Did you clean up your mess? Where are your keys? Did you remember to pick up bread? Have you finished the yard work? Why are you interrupting me? Are you listening to me? These are often questions heard by partners with attention issues. It can be a frustrating experience for both partners.
ADHD Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder
ADHD Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is a neurodevelopmental problem that begins in childhood but often persists into adulthood. Symptoms can include failure to pay close attention to detail, difficulty listening when spoken to directly, trouble with organization, and forgetfulness. Symptoms may also include impulsivity, fidgeting, and restlessness. Solely attention-related problems can go undetected into adulthood and individuals can continue to experience issues. Particularly when undiagnosed, these symptoms can lead to a host of problems within the context of a relationship. Communication, connection, and intimacy in the relationship may be heavily impacted by attention problems.
Fortunately, it is possible to manage attention related issues. In clinical practice, I have worked with many people who experience significant inattention and have found that coping strategies can be effective. Following you will find several behavioral techniques that can help managing inattention as well as increase focus and concentration.
Mindfulness can help increase one’s ability to focus and pay attention. In a moment when you are feeling particularly distracted, using a technique as simple as noticing what’s in your environment can help you refocus. Simply take a minute to observe and label items in your environment then notice how you feel. Were you able to shift your attention? Another mindfulness option is to notice what you are experiencing using your five senses. For example, take a moment to notice what you see, hear, touch, smell, and taste. Again, observe how your attention has shifted and notice if you feel any different after the activity. Mindfulness can be practiced alone or can become a part of a routine you and your partner do together.
2). Deep Breathing
Deep breathing can be a useful strategy. Intentional breathing can lower your heart rate, help you feel calmer and more relaxed as well as help you refocus. Take a moment to breathe in for five seconds, hold for five seconds and out for five seconds. Repeat this process four times. After, observe any shifts you notice within yourself. This is another activity that can be done as a couple. A possible side effect of doing these activities together is increased emotional intimacy. Who doesn’t want that in their relationship?
Try monotasking. This is the act of completing one task at a time. No more multitasking. When someone, particularly a person with attention problems, multitasks s/he is more likely to forget to finish aspects of various tasks that are important. S/he is more likely to be left with many uncompleted projects. Thus, instead of trying to complete many projects at once, try fully engaging with one project at a time. This may be very difficult at first but with continued practice will likely decrease the number of your uncompleted projects.
Create a plan or roadmap for your week. Write down tasks that need to be accomplished and check them off as you complete them. This is an activity that could be useful to do at the beginning of the week with your partner. Doing this task together can help keep you both on track for the week.
As with many mental health-related concerns, remember to take care of your basic needs. Sleep, exercise, and nutrition impact your mind. Thus, make sure to get enough sleep, exercise and maintain a healthy diet to decrease the likelihood of worsening issues with focus and attention.
When engaging in any of these activities remember to be compassionate with yourself and your partner. Do your best not to judge yourself, each other or the situation. If you have difficulty participating in any of the suggested strategies working with a mental health counselor may help you implement these skills more effectively. If you believe that you have more than just issues with attention, but a possible neurodevelopmental disorder, a psychologist can provide specific testing to identify the likelihood of a clinical attention disorder. Additionally, as many people know, there are medication options for a diagnosis of ADHD, thus, speaking with your medical prescriber is also an option.