March 6, 2020 at 1:28 pm #144263
I know your mind going completely blank somtimes is a part of ADHD. But mine is so frustrating and I don’t know how to overcome it. I’m currently trying to write a paper (I’m behind in school hence why I’m here) but I will sit down and just stare at it. It’s empty. It’s like if you unplugged the internet while trying to do something and until you plug it back in, it just buffers and doesn’t do anything. That’s how I best describe the feeling.
I read an article about this very problem, in the circumstance of having to write a paper, which I thought, “Oh wow thats perfect!” However all the suggestions were:
1. Write anything, doesn’t have to be the paper but it’ll get you flowing
3. Make an outline
But the problem is, all of these still require some minimal level of brain power which I can’t seem to muster.
1. I’m so blanked out on what to write on ANY topic or ANYTHING, let alone a specific topic which is why I struggle
2. My mind is blank. You can’t brainstorm, because you are blanking.
3. I attempted an outline, but it’s gotten no where since. It’s there, and I can’t figure out how to go further.
I’m so frustrated because all the “solutions” to clear the brain fog require me to not have brainfog and I feel perpetually stuck.
I’m on a 27mg Daytrana patch every day. Will this problem be fixed by upping my medication? I can focus on a task, the meds fix that much. But I will spend hours sitting there staring at a blank screen. I just can’t clear the mental block, and the only thing I’ve been able to do is just… wait out the mental block. Obviously this won’t be sustainable when I have time limits with a job. What do I do?
March 9, 2020 at 10:14 am #144347
There’s a helpful online tool that guides you through structuring and writing an essay. Maybe that will help?
I’ve also found writing every idea on a separate post-it note, then being able to move them around and group them or sequence them is really helpful too.
ADDitude Community Moderator, Parenting ADHD Coach & Author, Mom to teen w/ ADHD, LDs, and autism
March 9, 2020 at 11:31 am #144366
It’s not blank it’s just uninterested and more interested in thinking it’s blank. Lol (well everyone’s different but in my case) brainstorm while playing with a tennis ball. Sometimes if I multitask it can help my train of thought bc my minds not as bored. 🙂
March 10, 2020 at 2:56 pm #144501
Ditto to the needing to multi-task thing.
I’m a writer for a living, and the mind-blanking thing is a hardcore reality.
I’ve developed something of what I call a “priming the pump” routine.
If there’s a certain topic I need to write about, I’ll toss on a podcast or some other sort of related audio in my earbuds and go for a walk (or do the dishes–something mundane that keeps my body somewhat busy but allows my mind to wander).
Once my brain grasps onto something from the audio, I’ll start an audio note in Evernote and just jumble out my thoughts that way…writer’s block is easy to get, but talker’s block, c’mon now?
Then I go back through and pull the parts out of my own audio file that becomes threads for my outline. Usually, by this point I’ve got enough threads together that I can keep going with the piece I’m writing.
The great thing about this is that the original podcast or whatever I’m listening to, doesn’t have to be right on topic, just topic adjacent. If I know what I need to write about, and I can get out of my own ahead to not be in the way, my brain will start making the connections on its own. Then it’s just a game of having a way to catch those thoughts and filter them once they’re not stuck rattling around my brain anymore.
March 16, 2020 at 7:14 am #145123
This advice is AWESOME!!! I feel like I’ve been waiting for someone to give me permission to do that. After a lifetime of being called an Loud Intense Weirdo, that shame would always get me whenever I thought of recording myself. I was taught to feel so embarrassed by myself that I ended up blocking coping mechanisms.
Since being diagnosed a couple weeks ago (FINALLY at 29), and being a self-taught writer myself, this whole thread has been a revelation.
March 16, 2020 at 7:29 am #145124
I’m just a few years older than you with a recent diagnosis, so I totally get that. I’m just now really leaning into the tools that I’ve developed over the years. For me, it’s been a lot of feeling ashamed that “normal adults” don’t need reminders for every little thing or to overly rely on apps and notebooks. Now, I own it. And I’ve actually built a business around teaching people how to implement systems and processes in their lives.
The hardest part of the writing routine I shared is definitely recording myself. I do it in the car if I’m driving alone, but more often than not, I do it while taking walks around the neighborhood. Getting over the self-consciousness of looking like the weirdo wandering around talking to herself took a bit. Like all of my other tools, apps, and routines, I no longer care how weird or unusual it is as long as it helps me feel sane and get results.
