Scatterbrained

I don’t know where my brain is lately.

Oh, I know it’s still lodged firmly in the bony recesses of my skull.  But the part of it that’s supposed to be working – keeping track of all the to-do lists, coming up with things to write about, managing all the little details demanded by the insurance companies I work with, helping me remember where I’m supposed to be at any given time – that part of it seems to have gone missing.

Or at least out to a very long lunch.

I’ve been feeling REALLY scatterbrained lately, and this is a quite new and unwelcome phenomenon for me.  I’ve always prided myself on my ability to store details in my head, everything from calendar appointments to log-ins and passwords – even the birthdays of otherwise long forgotten acquaintances were once stored safely in the recesses of my mind.

Recently I feel as if it’s all coming unglued in there, as if all the bits and bytes of information stored in my cerebral hard drive have come loose and are floating around in a huge disorganized conglomerate.

At least I’m not alone.  The effects of aging on the middle aged brain have been the subject of a spate of recent magazine articles.  Women are particularly prone to memory lapses and mental confusion.  It seems that as we age, our brains are no longer as adept at blocking out unneeded information, so that the multitude of stimuli we’re bombarded with each day clutters the space in our brain…sort of like the way my kitchen table looks by the end of the week when I’ve dumped everything from mail to work to leftovers on it.  Hormonal changes associated with menopause also affect brain function, causing age related physical changes which make the brain work less efficiently.

It all adds up to  feeling frazzled and addled.  And I feel like I’m losing control.

For a while I’ve been blaming the state of my life for these changes in mentation – that whole long year filled with loss and disruption seemed to jumpstart this process, and it hasn’t improved much in recent months, despite their relative stability.

I also attribute my scattered mental status to the ever present bombardment of stimuli.   I admit I’m often powerless to control my addiction to the internet with its eternal distractions of information overload and constant array of social media.   Unlike the members of my son’s generation, I wasn’t raised on the mother’s milk of the world wide web and all its irresistible fascinations.  My roots harken back to the olden days of four basic TV channels, the FM radio, and the local library.  These old  processors weren’t wired for 21st century media, and are working harder and harder just to keep up.

But I can’t ignore the fact that I am getting older, and have to accept that my brain will change along with the rest of my body.  Sigh.

Those same magazine articles also assure me I’m not powerless to combat these disruptions in my cognitive ability.  What helps?  Exercise, apparently.   (Good thing I’ve been spending more and more time pedaling my old bicycle and using my Walk at Home DVD’s.)   I’m sure diet and nutrition come into play.  I’ve also heard that learning new activities helps build stronger brain function.

But somehow I think the solution is as easy as this old acronym -KISS.

Keep It Simple, Stupid.

Yep, sometimes life is general is just too complicated for this old brain to handle.

How about you?  Where’s your brain these days?  How scattered is it?  And what are you doing about it?

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19 thoughts on “Scatterbrained

  1. I have always been somewhat of a scatterbrain and after years of self analysis have come to the conclusion that I have always suffered from a certain lack of attention to my surroundings (apparently very common in Enneagram Type Nines.) So god knows how I will become as I, too, approach the years of menopause and, well, old age.

    But I think you make a very valid point: I have no doubt that the information overload caused by the internet and social media is a huge contributor. The younger generations may be more desensitized to it but you know what? I am definitely noticing lots of scattered-brainedness among my teenage stepson and his friends. They do not have a long attention span. And constantly forget ordinary day-to-day things.

    Anyway, I am noticing a prominent trend for simplicity, too, and that suggests to me that you are not alone with this problem and these feelings. At least it is not impacting your excellent as always writing!

    • That’s an interesting point about your stepson. My own son is 30, and has always been very task oriented and organized, although it seems he was born with a computer mouse in his hand 🙂 I work with teenagers quite a bit now, and I’ve noticed the same thing. Their attention spans are quite short, and they often seem distracted. I think they’re anxious to get check their phones for texts!
      Thanks for stopping by. Good to see you here 🙂

  2. Yes, I am all scattershot. Sadly, this is not a recent phenomenon. There are times when I stand in a room wondering why I’m there, and other times when stimulation overload makes me frantic; if I stop, I won’t be able to do anything…
    I am finding yoga to be very helpful with this: the forced focus, the meditative process (at the last class my teacher said to think of each move, each pose as a “mini-meditation”), the calm. The centeredness. Which is what it all comes down to, isn’t it? We’ve been thrown off-balance by life and need to find it again. Or, we’ve just realized we’re out-of-balance (this would be me) and are trying to figure out how to attain it…
    Did any of that make sense?
    You did. I appreciate this post very much. Thank you.

    • I have a real longing for something like yoga that would force me to be still and center myself. I DO feel as if I’ve been thrown off balance by life, and somehow need to right myself. I’ve did yoga classes once upon a time and I recall that wonderful feeling of calm afterwards.

      Definitely need to do that again.

  3. I am literally all over the place these days. I try to stay grounded, focus — all the “right” words. But somehow, I am finding that I stray much too much these days and can’t recall what I was planning to do, when I was planning to do it. Will I end up soon putting my car keys in the freezer? I fret and worry and that’s probably what’s going to make me end up doing that. Self-fulfilling prophecy and whatnot. Sigh.

