Can’t Focus? Try These 7 Simple ADHD Concentration Tips
- December 8, 2017
- Jeremy Barnett
Whoever first said “focus on what’s really important” must not have had adult ADHD. From conversations with people you value most, such as family and friends, to important tasks that will advance your career, it can seem almost impossible to stay concentrated when you have adult ADHD. You don’t mean to zone out, but you do. ADHD makes it harder for your brain to focus on the details, so your mind wanders while others are speaking. This can be frustrating for you and for them. But changing your health routine in simple ways can help you to pay attention and become a better listener. Take a look at these seven tricks.
It may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people forget this important step when they’re stressed out. Practicing meditation and taking deep breaths can help improve your ability to focus, said Shane K. Perrault, PhD, a clinical psychologist and founder of the ADHD Performance Clinic in Greenbelt, Md. “When you have ADHD, your blood doesn’t flow to the part of the brain where high-order decisions are made,” he explained. Meditation and breathing exercises can help you relax and better manage your symptoms. “When you’re relaxed, more blood flows to the brain and it functions better,” Perrault said.
If you think your food has more to do with your figure than your brain, think again. Ever heard of brain food? What you eat directly affects your energy level and your ability to focus. Following a healthy diet can help improve many of your ADHD symptoms, including your inability to concentrate, Perrault said. People with adult ADHD need to be sure to start the day with protein at breakfast — if you’ll start to feel sluggish come mid-morning if you eat solely carbohydrates, and it’s hard to concentrate when you’re tired. Limit the amount of sweets and processed foods you eat throughout the day. They are metabolized quickly, causing your blood sugar to spike. Then it drops just as quickly, causing you to have ADHD brain fog and lose concentration.
If you’re having trouble concentrating because the task at hand is boring, make it more exciting, said David Rosenberg, MD, professor and chief of child psychiatry and psychology at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan and Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit. Approach it just like you would for your child: if you want him to clean up his messy room, you might have him imagine each object that needs to be put away as an airplane, Dr. Rosenberg suggested, and then they “can find a good landing place on the shelf for each item.” Adults with adult ADHD can use this same trick to make work tasks more appealing or finally get to that list of chores. While you’re playing waste basketball with rotten food in the fridge, you’re also teaching yourself how to focus.
An important strategy for staying focused when you have adult ADHD is to work in a space where there are few, if any, distractions. Ask your boss if you can move away from a TV or radio that’s always on. Working in a noisy environment can worsen ADHD symptoms — ask for an office or cubicle that’s away from others so that their conversations don’t distract you. Another option is to use a white noise machine to save you from total silence, which can actually distract some adults with ADHD more than loud noises.
Like meditation and deep breathing, exercise stimulates brain function, which is essential to managing ADHD symptoms. Add regular exercise to your daily ADHD routine to get your heart pumping and your brain in gear. “People with ADHD have crazy energy,” Perrault said. “When you exercise, it helps dissipate that energy, and when you return to work, you can function better, pay more attention, and focus on what you’re doing.
It may seem so simple it sounds stupid, but keeping a to-do list can make a huge difference. Having multiple tasks ahead of you can be overwhelming when you have ADHD. Writing down each item in order of importance will help make tasks seem less daunting and help you to wrap your head around next steps. Arrange tasks by highest to lowest importance and then tackle the list from top to bottom. Or, Rosenberg said, rank them by difficulty and do the simplest ones first to get them out of the way. You’ll have a sense of accomplishment as you proceed, which can help you to better manage your symptoms and keep going.
If you’re in a meeting at work and find you just can’t concentrate any longer on what everyone is saying to you and to each other, you may need a moment to refresh. Communicating your needs to others is key to developing a successful ADHD management strategy — you can’t control your condition in a bubble. You may have to tell your coworkers or friends that you have adult ADHD. Explain that sometimes it’s difficult for you to concentrate for extended periods and that getting some fresh air will help. When you return, you can continue the conversation. Take the time to educate your coworkers about adult ADHD so they will understand and appreciate your honesty.