March 13, 2020 at 3:19 am #144731
I’m glad there’s a post for this. I too, sometimes feel totally blank as well when I start with my daily work.
March 16, 2020 at 7:12 am #145121
March 16, 2020 at 1:07 pm #145194
I’m also glad to hear I’m not alone! I have this problem all the time with work, but also with things I want to do. It’s really frustrating and can cause severe anxiety when a deadline is approaching.
March 17, 2020 at 8:03 am #145277
As the other fellow from this post mentioned, what I did is to direct my mind to other things like listening to music I want or watching Netflix (yes you read it right lol) before I start my work. I work online so it’s easier for me to do other things that will make me into the mood to start to work!
March 16, 2020 at 10:59 am #145173
#limpstringcheese, I would suggest trying to use other, non-written means of getting ahold of your ideas. I think someone mentioned this above, but you could record your voice onto your phone’s voice recorder while you are taking a walk. I often find that walking in a natural setting, no music, podcasts nor other mental distractions gets my mind unblocked, and I find that all kinds of ideas start to flow. If you are a particularly high energy person, even walking the steps in your home could release the blockage. If your mind is quite capable of formulating complete thoughts and arguments, you can listen to what you have recorded and transcribe it all word for word, then set to editing the work.
Another thing that works for me is list-making. For some reason, putting things into list form feels much less daunting, as there are no formatting and style rules associated with writing a list. Once I write down the general points, I sort of outline or mind map details and further questions on the list, and soon I have a lot to work with and several directions set out for me.
I feel so pleased that you expressed feeling the freedom to allow yourself to try something alternative. For those of us who struggle to do things the typical way, the last thing we need is to be shackled by our internal voices telling us that there is only one right way to go about our lives.
March 16, 2020 at 11:03 am #145175
Also, to your other question, it could be the case that your meds are not adjusted to your body’s needs. It sounds like a good idea for you to see your psych for an evaluation of your prescription. It took about a year and a half titration period for me to get to a good place with my meds, and they are still not perfect, though I am going to stick with where I am for awhile.
March 16, 2020 at 11:07 am #145176
Definitely in the same boat! I’ve been chalking it up to mom brain but I just can’t start or complete anything related to my dissertation. I’m passionate about the topic but have developed so many negative cognitions and avoidance behaviors that now I’m completely overwhelmed and don’t know how to restart. Plus I’m always second guessing myself and worry about wasting time that I get so spun up and anxious. Vicious cycle of ADHD!
March 16, 2020 at 11:08 am #145177
Wow! SO helpful! I know i have a book in me but have not been able to get started at all. I’m going to try all these suggestions. With a lot of us having a lot more time isolated while dealing with this virus, this will be a perfect time to get out and walk and work on “writing”. Thank you and God bless! Stay safe
March 16, 2020 at 11:23 am #145180
And, if you feel awkward about talking out loud in public, use a hand-held recording device (rather than earbuds with a microphone, for example) so it’s clear you are recording and throw on a pair of dark sunglasses, too! Hey, we need to be okay with dealing with things one step at a time; It isn’t necessary to tackle the wraith of self-consciousness while you are wrestling with the demon of writer’s block!
March 16, 2020 at 11:38 am #145181
This was an extreme problem for me. I started a Shakespeare paper at three in the morning and the class was at eight. I found that going on walks helped clear the war in my head. Also music on headphones was instrumental. I would play one album over and over and it helped me get some focus. My desk setup at home was such that I was visually blocked from external distractions. If you are new to writing papers then it gets better when you have a few under your belt.
March 16, 2020 at 12:10 pm #145184
This is me, but with math. I’m finishing up two advanced math classes to graduate, and my mind has been blank all semester. I’m really struggling with this, and the only study tips I get revolve around writing, not math. I’ve been an A/B student up until now, and I really want to finish this and get my degree.
March 16, 2020 at 1:23 pm #145198
zenzi, have you tried getting together with other math students to study together or go through problem sets together? If that it’s not an option, how about finding an empty classroom where you can study and standing in front of the white/chalk board and working out problems on the board? If you can’t use a classroom or lecture hall, you could buy a large white board for your room and achieve the same physical setup. Then you could either copy the problems onto paper by hand or take photos and paste the images into a doc and print them or email them to your professor. This way, you can use the energy of your physical body in standing and writing large figures with a marker, you can talk the problems out loud and mistakes can be easily erased.
