Is It Executive Stress or Adult ADHD?
Alleviate The Problem Now!
By Dr. Ronald L. Knaus
You finally have it: the corner office, your own parking space, an expense account, and a personal assistant. You’ve made it! Unfortunately, for many executives, what should be a time for celebration quickly turns into a time of frustration. Why? Because while they prepared themselves for climbing the corporate ladder, they didn’t prepare themselves for the stress that goes with it. As a result, many business executives now display the signs and symptoms of not just stress, but of adult attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
While the American Psychiatric Association states that ADHD must be diagnosed in people by age six or seven, and many of today’s stressed-out executives have no history of ADHD, they are still displaying the classic symptoms of the condition: lack of concentration, the inability to pay attention, procrastinating on projects, feeling anxious and fidgety, and simply not functioning well at work or at home. Perhaps these executives have always had the underlying symptoms, but the stress they’re now under brings it out full force.
The fact is that many of today’s professionals feel as if they’re being pulled from all directions. They’re working fifty to sixty hours per week, don’t have the adequate personnel to help them, and because of technology, feel that they’re always connected to work and never able to have real down time. To make matters worse, their spouse may be under similar pressures, making their home life just as stressful as their work life.
To find out if stress is affecting you negatively, answer the following ten questions. While these questions are not all-encompassing for diagnosing stress or adult ADHD, they can give you an indication of whether it’s time to seek out more thorough help.
1. Am I feeling anxiety about the things I need to do in my work?
2. Do I make decisions or take actions more impulsively that I used to?
3. Do I find myself arguing over unimportant issues?
4. Do I find myself worrying about the littlest things, or letting worry get in the way of my taking action?
5. Am I having trouble getting projects done on time, or at all?
6. Does my memory seem to be going? Do I forget things more often?
7. Do I have trouble sleeping at night?
8. Am I continually exhausted?
9. Have I changed my eating habits lately (not deliberately for a particular diet)?
10. Am I drinking alcohol or using other substances more often than I used to?
If you answered “yes” to three or more questions, then stress, or even adult ADHD, may be playing a big part in your life.
The Four-Step Solution
In order to alleviate the stress in your life, you need to take action now.
If your stress is severe, then extreme action may be needed. This could include not accepting a promotion at work, asking to switch to a lower level position, or even leaving the company entirely. However, depending on your circumstances, such measures may not be possible. In those cases, prescription medications may be able to help alleviate the symptoms of stress and adult ADHD.
For most people, though, the stress or symptoms are moderate. In that case, the following stress reducing action steps are more reasonable and provide great relief.
1. Identify one major area of stress in your life.
The biggest reason attempts to reduce stress fail is because executives try to take on everything at once. Most executives are “big” thinkers; they focus on the big picture. However, if you try to take on several stresses at one time, you will experience even more stress. Therefore, decide what one area you want to take on first and then create the necessary action steps to reduce that stress. For example, you may decide that your stressor to alleviate right now is the fact that you don’t have enough time to get everything done.
2. Understand what this one area of stress means to your state of well being.
If you don’t truly understand how this area of stress is affecting you and those around you, then you will never find the commitment to do something about it. Executives always have new challenges and new tasks to tackle. So it’s very easy to give up. After all, there’s so much other “stuff” to always do. When you truly understand and believe that what you’re doing will significantly help you, you’ll stick with it. For example, you may decide that as a result of not having enough time to get everything done, you feel a lack of energy. And by committing to remove this stress from your life, you’ll reclaim the energy you once had and be able to enjoy yourself and your family more.
3. Create an action plan to fix what is affecting your stress.
Once you identify what to fix and why you need to fix it, you can analyze your day and create an action plan. Sometimes the action steps are obvious, such as delegating work to others; other times the steps require a bit of creative thinking, such as restructuring your workday so you arrive by 7 a.m. to get more done in the early hours before the office opens and then leaving work by 3 p.m. The key here is to really think about the situation and allow yourself to come up with creative solutions.
4. Take action without excuses.
Time is what you make of it, and this is your life and your time. So once you have the action plan and decide to put it into place, just do it. Be prepared to make adjustments as you go, and carry out your plan. By going one step at a time, you’ll make significant
progress eliminating that stressor from your life.
Reclaim Your Future Today
This four-step approach is just one aspect of overall stress reduction. Combine this with various other physical and emotional factors, such as getting the proper amount of rest and good nutritional habits, exercising regularly, and focusing on healthy and supportive relationships, and you’ll soon see any symptoms of stress and/or adult ADHD disappear. You’ll find pleasure in life again, and your professional responsibilities won’t seem to be quite as daunting. Additionally, when your work life is more pleasurable, your home life will be too.
So while no one will ever completely rid their life of stress, you can manage your stress so it doesn’t negatively impact you. And when you do, those moments in life that should be time for celebration will actually feel that way, enabling you to finally produce and enjoy the positive results you always knew were possible. ##
About the Author
Dr. Ronald L. Knaus, D.O., F.A.C.N., F.A.O.A.S.M., is a physician, psychiatrist, and sports medicine physician who works within the medical profession and corporate world, to help individuals and executive teams reach peak performance levels. His work in the area of Executive Attention Deficit Disorder and the KEA (Knaus Executive ADHD) test is on the leading edge of the profession’s understanding of the net effect of downsizing on American business. His clients include celebrities, professional athletes, and business executives. He has received board certifications from the American Osteopathic Board of Psychiatry and Neurology and the American Osteopathic Academy of Sports Medicine. For more information please contact Dr. Knaus at or 727-215-8104.