Photo by RODNAE Productions/Pexels
By Dr. Daneen Skube
Q:I’m fifty and wondering if I’m getting Alzheimer’s disease because I frequently feel overwhelmed. I forget details, meetings, and commitments I make. I don’t want people to stop trusting me to follow through. Should I be worried?
A: The best antidote for worry is data. If you seriously think you have cognitive issues, a visit to your local neurologist should give you peace of mind. However, as my neurology colleagues point out, Alzheimer’s is not forgetting where you put the keys, it’s forgetting what the keys are for.
The reality is many people find the pace of change in and outside of the workplace is overwhelming. The problem isn’t just that there’s more change happening in one year than has happened in the past 50, the problem is we expect ourselves to adapt seamlessly.
A shining example is tech. Most of us didn’t get graduate degrees in computer science. Now we all have to navigate complicated digital technology. The not-so-funny truth is most of our smart phones are just that, way smarter than us!
There’re complicated laws, tax rules, and don’t get me started on the conflicting advice on diet and exercise. Just spend an hour on trying to get your insurance company to explain anything, and you’ll need a nap.
If we had compassion for our confused selves, we would realize we’ve not gotten dumber, or lost our minds. We’re simply navigating a sea of complexity, more than enough to make anyone confused.
Here are some guidelines to help you slow down, and tone down the complexity:
1) Tackle one thing at a time. All brain scientists will tell you that multi-tasking is an illusion. If you try to do many things at the same time, you’ll do none of them well.
2) Ask for help. No one thrives being an island that is sinking into a sea of complexity.
3) Get rest and take breaks. A tired brain is less adaptive than a rested one.
4) If you’re confused on what to eat to fuel your brain, get advice from a nutritionist to tailor food to your needs.
5) Be realistic about how long a complex task will take and budget enough time. If you’re frustrated, you’ll short circuit your problem solving.
In addition, make sure you manage your expectations about how hard a task should be.
You may assume a project is simple only to end up paralyzed by time-consuming complexity. Give yourself a break if the job involves an activity that is hard for you. For myself, detail is my weakness. I can add a row of numbers and get a different number after ten tries.
The pace of change isn’t going to slow down so our tools for adaption have to speed up. We should have core courses in college teaching these kinds of skills. Even survival instructors tell their students that the key to surviving disasters is what’s between your ears, not what tools are in your backpack.
You now know that you most likely have not lost your mind, but are finding ways to cope with crazy-making change. They say insanity is a sane response to an insane situation. Changing management means changing your expectations, using new approaches, and learning to dance in quicksand that might swallow those around you.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker. She’s the author of “Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything” (Hay House, 2006).
You can contact Dr. Skube at www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.