March 16, 2020 at 4:55 pm #145226
Thanks for responding,janet. I should’ve also mentioned that I attend a state university campus that is known for offering classes to working adults, with several options of study. Some of the attendees are taking short classes paid for by their employee, and others are finishing (and sometimes starting) a 2- or 4-year degree. Currently, I am the only student finishing a math degree (I’ll be 52 in a couple weeks, btw), and as a result, I’ve had to take the vast majority of my classes as independent studies – I get a syllabus, I buy the textbook, and I submit exams to my advisor. No classroom study, no fellow classmates.
I was doing relatively well until I got to Calculus III. Meds stopped working, emergency situations happened, and I’m working a full-time job. I basically procrastinated (against my will) and crammed at the end of the semester. Since then I’m slowly getting my brain together. I’m taking Differential Equations and, though I don’t see anything I haven’t yet learned, I can’t seem to remember any of it, if that makes sense. I find myself constantly going back and reviewing, and that just leads to an endless loop of not doing what I should be doing. I’m stuck on the same pages in the same chapter, and the semester goes on, regardless.
March 16, 2020 at 6:17 pm #145241
zenzi, do you work well to music? If so, are you familiar with bilateral (biolateral, binaural) sound stimulation? It is meant to be heard through headphones so that each ear has its own speaker. The sounds engage the two hemisphere of the brain back and forth. It is said to relax the mind, improve focus and positively influence the mind’s perspective. However, it can be triggering for certain kinds of emotional issues, so it is best to check with a mental health professional whether this would be beneficial for you. Anyway, when I remember to I will listen to this therapeutic music when working on a task requiring a lot of concentration (such as doing taxes).
March 16, 2020 at 9:12 pm #145261
I listen to music all the time, and I don’t have any triggers I need to worry abiut, I’ll look into this, thank you very much. I think I’ve heard of binaural stimulation, but (as usual), the treatment was aimed at parents who have children with ADHD.
Again, thank you!
March 16, 2020 at 10:56 pm #145263
For school assignments like this, I like to print out the instructions and underline each individual part. I ask myself what the purpose of this paper is, what they are trying to get me to do and/or think about (which they usually very clearly state; sometimes it just takes slowing down and breaking it down to get a grasp on it). Then that usually gets the juices flowing enough to write something, even an outline or just ideas of what to talk about. If not, I will write down each individual part of the instructions, with each one followed by my thoughts, ideas, questions to ask or look up, etc.
I also have read the wonderful book A Mind for Numbers a few times, which is about how to learn math and science. But it also goes into procrastination and how to defeat it (which I personally think of this kind of mental block as a form of procrastination). One of the things that stuck with me and that I remind myself of, is that it’s normal to feel uncomfortable when you first sit down to work. Our brains actually perceive this mental anxiety over the task as physical pain, but studies have shown that the task itself is never as painful once you get started.
I hope these tips/things to think about are helpful!
March 16, 2020 at 11:52 pm #145265
Thanks, I read that book ages ago, so I’ll definitely have to re-read it. And yes, it’s procrastination, for something I want to do (I love math, but my brain is full), which feels worse.
March 17, 2020 at 3:48 pm #145323
I am so glad to see I am not alone with this issue! I finally found a doctor that agreed I had ADHD about 2.5 years ago. But the medicines have yet to prove effective enough for me :-/ I am 39 now but I started back to school about 2 years ago to finish my degree. At first, I had no problems with writing papers or getting work done. I am guessing because I was motivated by the thought of advancing in my career because of working on my education. Unfortunately, it didn’t help the way I expected but I refuse to give up. But writing papers has become increasingly challenging and I can literally spend hours sitting in front of my laptop without or writing very little. It amazes me that my frustration came to a head last night and today I got the e-mail with this topic! Thank you, everyone, for your advice…it really helped me feel better about myself.
March 17, 2020 at 4:29 pm #145335
I would like to share my journey. When I was very young I realized I could work better if I did several things at the same time, I.e., has two books open, music, tv plus homework and it has to be after 9 pm. My parents just thought I was naturally weird. In HS it was the same but an idiotic teacher told my mom that I’d they took away all the “entertainment” my grades would be A+. I was an A student. So they did, I could not work and my grades dropped to B-. It was a time when there weren’t many studies on ADHD. So parents just decided to let me work my own way, all the way to university and work. I can’t do good work during day time and I don’t know why. I get up at 5.30 am and I have added gardening and butterfly conservation to my “work”…. I have never taken medicines and am now in my sixties, I work full time. What can I do to get better?
