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ADHD, Sensory Overload and Weighted Blankets: 8 Tips to Help You Concentrate

In today's busy world, just about everyone can use help with focus and concentration. It's easy to get distracted by email, phones and constant texts. For people with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or sensory processing disorders, the inability to "turn off" the outside world can be immensely challenging.

From using a weighted blanket to help with ADHD or concentration, to kicking the social media habit, here are eight tips to help you focus on your daily tasks.

Turn Off Social Media

photo of a man sitting in front of a laptop staring in the distance.

Social media makes it possible for us to connect with family and friends. For many people, however, being social online means being always connected — and research shows that this inability to unplug is taking a toll on our attention spans. Kevin McSpadden at Time cites a Microsoft study stating that the human attention span is now just about eight seconds. That is shorter than a goldfish, which has a nine-second attention span. In the year 2000, the human attention span was 12 seconds.

So how did we go from 12 seconds to getting beaten by goldfish? Tech experts say that social media is the likely culprit behind this drop in our ability to pay attention. If you have ADHD, the incessant pings and notifications that come with social media could be stopping you from accomplishing everything you’d like to achieve during the day. If you find yourself reaching for your phone before you leave your bed in the morning, or you feel anxious when you misplace your device, you may be addicted to social media.

The good news is you don’t have to totally shut out social media to improve your focus. Elizabeth Venzin at Huffington Post says it’s possible to make your social media diet leaner without quitting it altogether. For example, you can try turning off or muting notifications — especially if you’re trying to perform a task that requires a lot of concentration. You can also mute individuals who post often and make it hard for you to achieve your daily goals.       

Mute Email and Text Notifications

Of course, social media isn’t the only tech game in town. Emails and texts can also derail your productivity. According to Dr. Marla Cummins, an ADHD coach and productivity consultant, email is particularly bothersome for those with ADHD. She writes that “keeping up with the constant ‘onslaught’ of email is a challenge for many with ADHD.”

Dr. Cummins also points out that being aware of how email challenges you is key to keeping its distractions to a minimum. She recommends setting aside blocks of time in which you check email. When the block of time ends, shut off your email and don’t look at it again until the next block. You can also create folders within your email, so you can mark non-emergency emails as tasks you can delay until you have more time.

Warm Up or Cool Down

Distractions can come from a variety of sources. In some cases, even the temperature around you can cause you to lose focus. Research from Cornell University states that the majority of people do their best work when the temperature is somewhere between 68 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit. When study participants worked within that temperature range, typing errors fell by 44 percent and typing output skyrocketed by 150 percent.

Listen to Soothing Music

For some people with ADHD, music can be a distraction (especially when it comes in the form of background noise). However, research also shows that music therapy can actually improve focus and self-control in people with ADHD. Anni Layne Rodgers at ADDitude Magazine cites Dr. Oliver Sacks, a neurologist and author, who says that “nothing activates the brain so extensively as music.”

Music therapy experts say it’s important to select the right kind of music for the moment — especially for people with ADHD. Layne Rodgers also notes that people with ADHD should shut out other distractions while using music therapy. For example, you’ll want to turn off the television and eliminate as many sources of auditory stimuli as you can. This allows your brain to respond to the music. It’s also important to note that different musical styles appeal to different people. Some people with ADHD may prefer classical music, but others may find that the beat of jazz or hip hop helps them focus.   

Break Up Your Tasks

For people with ADHD — and even those without the disorder — it turns out that breaking your work into smaller chunks helps you achieve more tasks and makes you more efficient. In fact, efficiency experts have given this productivity tool a name: chunking. You may also hear it referred to as “time-blocking.”

Chunking works by allowing your brain to wholly focus on one task at a time. Productivity experts recommend setting aside relatively short blocks of time — 20 or 30 minutes — and then limiting yourself to working only on that task within a given block. By giving yourself a deadline, you are motivating your brain to work more efficiently. And because you have a set end time for each block, you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. This helps you feel more accomplished, which can motivate you to keep working.    

Don’t Try to Multitask (Because You Can’t)

photo of young man reading a book.

We’ve all heard the old saying about walking and chewing gum at the same time. Or perhaps you’ve warned your teen driver (or yourself!) about texting and driving. We all know it’s dangerous to glance at our phone while we’re behind the wheel. The highway is no place for multitasking.

But did you know that multitasking is almost always impossible? According to Drs. Cynthia Kubu and Andre Machado at the Cleveland Clinic, “For nearly all people, in nearly all situations, multitasking is impossible.” When you think you’re handling two or more tasks at once, what’s really happening is your brain is shifting rapidly between tasks. This shuffling happens so quickly you don’t realize it, but your attention is diverted between multiple tasks — meaning it’s not one hundred percent focused on any task.  

Try Deep Pressure Touch Stimulation

Deep pressure stimulation or deep pressure touch therapy is a type of occupational therapy that works through the application of firm but gentle pressure on various parts of the body. You can think of it like a hug or a firm squeeze.

Research has shown that deep pressure touch therapy relaxes the nervous system by prompting the brain to release oxytocin and serotonin. Oxytocin — the happiness hormone — triggers feelings of calm and peace, which is beneficial for people with ADHD. Serotonin, which helps regulate all aspects of sleep, has also been linked to aggression and impulse control — two common hallmarks of ADHD.

If your occupational therapist or health professional has recommended deep pressure touch therapy, they may have also suggested a weighted blanket. This is because weighted blankets, which are made with 10 percent of your body weight, work by recreating the effects of deep pressure touch therapy. If you have ever cuddled under a fluffy down blanket, or you feel calm and relaxed while zipped up in a heavy sleeping bag, you have probably already experienced the benefits of deep pressure touch therapy. Some people even enjoy the weight of the lead bibs or shields used by dentists while taking x-rays.

Studies have found that weighted blankets help people with ADHD feel calmer, more relaxed and less anxious. According to researchers who published their findings in the Journal of Sleep Medicine & Disorders, “The application of deep pressure, through for example weighted vests and blankets, has been reported to produce a calming and relaxing effect in clinical conditions such autism spectrum disorders (ASD), attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder.”  

Eliminate Distractions at Work

Many people with ADHD encounter numerous challenges at work. Whether you work in a busy office, a loud factory or a retail store that receives a lot of foot traffic, chances are your work environment is filled with stimuli. While you may not be able to make your workspace a silent refuge, there are things you can do to minimize distractions.

Katie Hurley, a licensed clinical social worker and writer at Psycom, says the key is to make your work environment as distraction-free as possible. If you’re fortunate enough to have your own office, don’t be afraid to close your door when you need time to focus. It’s also a good idea to remove clutter from your desk. When your workspace is neat, you’re less likely to become distracted.

Hurley says it’s also perfectly okay to take breaks when you need them. If you feel hyperactive, take a walk around the office. Instead of emailing a coworker, walk to their work area and talk to them in person. This breaks up the day and helps you release some of the energy that can make it difficult to concentrate.  

SensaCalm Weighted Blankets   

We could all use more comfort and relaxation in our lives. If you have ADHD or a sensory processing disorder, a weighted blanket may help you sleep better and experience less anxiety. Our weighted blankets are American-made and come in custom designs and ready-to-ship styles.

Questions? Get in touch by calling us at 855-736-7222, or use our online contact form to talk to a member of our experienced team. We’re happy to help!

Disclaimer: The content on this website is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider before undertaking any type of therapy or treatment.