Living in crisis mode takes a toll on everyone. The Mayo Clinic cites the many physical effects that chronic stress can have, but cognitive effects can be just as debilitating. Depression and anxiety are common. However, with the uncertainty of when and if things will return to normal, one effect that I’ve noticed more often is just an inability to focus or concentrate on anything long-term, whether it is a work-related project or plans to visit my kids. If this is you, too, here are five ways I am trying to help regain focus during these trying times:
Step away from the internet. While spending more time at home may mean more time online, one way to fight concentration impairment is to be offline for as much of the day as possible. “Surfing” by definition implies short, superficial and mindless browsing, which only encourages a lack of concentration. Instead, set certain times and purposes for online browsing, and once completed, move on to something else. And when you are online, try positive sites such as Upworthy or ViralNova to pique your interest and renew your faith and hope!
Take active breaks. Instead of surfing the internet when taking a break from work or chores (see above), why not do twenty minutes of yoga? Or take a walk? Stretch? Physical activity is a great way to clear the mind and refocus your energy — and you’ll be healthier for the effort!
Get creative. Take advantage of more time at home to make something. Learn to knit, quilt, draw or paint. Take up jewelry-making, stained glass, or papercrafts. Anytime you immerse yourself in the creative process, your focus and concentration improves — plus you get the satisfaction of making something new!
Go outside. Can you sit outside to work? Lucky you! The sun and breeze and change of scenery is bound to help you concentrate. Even if you can’t, getting outside for a portion of the day will help you clear your head and regain focus. Breathe the fresh air, admire the summer blooms, feel the grass beneath your feet. Walk in the woods, work in your garden, pull some weeds. Nature can be a great ‘reset’ button.
Organize your stuff. Lack of focus often manifests itself as cluttered closets, overflowing drawers and piles of who-knows-what stacked on a desk. If you have trouble concentrating, start to clear the clutter that fogs your thinking and makes a mess of your home. Pick one small space — a drawer, linen closet, or bathroom cabinet — and spread the contents on a table. As you put things back, eliminate items that can be tossed or donated and rearrange what you keep to make the space more inviting and useful. Warning — this practice can be addictive and very satisfying!
Most of us can handle a crisis. We leap into action and with laser-like focus make decisions and move to make life normal again. These times require different strategies, though, because the crisis is out of our immediate control. But by actively taking steps to regain our focus, we will not just survive the following months, we’ll thrive!