ADHD Decoded: Understanding and Thriving with Attention Differences
I’ve worked with various people over the years and noticed that some people can make changes relatively quickly; for others, it takes longer and is more complicated. There are many different reasons for this, but one thing that affects a significant percentage of people is how quickly and easily they become distracted or sidetracked. Our society is set up to distract us and push us on to the next thing too quickly. However, could we be more susceptible based on our brain chemistry? It’s common for people, especially women, who are 50+ to have ADHD and not know it. If your ADHD presents with “zoning out” and not hyperactivity, it could be you slipped through the cracks. I didn’t get my diagnosis until I was 38, and that only happened because the specialist working with one of my children suggested I get tested.
ADHD is an attention-deficiency disorder caused by inadequate levels of Dopamine, affecting roughly 8.7 million people in the United States. When information enters the brain, a message is sent from one neuron to the next through a synapse. The synapse, or gap, acts as a bridge connecting all the neurons in your brain using neurotransmitters as a chemical messenger. Those with ADHD have lower Dopamine levels compared to people without ADHD.
Dopamine influences attention, emotions, impulse control, and the ability to plan, organize and remember. It also controls the pleasure and reward centers in your brain. Lower dopamine levels can affect your motivation and make the idea of changing your habits feel overwhelming. Below is a list of things people with ADHD may struggle with and suggestions for addressing them.
Attention- Everything can feel complicated when you struggle to stay focused and on task. Consider chunking tasks so you’re working for 30-45 minutes at a time. Plan a short break by setting a timer so you can stop and start on time.
Emotions- If you eat to soothe emotions, this can be a hard habit to break. Start by stopping, naming your emotion, and sitting with it before grabbing food or a beverage to calm yourself down. Stay there for a few minutes and notice how that emotion feels and where in your body you feel it. Notice what happens around you while you process your emotions.
Impulse- When you have unplanned reactions to situations and feelings, becoming an overconsumer is not unusual. It can be challenging to build awareness at the moment. When you are past the situation, try to stop and review what happened, your response, how you feel, and what you can do differently the next time.
Plan/Organize- Dedicate time on Saturday or Sunday to forecast your weekly schedule. Identify time for personal tasks, work responsibilities, appointments, and deadlines: schedule meal planning, grocery shopping, and training; list tasks and things you would like to accomplish for the week. Then, break that down for each day. Spend 10 minutes at the beginning of each day identifying three things you want to check off your list. After a while, you’ll learn when you are most productive during the day. Take advantage of that time and use it for your most important tasks.
Memory- Don’t be afraid to use daily reminders for new habits you’re trying to form. If something isn’t familiar and your environment isn’t set up yet to support you, expecting to succeed each day isn’t likely. Use sticky notes or reminders on your phone to alert yourself to drink water, walk, start your bedtime routine, etc…
So, if you’re thinking you just need to be more motivated or disciplined, it could be that you have ADHD. Here are a few resources you might find helpful: ADHD coaching at ADHD Center of West Michigan link, Your Brain is not Broken by Tamara Rosier link, GoblinTools link, and the Full Focus Planer link.