Escaping the Overthinking Trap When You Have ADHD

 I recently hosted a  Meet up with my Adults with ADHD Peeps  (here is the link to my meetup please join us next time!) It's a wonderful way to make connections and hear about others' successes and strategies. 

This Meetup was particularly rewarding and chock full of incredible sharing, insights, tools, and strategies that work for real people in real-time.  Which is exactly why these meetups are such a great support for so many struggling with the challenges of ADHD. 

We get to dig down and really talk about the specifics in our lives day to day and how different people manage using different tools.  The learning is rich, that's for sure. 

This particular meetup topic was a very popular one which prompted me to share some of what we learned here in my blog.   

 

It doesn't seem to matter what type of ADHD you have, or even if you are diagnosed.  Those with ADHD can more easily fall prey to overthinking. It is related in part to the difference in brain wiring.

Many of us struggle with some kind of constant inner chatter or cognitive hyperactivity… 

All overthinking is not bad… sometimes we are curious, generating new thoughts or ideas, questioning, or problem-solving in creative ways.  

The struggle can be when our brain just doesn't want to shut off or if the quality of our thoughts are low…. such as when we engage in negative self-talk, over-thinking around perceived failures, and even in worries.  These are the thoughts that can spiral and lead us towards a negative space in our minds.  This is the kind of overthinking that I am talking about in this article.  Those not-so-nice conversations in our head or those conversations we know lead us to a pit or pool of negativity and catastrophizing.  

What is the Overthinking that leads to rumination?

One client describes it as …“I just can't take my mind off of the thoughts and they are often worrying thoughts or negative self-talk”.  

What does it look like?

Your thinking gets stuck on something - often not so pleasant.  Then it snowballs into more and more of the same negative thinking.  The “pile on” begins and we remember every associated past failure or event or rejection that fits into the thinking pattern.  We begin attracting and continue attracting more of the same kind of thought.  

Next thing you know... all of your energy is funneled into these negative thoughts.  You shut down, the to-do list never gets done and, you forgo the things planned for the day.  You even drop the fun or the self-care  you had hoped to do.  In your mind... well….it becomes a never-ending loop.  The outcome is a loss of confidence in yourself, increased overwhelm and anxiety.  If that wasn't enough it often leads to depression, loneliness and shame.  

We begin to self-isolate which feeds the overthinking even more as it gives us more opportunities to overthink!  We get stuck, frozen, and sit in it all day… or until we do something to shift out of it.

What happens is that this impacts both our bodies and our minds… 

It creates stress hormones in our bodies which lowers our immune system and leads to a variety of health issues.  Very often this type of overthinking is mentally and physically draining and we end up feeling tired and fatigued with very low energy.   

 

If you are someone with ADHD and experience low energy consider your thinking as a contributing factor.   
  

When we are caught in this thinking trap we end up feeling more anxious and overwhelmed.  We feel angry and it steals our joy and happiness… leads to lost productivity which leads to feelings of shame and guilt.  It keeps us stuck. And not moving forward towards our goals.

 

So what can we do?  How can we shift it?  AWARENESS IS ALWAYS the KEY!    Stay connected to your body and begin to notice where this shows up…. Where do you feel negative thinking about your body…

 

Do you get tightness in your jaw - feel it in your neck or shoulders?  Notice a frown on your face or a wrinkle on your brow?  Where is the sensation in your body?  It usually shows up in our body as a physical manifestation....  When we connect to our body sensations we can notice where we are headed before we fall into the pit of overthinking and more easily change directions.

 

When you build your awareness of how it feels in your body you can begin to notice it sooner!

 

 
Preventing it from happening is ANOTHER powerful strategy.  How can we prevent it?  Know your triggers….

 

What are the triggers?     What are YOUR triggers?

 

Get to know yourself.  What are the usual triggers or risk factors for overthinking.  Knowing what sets us up for falling into the overthinking pit can be very helpful.  Knowing the times of day that this can occur… for some it may be evening or times when they are alone for long stretches.  For others, it could be days when they do not have enough structure.  We can prevent those moments or even cut them off before we get there.  

 

Some of the common triggers for overthinking that my clients have shared over the years are…

 

  • When they are overtired - Get the sleep you need!
  • Hungry 
  • Stressed and overwhelmed
  • When things do not go as planned
  • Feeling guilt or shame
  • Feeling anxious or depressed
  • Too much social media scrolling
  • Comparing ourselves to others
  • Certain types of events or reminders of them
  • Too much free time
  • Too much alone time 

 

Use this as a sort of checklist for yourself to see which triggers resonate with you.  Next begin to plan or prevent them from occurring... for example, when you know you are spending too much time on social media and beginning to compare yourself to others - change activities - get into something else.  Start a new project or call a friend.  Schedule an activity you enjoy, get outside in the fresh air and sunshine, do something you know you do well.  

 

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure... Benjamin Franklin

 
  • Build your mindful skills! What exactly is being mindful?  Being present in the moment without judgment… When we are more present we know and have more awareness of our overthinking.  Practicing pausing throughout our day.  Schedule time throughout your day to pause.  

     

  • Don't allow just any thought in.  Protect your thinking space. Choose your thoughts wisely!  Thoughts become things... what we think about we bring about... what we focus on grows.  If you have every worked with me you have heard me say this a dozen times!  Set boundaries with yourself and your thinking. 

     

  • Be more intentional with your thinking and self-talk.  Just like guiding a child on how to behave we can guide our thinking and self talk.  Create a more supportive monologue in your head. 

 

  • Don't believe or buy into everything you think!
    You can choose to dismiss those that are not helpful.  Very often our brain lies to us. Share the “facts” of the matter with yourself.  Your brain will listen.  Make the choice to not buy into it and replace it with a positive opposite. 

 

Overthinking can be a normal process for many but when it turns into overdrive and leads us to a negative place it can steal the joy in your day-to-day life.  It can trap your brain into a cycle of rumination and repeated thought patterns that do not serve you.   

 

 Build your toolbox of go-to items to prevent the overthinking trap that keeps you stuck! 

 

If you find yourself in this place often and experiencing certain patterns in your thinking over and over again... consider one thing you can change......

Below enjoy one of my favorite poems about how we can find ourselves in scenarios over and over again that do not serve us... until we shift......

 

 Let's talk about how to create your own personal way of managing this very daunting and prevalent ADHD trait.  

 



Portia Nelson, There's a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery

I walk down the street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in.

I am lost ... I am hopeless.

It isn't my fault.

It takes forever to find a way out.

 

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don't see it.

I fall in again.

I can't believe I'm in the same place. But it isn't my fault.

It still takes a long time to get out.

 

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there.

I still fall in ... it’s a habit.

My eyes are open.

I know where I am.

It is my fault.

I get out immediately.

 

I walk down the same street.

There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.

 

I walk down another street.

Portia Nelson

 

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