I talked with a client who has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) a while back about the problems she was dealing with at work. She was so stressed out about being behind that she skipped the office holiday party so that she could get catch up on work. Besides, she didn't feel that she deserved to go to the party when she had so many things to do.
My client reminded me of a woman who stood up at one of my talks about "Overcoming Chronic Overwhelm." She said: "Everything you're saying makes sense -- manage stress, slow down, and take care of yourself. But I feel like I bring chaos everywhere I go. How can I spend time managing stress or taking care of myself when I cause so much stress for everyone around me?"
No Reason to Feel Bad About ADD/ADHD Problems
I was glad that this woman had the courage to talk about her problems, because it allowed me to address a mindset that I see in a lot of adults with ADD/ADHD: We think that we're so high-maintenance for those around us -- with our disorganization, inability to manage time, and lack of focus -- that we need to make up for all the things we are, and are not.
If you feel this way, take a deep breath and read me loud and clear: You are wrong! You're punishing yourself for who you are. Having adult ADD/ADHD might make you difficult to deal with at times (I certainly am), but it:
* does not make you a bad person
* does not make you a difficult person
* is not a reason to punish yourself
Strengths and Challenges
Having adult ADD/ADHD means that you have certain strengths and challenges. So does everyone else. You might have a hard time staying organized at work, yet be a superstar at customer service. Your coworker who is extremely organized may not be a good people person.
I asked the audience at my talk, "Would you ever tell your coworker, 'Oh, you didn't clean up your desk today? Then you'd better skip that dinner date and stay late until you get it done!'"
Everyone laughed. We wouldn't impose the punishments on others that we impose on ourselves. And when it comes to overcoming overwhelm, one thing is clear: If you don't allow yourself time to manage your stress, slow down, and make self-care a priority, you'll never break out of the overwhelm-burnout cycle. You'll be forever stressed, trying to catch up and feeling like you owe something to everyone.
Stop punishing yourself. Start living.
Staying Positive and Managing Stress With Adult ADD/ADHD
This article appeared in the Summer 2011 issue of ADDitude. SUBSCRIBE TODAY to ensure you don't miss a single issue.
How do you stay positive? Visit the ADD Adults support group on ADDConnect to share what works for you.