Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD as it’s commonly known, is a neuro-developmental disorder which involves three core diagnostic features. The first symptom is inattention, which may manifest in the form of not being able to stay focussed on a task for long, making careless mistakes, difficulty completing tasks and following instructions, forgetfulness in day-to-day activities and so on.
Hyperactivity, the second core feature, is more noticeable, such that an individual may find it difficult to stay seated for too long, seems always “on the go”, act fidgety or be very restless.
Impulsivity is the third aspect of this condition, wherein individuals may experience difficulty waiting their turn, interrupt others or blurt out responses before the other person has finished speaking. For an individual to be diagnosed with ADHD, these symptoms must be present in more than one setting, not just in one single environment like a school setting. ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed disorder in children, and while it is a disorder largely associated with childhood, these symptoms in some individuals may also continue through to adulthood.
Despite having an average intellectual functioning, children with ADHD often experience difficulties coping with their academics as a result of this condition. At the same time, they may also get into trouble for breaking discipline, or experience difficulties maintaining friendships due to the impulsivity of their actions. As a result, ADHD has an impact on not just an individual’s performance, but also on their emotions, their interpersonal relationships and their self-esteem.
It’s important for us to understand that ADHD is an illness, and early identification and intervention is key. The first step then is to create awareness, among parents, teachers and students alike. Doing so will not only aid in early identification but also create an environment of acceptance and empathy within the classroom or work environment. At the same time, individuals with ADHD benefit from remedial intervention, which may involve behavioural therapy, special education and at times medical intervention as well.
While individuals with ADHD experience persistent deficits in attention, many individuals without ADHD also report a lack of ability to focus on a day-to-day basis. Many a time, this is actually the result of the hectic, fast-paced lifestyle that we follow. Here are a few strategies to enhance our focus in our everyday living:
1) Practise mindfulness – Rather than being forever caught up in ruminations of the past or worries of the future, practise staying in the present moment. Mindful breathing and eating are some such examples.
2) Sports and creativity – Playing a sport, engaging in physical activity or a creative pursuit like playing an instrument or art can be a fun-filled way of boosting our focus
3) Attention-improving exercises – Puzzles like crosswords and Sudokus help build our capacity to sustain focus. The ‘e’ exercise where you take a newspaper article and strike out all the ‘e’s is an effective exercise as well.
4) Removing distractions – Our environment is replete with the buzz of notifications as we work. Try to limit your distractions and create an environment conducive to working. Push non-urgent matters to a later time.
5) Avoid multi-tasking – While people multi-task in a bid to save time, switching between tasks in such quick succession can result in more mistakes as well as more stress. Focus on one task at a time for the best results.
6) Set a routine – This helps in better time management. When the task or workload seems immense, break it down into slots and finish the job within a stipulated time. Set a timer if need be to keep to your goals. Factor in breaks in between so that you do not feel exhausted.