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ADHD and Task Paralysis

We have all experienced that feeling of dread knowing we have an unavoidable task with a looming deadline. We know the due date and that starting sooner will avert crisis management later. We may have planned out the process, spoken sternly to ourselves, and turned down a fun invitation but we have yet to get started. We feel paralysed. Starting and completing these tasks becomes incredibly difficult.

Task paralysis stems from the brain's difficulty in regulating attention and executive function. Even with the best intentions and some scheduling, those of us with ADHD may find it difficult to initiate or complete tasks. This task paralysis can be attributed to several factors and laziness is not one of them!

Being unfairly labelled as lazy can damage self-esteem, increase anxiety, create a sense of shame, and add to feelings of depression. This negative label often results in internal conflict, damaged relationships, and reinforced unhealthy coping mechanisms. It can limit opportunities and advancement, in both professional and academic settings, as misunderstandings about ADHD symptoms can cause others to underestimate our skill and capability. Understanding ADHD and task paralysis is crucial for the individuals affected and for the people in their environment. By recognising that this is a neurological challenge rather than a lack of willpower it is possible to foster empathy and support, making it easier for everyone involved to find effective coping mechanisms and ultimately make progress.

Task paralysis may be triggered by the volume of tasks or even the complexity of a single task. Once triggered the brain is overwhelmed, and the task/s seem insurmountable because not knowing where or how to start leads to inaction.  This could be caused by our difficulty with prioritization, when everything feels equally as important, and the first step can become a paralyzing decision. The fear of making a wrong decision and being criticised (again) can also prevent us from starting. Transitioning between tasks requires a lot of mental energy and can be so daunting that it triggers paralysis at the point of making the shift. Our time blindness can lead to a total shut down too when the tasks take longer than anticipated and we become frustrated and overwhelmed.

Combatting task paralysis involves ADHD strategies that go beyond simple planning. Seeking support through coaching can provide personalised strategies to manage these challenges in a way that is of value to each person’s unique situation and experiences.

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