March 17, 2020 at 6:05 pm #145364
I’ve had horrible trouble with this issue and am glad to see that others seem to have found ways to grapple with it– heartening. For me, I have to change up what techniques I employ, depending on how blocked I feel (most often it is an anxiety issue causing the blockage). If it’s not too bad, I’ll listen to music that I know well and make lists of steps/thoughts. If the blockage is really bad, I need to have white noise instead of music (I like pink and brown together from YouTube). I find the binaural beats unsettling. The lists also change if I’m really anxious. When I’m facing a normal amount of stress, I just follow a detailed list and try to work through it, but if I’m REALLY freaked out (or if it’s not linear like writing a paper often is), the larger list itself becomes distracting– my brain bounces around from item to item, increasing the feeling of being overwhelmed. When that happens, I set aside the list and take a very small notebook and rewrite either next (tiny) steps or top five items/priorities/thoughts/tidbits. Sometimes this takes two or three tries and I run through a bunch of these small pages– maybe with one thought on each page even (like index cards would be). Normally this is enough to get me started. The physical paper is essential for me, because my laptop is its own distraction. It is NOT efficient (and maybe sounds a little wacko), but for me the combination of sound and using paper often works.
Good luck and let us know how it goes!
March 20, 2020 at 12:19 am #162517
Thank you all so much for sharing…really great to know i’m not alone. I have to write a lot
3 things help me:
1. I have microsoft word on my phone. I open a blank document, I can speak into the phone and it writes it as text….so cool!!
as soon as I save it, it shows up right on my computer also, so i can go in and work with it on the big keyboard
2. I’ve been super slow and foggy for months, but this coronavirus will send me under financially if i don’t act super fast with my work, so that’s a big motivator…..and all of a sudden, I’m sharp and focused
3. this is quite big….right at the end of the ADHD book, “Scattered”, it says how when attend to ourselves, and to others, so when we have great relationships and no ADHD
sooooo…I try to have really good relationships with good friends and also with myself. not easy always, but I think it’s the key. I was in a lousy intimate relationship and had perma-brainfog. just the damn fear all the time, terrorises the brain.
I also think acres of endless time/ self neglect and abandonment shuts it down too. so i try to really balance it and self love
good luck everyone, and thank you for your shares too
March 21, 2020 at 2:13 am #163838
I’m an ADD stay at home mum with an ADHD kid and 2 others. I’m well aware of the brain fog. Here’s what works for me and I hope it works for you.
1 – Diet, sorry but it really impacts for me – Fatty foods give me brain fog, sugary foods make me emotional. Fruit, veg and lean meats really help my brain (though I’m not that great at sticking to this!)
2 – Exercise – this is new for me but really works, 15min work outs, I was suffering bad brain fog in the morning and was just sitting in front on the TV for 2 hours every morning unable to get started on my day. But these 15min work out, just jumping around to happy music has changed all that, it just seems to kick start my brain. No more morning TV sessions and so much more work getting done.
3 – Singing – So I used to work in an office as an accounts clerk, very busy job lot of focus. Also I wasn’t diagnosed till I was 14. As a kid I started singing as a way of copping. When working and was overwhelmed or had brain fog I would start singing quietly to myself, did you know that singing actually relax’s the body? Make sure it’s a happy song to keep your mood up. I know it might sound odd but for me this is my ultiment copping mechanism.
One other thing, make a list wait keep reading! Have a note pad at the ready and just through out the day if a line or an idea even a word comes to you write it down. Then when you are ready to sit down and start doing the work you have a list of things to help you, to jog your memory to inspire you.
I hope this helps.
March 21, 2020 at 2:44 am #163849
Just reading over the comments again and noticed a lot of people talking about anxiety. I’m 37 now but in my 20 my anxiety was crippling I was having anxiety attacks regularly. A doctor explained to me that vitamin B is what your body burns when coping with stress and anxiety and when it gets low then the anxiety attacks start. So I now take Vitamin B to deal with my anxiety and it works so well, I take it when ever I feel anxiety starting to edge in to my mind, a tablet in the morning for a week will settle me right down. Few things to remember, take it in the morning vitamin B also gives you energy turning food into energy, it will turn your pee bright yellow, take to much and you will become so mellowed out you won’t care about anything, I don’t recommend taking it with your medication give it 1/2 hour to an hour or you’ll get a strong energy buzz this is because your meds and Vitamin B are both stimulants. You also won’t always need to take it, monitor yourself take it for a few days when needed then go off it till you need it again. Also it helps with sleep, if you find yourself restless and hot at night even though you’re tired your Vitamin B in low.
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