What Happens When ADHD Meets Stress

Before thinking about the best ways to keep your productivity up while you've got a lot on your plate, it helps to understand how stress affects you physically. If you're someone with ADHD, stress can be particularly challenging to deal with. Stress has the potential to exacerbate ADHD symptoms, especially for someone who is experiencing chronic stress. That can, in turn, make it even harder to be productive since many ADHD symptoms already affect skills like organization and time management.

When this happens to you, it can help to remember that it's not necessarily an indication that you're bad at dealing with stress. Instead, the symptoms you're feeling are linked to things going on inside your body. In fact, both stress and ADHD affect the prefrontal cortex of the brain. Essentially, this means that stress further impairs your cognitive abilities, which explains why your ADHD symptoms may seem even worse when you're feeling stressed. It can impact your ability to solve problems or make decisions. And when ADHD symptoms worsen, it can just add to your stress and create a vicious cycle.

Keep this in mind as you deal with stress. You can use the helpful tips provided below to minimize stress and manage your symptoms, but ultimately, it's good to remember that at least part of what you're experiencing is a result of the effects on your brain.

How to Stay Productive Under Stress

We're all juggling many things at once in life. Even when we're stressed, we still need to keep things going, whether it's getting your work done at your job, maintaining your household, or getting the kids to school on time. The following tips and tricks can help you to remain productive even when you're feeling stressed out.

Start with a brain dump

Stress can easily derail things when you're trying to stay on task. One way to help minimize this is to do a "brain dump" before you start working on something where you really need to maintain your attention. Simply set a timer for a few minutes, then write down all the things that are on your mind. It can be about what's causing you stress, the task you need to work on, or any other thing that pops into your head. By putting it all on paper, you can help clear your mind for a bit so you can focus on what you need to get done.

Take scheduled breaks

Working yourself to the bone when you're stressed out won't help. Instead, it can make your nerves even more frazzled. It's better to take regular breaks to give yourself a little room to breathe every so often. People with ADHD often have trouble focusing on one thing at a time anyway, so building breaks into your schedule can help to alleviate inattention and maintain your productivity.

One recommended schedule might be to work for 45 minutes, then to take 15 minutes as a break before repeating. If that's too tough, build up from working for 15 minutes, then breaking for five. Working in intervals is a great way to improve your concentration without burning yourself out.

Minimize distractions

When you're stressed out, you're likely to be more distractible than usual. Rather than letting this cause your productivity to plummet, look to ways to minimize distractions so you can focus on getting things done. For example, you might turn off phone notifications while you work, or turn your desk to face a wall rather than a window when you need to concentrate.

Delegate tasks

The metaphor of having too much on your plate can be especially useful when thinking about how to deal with stress. Most people don't have much extra room on their plate to begin with. When you throw stress into the mix, it quickly becomes hard to fit everything on the plate. To avoid creating a huge mess, you need to find other people who are willing to take something off your plate for you.

Maybe you're feeling totally overwhelmed by a big work project. Ask if a coworker can handle a specific portion of the project for you. You might request that your spouse pitches in a little more at home so you can put in a few extra hours at the office leading up to your deadline. When you're stressing out, ask for help rather than trying to handle it all alone.

Give yourself a break

Stressful situations might make it tough to get everything done that you need to do. For example, maybe a family member is recovering from surgery, so on top of your usual obligations, you're also checking in on them daily and running errands for them until they're better. To be productive and get all the important things done, you may need to let a few things slide.

For example, maybe you order takeout for dinner instead of going to the grocery store and then making something from scratch. Or perhaps you use a laundry service for a couple of weeks so you can focus more on balancing work and family obligations. Look for ways to make things a little easier for yourself to both lessen the stress you feel and also maintain your productivity as needed.

Treatment for ADHD and Stress

The above recommendations can be very useful for someone who's struggling with both ADHD and stress. But to really keep your productivity up, you may need outside help in the form of ADHD treatment.

At Done, we can help you find the right treatment to manage your ADHD symptoms so you can not only remain productive, but also deal with stress more effectively on a daily basis. Our licensed clinicians can walk you through your options, including stimulant and non-stimulant ADHD medication. For many people, finding the right ADHD meds can be life-changing. If you already take medication for your ADHD, you should make sure you have enough on hand and stick to a regimen for better balance from day to day. On top of that, there are a number of ADHD therapy options available to help you care for your mental health and learn practical tips for management your symptoms.

Take a one-minute assessment online to get started with Done today.