The Queen of Distraction:
How Women With ADHD Can Conquer Chaos, Find Focus and Get More Done
By Terry Matlen, MSW
What is ADHD? Well, it is when you get easily distracted, find it difficult to stop behaviors or activities that you find interesting, impulsively make decisions, aren’t able to follow directions or don’t follow through, have trouble following sequences, speed while driving and find it difficult to relax!!!!
My Life Is Buried Under One Of Those Piles! Women with ADHD often have a clutter issue and a messy house. Why is clutter such an issues? Because of impulsivity, inattention, procrastination and difficulty transitioning from one activity to another. Women with ADHD are often called unmotivated, lazy or selfish, but that is NOT the case.
Matlen suggests a clutter triage where you sort things into three piles: A) Urgent Papers that have a deadline, like bills B) Papers that are Important but not Urgent and C) Papers that can be dealt with at a later time. Prioritize the papers and try to only handle them once. (Also known as OHIO for Only Handle It Once!) Use a notepad or sticky notes by your phone. White boards and bulletin boards also help!
And There is A Reason It Is Called Housework! It is important to clear kitchen clutter. Make sure the area around your sink is cleared away. Put things in their proper place. If you have a home office, make sure to get lots and lots of filing cabinets. If you can afford it, hire a professional organizer.
Newsflash! Women Has Melt Down in Frozen Food Aisle! Sensory overload in grocery aisle is not unusual for women with ADHD. There are too many sights, sounds and smells. This often leads to the 7 Bottles of Ketchup and O containers of Milk issue.
Matlen suggests that you make comprehensive grocery lists, maybe even a map of the store and your route to help you. If too many people bother you, choose a smaller market or go at an off time of day—like early morning or late at night on a weekday. As far as meals are concerned, she talks about POS: Plan or Starve. ADHD women have trouble planning meals, but planning ahead will save lots of headaches. Work out a schedule for meals you like and buy accordingly.
Don’t Entertain or Have People Over If You Don’t Enjoy It!
Tic-Tock Trouble! ADHD women are often chronically late. They dilly dally, dawdle and procrastinate. Why? Fear of failure or success, fearful it will take too long, they are perfectionists, and they find the task at hand boring or unpleasant. They also suffer from a deficit or difficult with their working memory, which makes it difficult to keep everything in their head all at once.
Matlen suggests avoiding falling into the trap of doing “one last thing!” Plan not for when you have to be some place, but for when you decide is the best time to leave. Include enough time in your travel so that stopping for gas, traffic, etc., does not make you late. And she says when you feel rushed used the STOP method. Stop, Take A Deep Breath, Observe Your Gut Feeling and then SOS. SOS stands for Stop Obsessing Silly!
Clothing Loathing! Many women with ADHD will have cluttered closest and loath picking out outfits for the day. Matlen suggests that women go through and organize closets by season and toss out clothes that haven’t been worn in a year. She talks about how women with ADHD might have sensitivity to scratchy or itchy fabrics. She says we would try to only buy soft fabrics that are tagless and seamless. And when it comes to laundry—create a system so you don’t forget things in the washer or dryer. Keep laundry time organized as well.
So I’m Sensitive, Sue Me! Extreme sensitivity too sight, sound, smell and taste can be a problem. Many women avoid malls, crowded and loud restaurants/bars. Some of them have texture issues as well and appear to have OCD because they can’t stand things that are sticky or gooey. They are often overly sensitive emotions-wise as well. This can be an issue when criticisms from friends, family and co-workers are taken too personally.
Hormonal Humps, Bumps and Flashes! Girls are often quieter than boys, so they don’t have symptoms or get their diagnosis until later. PMS, Pregnancy and Peri-Menopausal Periods can make ADHD worse. Matlen warns that if she is “Homicidal, Weepy and Sweaty, Don’t Mess With Her!”
Working Hard At Working! ADHD can cause poor career decisions and make work difficult. Matlen suggests you don’t disclose your ADHD at work unless you feel it is absolutely necessary. It can make things worse, not better. At work you will need to focus on keeping your desk or area clutter-free and focus on minimizing distractions. Matlen says to find a quiet meeting room or someplace out of the way to work on projects. She also suggests record meetings to be played back later so you can catch everything that was said. Take lots of breaks and maybe even use noise canceling headphones or music to help you focus.
Conclusion: The Law is on your side with The Americans With Disabilities Act. Work to get to know yourself and what shortcuts or extra steps will help you function better. Get an assistant, childcare, tutors, therapists, bookkeepers, housekeepers, etc, if you can. If that isn’t a possibility, Delegate responsibility to others in your house. And, above all, learn to RELAX!