    • The fretting and the worrying sound familiar…I sometimes feel as if I’m never doing enough, and can never catch up.

      I’m losing focus on too many occasions…per the comment from Shoreacres (Linda) below.

  4. One of the worst illusions society has fostered is that radical “multi-tasking” is possible.

    Of course we’ve always been multi-taskers to a degree. But stirring a pot of soup with a baby in a high chair and a load of laundry in the washer is quite different from stirring a pot of soup with one eye on the computer screen, a cell phone in one hand, the tv blaring in the background and a third eye on the clock to be sure we’re not late for whatever’s next.

    And with so much information flying around in this “information age”, there’s a lot of anxiety about being “out of touch”, not knowing “what’s happening”, not having participated in the last viral whatever that’s swept he country.

    There are tv programs I’ve never seen, videos I’ve never heard of and movie stars who’ve completely escaped my attention. Is that admirable? Not necessarily – I’m no more fond of reverse snobs than regular snobs. But there came a point where I began saying to all of those forces out there: “Just a doggoned minute. Until you can prove you’re important to my life, you’re getting ignored.”

    Lady Gaga got through my defenses with her meat dress, but I’m doing pretty well otherwise. The trick seems to be focus, and living in the moment. For example, when I sit down at the computer, I sit down at the computer. No radio or tv in the background. It really helps.

    But I still never can find my car keys.

  5. You’re right when you talk about the multi tasking we’re expected to do now being different from that of the past. Our multi tasking now crosses category so much – eating and watching tv or being on the computer, driving and talking on the phone or putting on makeup or eating (or all of the above!). Everything we do requires so many steps and rules…just getting on a airplane involves nine million steps, all of which have to be approved and overseen by several people.

    Focus is key word – one thing at a time whenever possible.

  6. I think you nailed it with hormonal changes and too much to do — and you can count in that the overstimulation you mentioned, because really, when you want to check the net or telly, it’s something you want to do, and it doesn’t matter that it’s not work or something “critical.” We need these kinds of things, too.

    I sometimes feel as though I juggle so many balls, I don’t know how to keep them in the air. I’ve learned that if one has to drop, better it be the bouncy rubber one instead of the waterford crystal ball, and sometimes (not always) I even put one down. Shoreacres was talking about multitasking. Oh, yeah — When I watch telly, I knit or look at a magazine or proof work from the office. When I cook, I’m listening to something, working between two or three pots, trying to clean the kitchen at the same time. And I’m clearly an ADD cleaner, which means that as I pick up one room and put the things that belong in the bedroom there, I discover I didn’t toss that laundry down the chute, which takes me to the bathroom, where I forgot to measure the meds in the pillbox, which takes me… you know.

    The good thing about the hormones is that everyone reflects that change differently and sometimes a rugged peri-menopause brings a lighter end game. It did for me. Hang in there. We’re all in the same boat!

    • I’m laughing at your description of being distracted in the middle of your cleaning…I was berating myself yesterday for doing the exact same thing. Started to put the laundry away, then realized I hadn’t finished dusting the bedroom, but first had to pick up the dog toys…ad infinitum.

  7. I think your brain’s hanging out with mine, doing tequila shots, perhaps. I just interviewed a yoga instructor about balance, for an article I’m writing, and she reminded me that the quickest way to balance in any moment is three deep breaths. (A paper bag might help, too. I joke.)

  8. I know exactly what you are talking about. It feels like walking around in a fog most of the time, or trying to deal with slippery little pieces that just keep sliding and wiggling instead of staying in place! Sometimes I think our brains are like computers and they are saying “Memory is dangerously full!” I try different vitamins and supplements, try to stay focused, think about trying yoga and/or walking outside–and somedays, just try to accept that this is the way it is. When the fog miraculously clears, I feel great–I just wish I knew how to keep it that way!

    • “Memory is dangerously full!” I’m laughing out loud at that – I can just hear that robotic voice going off in my brain (especially at work!)

      I may be losing it, but at least I’m in good company!

  9. Like ds, I’m finding yoga to be helpful. I always feel more centered after yoga class. Our instructor often says that we live mostly unconscious lives. We seldom connect the mind, body and spirit in our daily lives.

    Attempting to learn new things is helpful. You don’t have to even be successful. It’s the trying that creates new pathways in the brain.

    I noticed an increase in forgetfulness in my early fifties and it continued to increase for a few years. I found it alarming, but then it seemed to even out at an acceptable level of scatterbrained-ness. That or I’m just delusional.

    If it offers any comfort, we’re all in the same boat!
    Bella

  10. It is comforting to read how there are so many others struggling with the same issues I am facing ! I went from being able to multi task run my own business keep up the house and take care of my children with no problems . Where as now and for the past year I am absolutely out of it most of the time . I can walk into a room and forget why I am there ? Holding an adult conversation is like torture anymore . I can be in mid sentence and forget what I was talking about . It is so embarrassing ! I can’t recall names either which is very scarey . I have convinced myself I must be going crazy ? It has also been very difficult for me to change from one task to another with out overwhelming confusion . Any advice ???

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