How many times have you asked yourself, “Do I have Adult ADHD?” As an ADHD Coach in Minneapolis, I help adults sort through their challenges to determine the answer.
So, you can’t find your keys, your phone or your glasses…again. You go into another room and can’t remember why. At the store you have the feeling that you’ve forgotten something. You call your grandson three or four other family or pet names before you land on the right one. Your wife is visibly frustrated because you’ve asked the same question at least twice in the past few days. You ask yourself, “Do I have Adult ADHD?”
Is it age related? ADD? What? As a professional who helps adults with ADD manage their day-to-day lives, I frequently hear comments to the effect “doesn’t everyone have a little ADD?” The answer to that question is, thankfully, no. Adults with diagnosed ADD, a serious neuro-genetic disorder of development, struggle every day to keep their jobs, relationships and self-esteem from crumbling, not just on occasion. In addition to chronically losing their keys and glasses, they wrestle with a multitude of serious cognitive challenges. The key word is “chronic.”
Faulty memory or lack of attention? It’s more likely that you’re suffering from a simple case of “mindlessness”, spacing out or autopilot. You’re really not paying attention to what’s going on around you. Being on autopilot allows the brain to preserve mental energy as we perform habits by rote. For example you come into the house from the car with your arms full from shopping and put everything on the kitchen counter. Later you need to run an errand. Where are your keys? Hanging up, in your pocket, coat, purse, under the bags, in the ignition? In getting the jumble of bags from the car to the kitchen, it’s likely that you were not paying attention to where you put your keys. When you finally locate them you do a mental head-slap having remembered putting them “there” for safe-keeping.
Multi-tasking is a wonderful misnomer or myth about being able to do many things at once.
It makes us feel like we’re accomplishing a lot in a short period of time. Racing around, we feel efficient and productive.
Turns out it’s a real attention-distractor.
In reality we’re shifting our attention really quickly from one activity to another, and really not doing anything well. Talking on the phone while moving from room to room to pick up clutter, dust or even get a snack is almost a guarantee that you’ll put the phone down for “just a minute” and forget where you left it.
- Stress, boredom or lack of sleep can make your forgetfulness seem worse at times. These issues can cloud your reaction time and clarity of thought. If focus is difficult it may be that you’re getting too much static (stress) on your brain’s channels.
- Take notice of when you feel more scattered. Are you expecting out-of-town guests who put a lot of pressure on you to entertain them, or are you dealing with aging parents?
- Do you have too much spare time and no specific purpose or schedule? That may lead to a “lazy” brain. Without the stimulation of daily decision-making and problem solving the brain becomes accustomed to checking out and will be harder to rally when the need arises.
- And the biggest contributor to lack of attention or focus is a sleep-deprived brain. Sleep problems are getting more and more attention as studies reveal the significant negative impact lack of sleep has on adult performance in the areas of memory, learning and focus. Insomnia, sleep apnea and snoring are all sleep interrupters that should be addressed with your physician.
A simple way to reduce incidents of forgetfulness. In the last few years the practice of mindfulness has played a greater role in learning how to quiet your mind, side-step distractions, focus on the present and improve your cognitive functioning. Here are some easy steps for incorporating this tool into your life:
The next time that you find your memory slipping, try practicing mindfulness. It doesn’t require a class, lots of instruction or an electronic gadget. It comes from within so it’s free for you to tap into anytime, anywhere. It’s a great way to train your brain to be more efficient, focused and less stressed.