Concentrating has always been a little bit difficult for me.
You see, I was diagnosed with adult ADHD about 10 years ago with what my doctor said was the highest test score he had ever seen. I naturally find it difficult to read books and finish them and I can’t sit through a film without having to get up and move around; a visit to the theatre is my idea of torture. So, at first, it was hard to tell where the menopause started and my ADHD began.
At least before the menopause, I was able to remember roughly where I put things. I could also trigger a memory of an event or an appointment by writing a note stating the time. But during the menopause, I found that I was in an even bigger muddle than I was before. I couldn’t even concentrate long enough to notice where I put my keys and I suppose you can’t forget what you didn’t know in the first place. I couldn’t even trigger a memory of appointment from my notes as I wouldn’t remember when the appointment was, where it was or even what it was for!
What Causes It?
Estrogen is directly involved in the function of neurotransmitters in the brain. As our hormone levels fluctuate, this can slow down neurotransmitters, causing “foggy brain” and making it harder to concentrate. Many women, especially those aged between 33-55 report problems with working memory, as well as keeping themselves focused. It’s NOT all in your head.
My Top Tips
There’s no question about it: dehydration can severely affect your concentration abilities. Keeping a water bottle by your side and taking regular sips is an easy, effective way to make sure you drink enough water a day. If you’re not a huge (water) drinker, invest in a water bottle that’ll make you more likely to drink water (like the ones that allow you to infuse fruit into the water, making it just a bit more flavourful)!
Schedule your tasks.
There’s a reason why so many people are self-proclaimed procrastinators! The more pressure you have to get something done, the more likely you’ll buckle down and do it. By scheduling your tasks, you’re giving yourself a bit more pressure to do everything. Tell yourself, “I need to finish this assignment by 2pm today” and don’t let yourself be late! Give yourself rewards (like mini-breaks or a bite of dark chocolate) if you finish your work on time. Eventually, you’ll get into the habit of staying on track.
Write it down.
Putting important notes and tasks pen- to-paper helps your brain register them and keep focus on them. Keep a notebook with you or use notes on your phone and write down everything from the things you need to do, to the things you need to remember, to little important notes that you might otherwise forget! This will give your mind a bit of a break, so you’re spending more time focusing on what you need to focus on, and less time trying to remember it.
Studies show that having something to touch and play with in your hand, like a stress ball, increases our ability to concentrate. Next time you’re working on a big task, grab a small object and move it around in your hand as your work.
Remove distractions, whatever they may be. If you’re having difficulty concentrating, don’t make it any more difficult for yourself by being in a distracting environment. If you can’t work in a noisy place, don’t set up shop in a café. If you need a bit of background, white noise to do your best work, the library may not be for you. We can’t always have control over where we work, but we can try to understand what conditions help us concentrate. We can then work on putting ourselves in those conditions.