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All the Feels: How to Overcome the Heightened Emotions Caused by ADHD

🌱 Harnessing Your Neurodiversity Gifts 🌱


ADHD can make it difficult to keep our emotional reactions in check, especially negative ones. Discover the three-step strategy to help you regulate your emotions and stay focused on your goals.


Have you ever experienced being overwhelmed by emotions as a result of a setback, negative criticism, or perceived challenge?


All professionals face these obstacles at some point in their career, but individuals with ADHD are more likely to have a visceral emotional response. This is because the ADHD brain fails to regulate our emotions in the same way that others do; it's harder for those of us with ADHD to exhibit a controlled response to something that makes us feel angry, sad or frustrated. Instead, individuals with ADHD experience emotions in full-HD with surround sound!


This creates unique challenges in our professional lives, where a clear mind and a level head are vital to progressing towards our goals.


The challenges of elevated emotion


There are many ways in which emotions actually help us to achieve our goals: our passion for the work we do drives us forward, while the emotional connections we establish with customers, colleagues and clients are vital for collaboration.


However, unnecessarily heightened emotions can have a significant negative impact on our productivity, working relationships, and ability to make progress. The following experiences may be familiar to you if you are a professional with ADHD:


Overreaction:

Sometimes even the smallest setbacks or issues can leave us reeling; we become intensely angry, sad, or frustrated. These negative emotions crush productivity by sapping our energy and causing us to lose sight of the bigger picture.


Oversensitivity:

Individuals with ADHD not only react very strongly to negative feedback, we see it even in places where it does not exist. We sometimes see negative feedback in neutral comments from colleagues or clients, and react angrily to it.


Overthinking:

Instead of moving on from a particular emotional response, it dominates our thinking for hours or even days afterwards. The failure to move on prevents us from maximizing our productivity.


Overexcitement:

Of course, emotional reactions can be negative as well as positive. However, intensely positive reactions are not necessarily helpful. A classic example is getting over excited about a particular project or idea, and putting hours of work into it, without first analyzing its chances of success.


Why do individuals with ADHD experience heightened emotions?


The ADHD Centre has identified that executive function deficits in the ADHD brain are the primary cause of our heightened emotions: “ADHD is characterized by impairments in executive functioning, which is a group of mental processes responsible for regulating behavior, attention and emotions.”


The executive functions of the neurotypical brain act as a gatekeeper of our emotions; the related processes prevent emotions from overwhelming us. In the ADHD brain however, this control mechanism is inhibited, allowing emotions to run riot unregulated.


Two common traits of ADHD, Impulsivity and Hyperactivity, can also lead to heightened emotion.


Impulsive actions, quite literally acting without thinking or “regulating,” can escalate situations and supercharge emotions.


Similarly, the constant cognitive activity associated with hyperactivity leaves little time for processing emotions.


An effective three-step strategy to better regulate your emotions


The good news is that, while ADHD makes it challenging for us to manage our emotions, there are strategies we can employ to prevent emotions from overwhelming us. This three-step process will help you to do just that.


Step 1: Identify Unhealthy Emotions


As individuals with ADHD, we need to make a little more effort to identify the emotions that we are feeling. Identifying and labeling the emotions we are feeling is the first step to better regulating their impact on us.


The ADHD brain isn’t always a reliable identifier of emotion, however the human body is. By listening to our body, we can understand when emotions are taking control.


For example, has your heartbeat suddenly become fast? Does it feel like your blood is pumping around your body with extra vigor? It’s likely you are having an emotional response to the situation, which you can identify from your ‘symptoms’ as anger.


Step 2: Switch Negativity with Positivity


It’s time to flip your negative emotion to a positive emotion. In the example above, you have identified your negative emotion as ‘anger’. Labeling it as such means you can also identify the opposite state of mind you need to reach in order to regulate that emotion.


In this case, calmness and peacefulness could be considered the most pertinent opposite equivalents to anger. From there, you can employ any number of mindfulness techniques to calm your mind and regulate the angry emotional response.


Remember that it’s not necessarily realistic to completely overcome your emotion and stop feeling any anger at all. However, by identifying, labeling and flipping your negative emotional response, we can take action to regulate emotions in a way that our brain does not do it automatically.


The result? Increased productivity, sustainable working relationships, and the clarity to enable you to progress towards your goals.


Step 3: A Healthy Routine for Your Emotions


Steps 1 and 2 represent the start of your journey towards better regulating your emotions. The aim of Step 3 is to help you develop long-term emotional resilience.


People from all walks of life will react to situations in a more emotionally regulated way when they embrace a routine which prioritizes their mental and emotional health.


For example, imagine you discover that your car has a flat tire. It’s likely you'll feel frustrated or even angry. However your frustration and anger are likely to be exaggerated if you haven’t been sleeping well, if you haven’t been achieving a good work-life balance, or you have not made time to rest and exercise.


For individuals with neurodiversity, who are at a disadvantage when it comes to regulating emotion, it’s even more important to develop a routine or lifestyle that supports your emotional stability.


Build these restorative activities into your routine to develop your emotional resilience:


🔵 Practice Daily Gratitude - Simply take time each day to write down 3-4 things which you are grateful for. This is a powerful tool to help reinforce perspective and positivity.


🟠 Start Journaling - Journaling is a very popular mindfulness technique which sees you writing down your thoughts, feelings, emotions and reflections as you navigate everyday life.


🟡 Take a Break & Make Time to Relax - It’s vital that you schedule breaks into your working day and working week. Even a short 15 minute walk can help your brain to process information and reset - and at the same time restore your energy and enthusiasm.


🟢 Eat Healthily and Sleep Longer - Healthy eating habits and getting plenty of sleep are essential ingredients of developing long-term emotional resilience. We identified above that regulating your emotions is going to take a little effort, and a healthy diet and healthy sleeping habits will give you the energy you need to do just that.


Learn More

I hope that this article is a useful resource to help better understand your emotional reactions and regulate your emotions where necessary.


Did you know that there are countless strategies that can help neurodiverse executives and professionals unleash their full potential and reach their goals?


From navigating your career path, to embracing your unique brain wiring, and even redefining success, I help empower neurodivergent entrepreneurs and executives around the globe to innovate their ideas into reality and have a greater impact in the world.


To find out more about how my coaching and how The Bloom Method™ can help you take the next step, feel free to send me a message on social media or schedule a complimentary consult here. I’m excited to show you the transformation you can achieve! 🪷 Kate



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