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This post is a followup resources from the Distractd talk on Wed 5 June, 2024. Thank you so much, Amanda for having me!!!



  • Welcome everyone!
    • Today, we’re going to talk about something that affects us all—overwhelm.
    • If you have ADHD, this can be even more intense.
    • We’ll understand what overwhelm is, why it’s different for those with ADHD, and learn some cool strategies to handle it.

Understanding Overwhelm

  • What is Overwhelm?
    • Overwhelm is when you feel flooded by your thoughts and feelings.
    • You might feel stuck or like you can’t move or think clearly.
    • This happens when the stress and demands of life feel like too much to handle.
    • Might think of overwhelm as being somewhere in the middle of a spectrum of “normal stress” needed to do daily life (eustress) <> overwhelm <> burnout
  • How is Overwhelm Different for ADHDers?
    • ADHDers process information differently (cognitive processing) and can be more sensitive to sensory input (sensory processing).
    • Your brain might take longer to process things or need more effort, making everyday tasks feel overwhelming.
    • Sensory differences like being more sensitive to sounds, lights, and other stimuli can add to the feeling of overwhelm.

Why Overwhelm Happens

  • Stress and Eustress
    • We all need a little stress to get things done—this is called eustress (good stress).
    • Too much stress for too long, though, leads to burnout.
  • Burnout vs. Overwhelm
    • Burnout is when you are completely drained and can’t cope anymore.
    • Overwhelm is when you feel frozen or panicked because everything seems like too much.

Signs of Overwhelm

  • Feeling paralyzed or unable to make decisions.
  • Avoiding tasks or feeling extremely anxious.
  • Being more sensitive to noise, light, or other sensory inputs.

Preventative Strategies

  • Recognise Early Signs

    • Notice when you’re starting to feel overwhelmed.
    • Keep a journal to track patterns and triggers.
  • Sensory Modulation

    • Know your sensory needs: Do you need more (seeking) or less (avoidant), noticing / registering (bystander) or sensitive to stimulation?
    • 5 – visual, auditory, olfactory, tactile, gustatory
    • +3 – vestibular, proprioception, interoception
  • Examples:
    • Use earplugs or noise-canceling headphones if you’re sensitive to noise.
    • Declutter your space if visual stimuli are overwhelming.
    • Need help to find objects others easily notice
    • Feel anxious when in crowds or queues close to other people
  • Environment and Lifestyle Adjustments

    • Create a workspace with minimal distractions.
    • Use lighting and sounds that help you focus.
    • Have flexible schedules that fit your energy levels.
  • Advanced Time Management

    • Use planners and time-blocking techniques to manage tasks.
    • Break down large projects into smaller, manageable tasks.

Recovery Strategies

  • Take Breaks and Rest

    • When feeling overwhelmed, take regular breaks.
    • Ensure you get enough sleep and rest.
  • Mindfulness and Relaxation

    • Practice mindfulness techniques to stay grounded.
    • Use apps or guided meditations to help relax.
  • External Support

    • Find an ADHD coach or therapist for personalised strategies.
    • Join support groups or online communities for shared experiences and advice, such as Stephen Souter from @mindfulfamilies_aus ADHD course
  • Task Management Techniques

    • Prioritise tasks (urgent vs. important).
    • Use micro-tasks and time chunking to make tasks less daunting, ie, breaking it down

Emotional Regulation

  • Recognise and Challenge Cognitive Distortions
    • Be aware of negative thinking patterns and how you respond
  • Develop Coping Mechanisms
    • Build a toolkit for handling high-stress situations.
    • Practice self-compassion and take care of yourself.

References / Read more …

  • Diagnoses on the rise article in the Guardian – decent piece of journalism with good researchers included. With a diagnosis, there is the opportunity for the individual to understand themselves, their experience, and their overwhelm, in a way that is accepting and compassionate. 
  • Complete the Camouflaging and Masking questionnaire at Embrace Autism, and then ask yourself these questions, what settings am I masking? (home, school, work etc?), who is around me when I am masking?, how much energy is that taking? are there any days/times I am not masking? how exhausted or overwhelmed do I feel after I have been making? how long does it take me to recover?
  •  This sensory processing screener may help you to uncover in which ways you are sensory sensitive, seeking, avoidant, or registrating sensory input in your environment.