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A perfect piece to read on my 38th birthday: research explaining why I act the way I do! Who could ever ask for a better present than that?

And not just any research. Studies from HARVARD, the smart place where you say “Amen” to whatever they throw at you.

Here it is, according to a Health.com article by Jessica Girdwain called “Attention Sappers: 5 Reasons You Can’t Concentrate”:

You misplace your keys, waver between work assignments and YouTube, and daydream during conversations. Some of it’s normal–life can get pretty hectic–but how do you know if you have a more serious problem? For adults who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), this chronic inattentiveness becomes debilitating. 

“We see an influx of adults being diagnosed around age 38,” says Timothy Wilens, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. “That’s right around the time people start multitasking more, juggling jobs, families, a home, and other personal obligations–and problems focusing and staying alert seem to get worse,” he says.

Age 38 is when things start to get worse?? Um. Yeah. I don’t think it can get much worse than writing your own name (not your daughter’s name) on the back of the Valentines you send in for the school party, or dropping her off in her pajamas a week before that because you can no longer read dates.

Alas, here are the 5 reasons I really can’t concentrate … not that they are going to make me feel better:

1. Technology overload.

I know, I know, that’s why I’ve given up Facebook for Lent and am trying to live as technology free as a blogger can. I didn’t exactly pick a great field for staying off line. We do have a no-TV or video games policy before 5 p.m. in our house.

Solution: Learning basic organizational skills, like writing down responsibilities and maintaining a day planner, can help alleviate these problems. So can taking a break from constant television, Internet, and email inundation–or setting house rules about technology-free times after dinner or before bed, for example

2. Lack of sleep.

Part of this is sort of unavoidable for me. Katherine still has atrocious sleeping habits, so non-interrupted sleep hasn’t happened in seven years, as if the bags under my eyes don’t tell that story.

Solution? “By getting adequate rest, like hitting the sack earlier, you should get your focus back,” Dr. Wilens says.

3. Poor job satisfaction.

I’m actually doing pretty well in this category. For those who aren’t as fortunate, here’s what the article says:

Sure, everyone’s unhappy at work from time to time–maybe your client presentation flopped or your boss gave you a poor performance review. And if a disorganized work environment or a boring project make it difficult to focus, that’s completely normal. But if you find that you consistently can’t complete projects–to the extent that you’re missing deadlines or getting in trouble for it–you probably need medical attention. Or a new job.

4. Too much stress.

Stress? What’s that? The article says:

Stress takes a toll on concentration, says Dr. Wilens. “It competes with your cognitive centers–the areas in the brain that are responsible for quick, sharp thoughts–so being anxious or stressed drags focus down even further,” he says. Consider meditation: Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that the relaxation technique can increase your ability to block out distractions. Another study, from researchers at UCLA, suggests that in adults with ADHD, meditation improves attention and eases symptoms of anxiety and depression.

5. Too little exercise.

Already work out like Lance Armstrong, guys. And I still am tired and stressed. Sorry. Here’s what they say on this one:

Mounting evidence suggests that regular exercise can keep your mind sharp and increase learning and memory capacity. It’s even more crucial in adults with ADHD, who battle mental restlessness. “My patients who exercise all report that they see improvement in attention,” says Dr. Wilens. Working up a sweat can also help you burn off the extra energy that causes you to feel fidgety, and it can help you sleep better at night.

P.S. A very happy birthday to Larry today!

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