Overcommitted, over-extended and overwhelmed
We’re all living in an ADD World
“Overcommitted, over-extended and overwhelmed” was the way one of my clients described her life today—expressing what so many of us with ADD feel on a daily basis. So, how did we get into a state of overwhelm and how do we get out of it?
Life feels overwhelming for most of us these days.
Overwhelm results from families with two working parents managing a household and raising kids. Overwhelm results from trying to work full-time while earning a degree in our “spare time.” Overwhelm results from workplace environments that keep piling on expectations with little regard for whether those expectations can be met within a 40-hour week. Overwhelm results from being a single parent trying to run a household and hold down a full time job. Overwhelm results from being “on” 24/7 through mobile phones, social media and the availability of movies and TV series on demand.
Bedtime is often the first moment that today’s adults have a moment to themselves since evenings are taken up with chores, homework and driving children to lessons and sports practice. So parents are sorely tempted to stay up to have a little “me” time – watching TV, surfing the web, or curling up with a favorite book. The result, sleep-deprived parents get up on 5 or 6 hours of sleep to do it all over again.
So what does this have to do with ADD?
The way we all live today is a perfect breeding ground for lifestyle induced “ADD”—feeling scattered, forgetful and overwhelmed due to lack of sleep, relentless stress, and chronic over commitment. The very situations that increase ADD symptoms are the situations in which most of us are living—too much to do, too much stress, too many distractions, too little sleep, and too little exercise.
What happens when ADD is added to the frenetic mix?
ADD brains tend to live in “reactive mode” —responding to whatever pops up in our email, to whatever phone call or text message we receive, or to whatever idea pops into our head. Life in reactive mode is a life that invites the world to distract us and stimulate us. In Reactive Mode, we can be frantically busy all day, but have little to show for it at the end of the day.
Living a Proactive Life
One of the most important decisions that someone with ADD can make is to resolve to live life in Proactive Mode. In Proactive Mode, we have a prioritized plan for the day – must do items at work, must do items at home, and most importantly, those “important but not urgent” activities that matter the most when we look back on our life—such as spending time with our spouse, hanging out with our children, working on the book we’ve always wanted to finish, or making a plan to get out of a dead end job and into a more satisfying career.
Learning to live in Proactive Mode is an ongoing mindfulness exercise.
If we make a plan for tomorrow, but remain in reactive mode, our plans are lost in the chaos the moment we’re awake the next morning. We get caught up in the morning chaos of family life, or we grab the paper or go onto the internet instead of taking that precious half-hour to exercise before work. We side-track ourselves with email the moment we get to the office instead of tackling the most important task of the day. In Proactive Mode, we practice mindfulness, noting each time we are distracted and then bring our mind back to focus on our priorities.
So here’s your challenge until the next blog posting.
Each evening, create a plan for tomorrow – spend 5 minutes thinking about errands that should be done before or after work, any special events that require a change in routine, any needs other family members have that involve you, any time sensitive activity (paying a bill, making a phone call, completing a report) – and create a blueprint for your tomorrow.
Match your tasks to your time—not just what to do, but when you will do it. Then, tomorrow, start with mindfulness – asking repeatedly throughout the day— “Am I doing what I intended to do right now?” Your task is to notice the distractions, internal and external and then get back on track.
So, until next time—here’s to leading a mindful, proactive life, bringing your distracted brain back to focus on what matters most again and again.
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