the consequences of it all, nothing sticks or gets done as the spiral continues.
Quick Tips: 
• Dump your thoughts out of your brain into a notebook for further reference or on the same app across your devices. 
Categorize your list, in groupings such as tasks, projects to do now, wish list.
Resist switching where you keep your list and remain consistent.
• Decide on what would be most meaningful for you to start on. (Example: I need to call the dentist tomorrow (task = 5 minutes) and I need to buy primer to paint the wall (project to paint the wall > start with priming the door = 30 minutes). 
• Outline one next step or task and estimate how long it would take. 
• Commit the step to your calendar to assist you in planning when that step will happen.
• Determine what may be some obstacles that can get in your way and how can you problem-solve around them? (Example: I need to make a phone call in a quiet room; I have to take kids with me to get the primer but can use the errand as an outing). 

Let Go of the Need to Do Things "Right"  

Worrying or dwelling about doing something the “right” way does not ensure that we’re in control over the outcome. Furthermore, wanting things to be done perfectly prolongs finding the “perfect time” to get started, suspends finishing, and delays moving forward. 


Quick Tips:
• Rather than perfection, what does your best work look like?
Replace your self-talk with “I’m doing my best.” “It’s ok to make mistakes.” 
• Adapt a “good enough” mindset. 
• What would realistic expectations look like, given your other commitments. For example: “I want to do laundry regularly, but I can live with rolling t-shirts, and not folding everything.” Or, “Although I need to keep up on Slack communications, I will scan and search for keywords a few times a day, so I can work on my upcoming presentation.” 


Connect with a Partner

When your thoughts are competing for space in your brain, connecting to another human being can break the cycle. Our brains are wired to connect with each other, which is necessary for success. The social influences of community groups, mentors, friends, and positive family members are inspiring and supportive.


Quick Tips:
• Who can you reach out to for support? What groups can you participate in to support you?
• If you are a student, become acquainted with two classmates per class and get their contact information.
Tell someone what you want to accomplish and when. The process of putting language to your goals can have more weight to holding yourself accountable. 
• Set up regular accountability meetings with a partner.

Unlock Your Power to Make Choices

Agonizing and overthinking can set the ADHD brain spiraling downward almost as if there is no choice or capacity to climb out. When you’re drowning in the same negative thought patterns, the options available may not be easy, but you have choices.


Quick Tips:
Recognize that you can’t change your situation, but you can change what you do with your situation. 
• Look at each circumstance and determine where you can make some choices.  
• Not all choices are easy, and you may not like the choices available. 
• It’s important to accept that making a choice to do something different can create a change in your circumstances. 
To sum up, when you live with ADHD you may feel like you’re at war with yourself when it comes to managing your time. To make peace with your time battles and have more calm living with ADHD:

• Get it Out of Your Head 

• Connect with a Partner

• Let Go of the Need to Do it "Right"

• Unlock Your Power to Make Choices

Experiment with any or all of these actions and let me know how it goes for you!




 PS. Need more assistance with managing rumination so you can unlock your overwhelm and take action with what's most important to you?

Contact me for an ADHD Strategy Assessment and we can talk about some steps you can put into place now!


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