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Do you feel scattered during the day?



Ever feel as though your brain is scattered? That you cannot keep track of the things you have to do or remember? What about missing deadlines at work or school, your children’s projects, or doctor’s appointments?  Ever read a paragraph and then forget what it is that you just read, or get lost in the middle of a conversation?

These things are not unusual when you are in the midst of an episode of major depression or bipolar depression.  Once of the main symptoms people have is difficulty with focus and concentration, which can result in the above set of problems.  Add to that a poor quality night’s sleep, either lack of sleep or interrupted sleep with frequent awakenings, and you have an even larger issue to contend with.  But don’t despair.  It just means that you have to work extra hard to manage the events in your life and compensate for your forgetfulness right now.  Here are a few basic tips to help you.

First, try to organize your life and keep your schedule written down in one place in a calendar or agenda book, or electronically on a portable computerized device if you prefer.  You may find it helpful to have one portable agenda that you carry with you at all times and one that you hang up in the kitchen to scan visually at different times of the day.  Just make sure that they are in synch.  Refer to your agenda often during the day, and add to it as things come up.  Put everything in it, even the simple basic things you have to do.  Prioritize your activities: self-care, work, school, family, home, responsibilities and obligations.  It also helps to break large tasks into small steps – this will make life more manageable.

Another useful idea is to write down what you have to do and remember for the day as a To-Do list.  Use a small spiral notebook, post-it notes, or a portable electronic format such as on a smart phone– whatever works for you!   Have different lists for different areas of your life – groceries, work, household chores, etc.  Put the lists where you can see them.  Update these lists periodically as you get things done or need to add more tasks.  It may help to have clues in mind to remind you of what you are trying to remember or do.  Use whatever tricks or system that works well for you.

If reading is a challenge for you, go slow and repeat key phrases and sentences if necessary.  If it is a work or school –related reading assignment, it may be necessary to highlight or take notes to help you focus on the material. When you have finished, repeat to yourself a summary of what you have just read. This may help with reading retention.

If you find that you get lost in the middle of a conversation, try to stay in the moment and pay attention to key phrases and concepts that the other person is saying.  Repeat them in your mind to yourself, and periodically use affirmative statements to engage in the conversation and clarify that you understand what the other person is saying.  This will help you to keep on track.

Last, you cannot expect your brain to operate optimally unless you are following the basics of mental health.  Make sure that you are taking care of any physical problems, take all medications are directed, follow the principles of sleep hygiene to get a good night’s sleep, eat a healthy diet, get daily exercise, avoid isolation and stay in touch with your social contacts, and keep to a daily routine and schedule.

Stay well!

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