There are lots of reasons why it can take a while to accomplish your goals: Time, Money, Family, Career, Responsibilities, etc. I can relate to all of them, however, one of the biggest hurdles for me is my attention span.
I have never sought to be officially diagnosed with ADHD, but all you have to do is spend a little time with me and there will be no doubt. Ask my co-workers, my family and my friends. They will roll their eyes and in some loving way, say they find ways to deal with me. And being that I was raised in an environment that was Complementary Health Care and not Traditional Healthcare, medication is not ever my first choice for resolution.
So here I am, taking life by the horns, Ritalin free. That’s not to say there aren’t times I have seriously considered it (and still wonder if my productivity would be of much higher quality if I did break down and go on meds) But for the past 42 years and counting, here is how I have learned to make the most of what I’ve got:
Exercise is absolutely an important part of managing my ability to concentrate and focus. I have always found ways to incorporate movement of some sort in my life whether it was at a gym, hiking, yoga, bike riding, or running. I am not an athlete by any stretch of the description, but I have always been very active. After reading the book Spark by John J. Ratey MD, I have a better understanding of why innately I knew that exercise should always be a part of my life, no matter what. Most mornings I defy my desire to sleep in and walk or jog with my neighbor. Every few months we back off for a couple of weeks, and in those breaks I always notice a difference in my attentions span.
I went to a Doctor at Renewal Point in Sarasota, where we did a full blood, saliva and urine work up to find out what neurotransmitters needed boosting. I have been taking this supplement for a couple years, and while I don’t really notice much change when I am taking it consistently, I absolutely notice a difference when I run out and forget to order more. I quickly remember how easily I am over stimulated by lots of people talking, temperatures (feeling too hot or too cold and not being able to concentrate as a result) and even down to how my clothes feel on my skin. Calm PRT definitely keeps me from feeling over stimulated, but not necessarily more focused and productive.
I recently noticed I was retaining some fluid in my legs and wondered if it was the CALM PRT. So I experimented and it seems to be connected to the days I took the supplement. After doing some research it appears that 2-3 years taking it consistently might be the reason I am having this reaction. Sooooo … I am now trying a different supplement called MINDLABPRO I am always skeptical when I try something new. I believe in the mind body connection and that if you believe something is going to work, it will. So each time I try something new I am always thinking, “Is it really working, or do I just believe it is?” I have only been on MindLabPro for about two weeks, and in that time I got his blog up and running. I feel very focused on the task I am working on, with much less need to interrupt myself by getting up and getting snacks, or opening up 6 or 7 more tabs to browse in between writing. I am aware that I am still in the honeymoon phase of trying something new, but this one is giving me hope.
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3. Meditation, Yoga, Massage
I am putting this in a different category than exercise because of the calming meditative quality Yoga has on the mind that I have found to be very different then running or going to the gym. I am not saying it is better, I am only saying it has additional benefits in calming the mind. As for Massage, it is like hitting the reset button for your body. Often times we live with pain and tension for so long that we start to ignore that it is there. The problem is, that it is there, whether you choose to pay attention to it or not. Pain and tension can be a big source of distraction, depression and dysfunction. Do yourself a favor and get a massage.
Take a few yoga classes (you can find some great ones online if you don’t want to go to a studio) and start incorporating short meditations into your “work day”. It can be as simple as while you are taking a shower: let the warm water flow down your back, close your eyes, as you inhale slowly think the word “Slow” for the entirety of the inhale. As you exhale, think the word “Down” for the entirety of the exhale. You can pick any number of two syllable words or phrases. My two favorites are “Thank You” and “Help Me”. Repeat this over and over until you feel calm and relaxed, or the hot water runs out. 😉
4. Tips for desk work/computer work
Music! I have a hard time working in complete silence, so love to put some music on while I work. I have learned it should not be lyrically heavy or too many BPM. If I find I am concentrating on the music too much, I will change it until it is just background noise.
Allow for fidget time! I need a minimum of 45 minutes to “settle down” before I really start working on projects. During this time I am procrastinating, getting drinks, and snacks and checking my social media, emails, clipping my nails, giving my dog a bath … anything NOT to sit still. Placing a tennis ball under my feet so I have something to roll my foot over seems to help a lot (and it also gives me a foot massage at the same time!) Snacks! I like to have a bowl of grapes or cut up fruit, ice chips, (sometimes candy but don’t tell anyone) etc. so that I have something to reach for and munch on, and it gives me one less excuse to get up from my desk.
Find your natural algorithm for productivity. (For me it is between 1pm -4pm and 9pm-12pm) Try to build your schedule around your personal peak productive times. I realize this is not always possible, but if you have the flexibility to shift some of your tasks to be done during the times you feel most calm and focused you will get more done in a shorter time.
It’s also important to think about the amount of time it takes you to find your groove. I am much like a steam train when it comes to productivity. Slow to start, but once I get moving, I am good to go. However every interruption is like stopping the train, which means I have to start all over again. I purposely do my admin work for my Day Spa at my house (when no one is there) instead of at the office, as people are constantly stopping to talk to me – I never get anything accomplished! And if I only have an hour to work on a project, I won’t even consider it, because I know I’ll waste the time any way and be completely frustrated with myself.
I know I said 5 tips, but this one is probably the most important. Be mindful of what you are eating. My attention span is dramatically better when I have had quality protein and I am well hydrated. If I have been eating a lot of junk food (aka SUGAR) I can promise you that my attention span will be that of a gnat.
I can remember being in Kindergarten at snack time, telling my teacher not to give me a cookie because “They make me go crazy.” Turns out I was sensitive to sugar before it was cool.
I am not a dietician, nor do I pretend to be, so I won’t tell you what to eat or when. But I will encourage you to look at what you eat on the days you feel great. Make a note of it in your phone or calendar. Then notice what you ate (or didn’t eat – if I am hungry you can just forget about me doing anything other than complaining about how hungry I am) on the days you really struggled with focusing. If you are not already doing this, it could be a game changer.
I embrace the unique quirks that make me who I am. There are many ways my brain serves me very well and provides an advantage over others in thinking outside of the box. In fact my number one reason for not wanting to take medications is the fear of losing that gift.
Does this sound like you? How does ADHD/ADD affect your life in positive ways? Do you have any tips on managing your mind naturally? Share below!