Are you someone who regularly misplaces things, like car keys or your wallet? Do you often experience accidents, leading to frustration and irritability? Some of my clients report these kinds of issues to me, with their immediate follow-up self appraisal suggesting that it was their ADHD and/or anxiety why they so regularly experience these problems. The assumption they make is that they are tethered to forgetting things and unwanted accidents because of their genetics — but is this really the case? Or is there another, more likely variable at play?
The role of stress on human errors
Human stress is your body’s reaction to a challenge or demand, and is defined as a feeling of emotional or physical tension that can come from any event or thought that makes you feel frustrated, angry, or nervous. Stress coping is how we deal with stress — successful stress coping leads to healthy outcomes, while unsuccessful stress coping leads to frustration, poor focus, impatience, and aggression. Coping with stress in healthy ways is not something that is automatic, or even easy to do. For many people poor stress coping leaves them constantly feeling behind, inefficient, and scrambling to play catch-up…precisely the factors most closely associated with things like forgetting things, or experiencing accidents.
Since our minds cannot sustain focus on two or more different things at the same exact time, something has to win when it comes to directing our focus and thinking. Using a real example, if you are consumed by your thinking about an unpaid bill you leave yourself vulnerable to forgetting where you left your car keys, or experiencing an accident that you would have otherwise avoided. Improving stress coping will not allow you to avoid all episodes of forgetfulness and accidents, but you will certainly experience far fewer with more effective stress management.
Before going down the road of asking your doctor for a prescription drug to help with lapses in focus, try instead learning healthy and effective ways to manage your stress. The better able you are to appraise and respond to stress, the more able you will be to steer clear of would-be accidents, and lapses in concentration that result in constantly trying to find things you lost.