There are many reasons you could be struggling to concentrate on your tasks right now, and a switched-up work from home schedule and general stress about the state of the world are definitely at the top of the list. Mumbai-based psychologist Tanya Vasunia says that many clients have reached out to her to seek advice on calming a wandering mind, particularly during this time. “When faced with anxiety, we have a tendency to avoid things, and it’s not uncommon to get distracted and lose the drive,” states Vasunia. The first step to concentrate or pay attention is to be present, and have realistic expectations. “Typically speaking, young adults or children have an ability to concentrate for 30 minutes or so, after which it waives off. This can be developed on, and you can concentrate for 40-45 minutes. But after that you need to take a break.”
If your focus is wavering even in these shorter time frames, some lifestyles changes can help get you back to focus. We asked Vasunia, and ICF certified life and business coach, Sanjeet Ray, to tell us the tricks of their trade.
1) Add mindful stretching to your routine
According to Vasunia, mindful stretching every 30-40 minutes is a great way making sure that your break is an effective one. You can do a hamstring or a tricep stretch and hold it. “The idea is let your mind change its orientation. You are moving from executive and cognitive functioning to more of the sensory functioning. Using different parts of the brain help strengthen the neural network and that helps overall in concentration and focus.”
2) Allow time for distractions
If you seem to be losing focus and your mind seems to be wandering off, Ray shares a practice that always works, “Drop what you are doing and let your mind wander off for 10 minutes. Do it on a stop watch. Allow yourself to do, feel and think whatever you want. And when the timer/alarm goes off, get yourself ready to focus and start work. Sometimes the fight to get your attention back is what takes it away the most. So, allow yourself what you need and then come back much more focused,” he states.
3) Keep your to-do lists short
People that make extensive to-do lists are likely to get stressed out about the sheer volume of things. “Just have three things in your to-do list. So, when you get a feeling that you can’t focus, just pick one or two things off that list and complete them. And then from there, you will find yourself being more productive, and be in a position to tackle many things all at once,” says Vasunia. Too many options can leave you confused or nervous, so narrowing it down can help induce focus.
4) Pay attention to your breath
Ray recommends breathwork to centre yourself. “Hold your palms on your ears and breathe out while making a loud humming sound so you can feel the vibrations. Then move your palms two inches away from the ears and breathe in,” he says and suggests repeating it thrice. This helps to get the body-mind aligned and also blurs the sounds or thoughts running on your mind.
5) Try free-flow writing
When you feel out of bounds regarding a specific activity, writing all your thoughts about it can help. “Once you are done, take some time to read and process the same. This will be like a venting process which will make you feel lighter and you could come back with a lot more focus,” Ray shares.
6) Stay away from sugar
“Artificial sugar and high saturated fats are best avoided. They give you a sugar high and a subsequent sugar crash. During the sugar high you are hyper, you are not focusing; you are just wired. And when you crash, you can’t focus, because you are exhausted from being on that high. Your body’s energy levels drop and you end up feeling more lethargic than usual,” states Vasunia.
7) Drink some water!
The brain requires water to carry out every conscious function, including short-term and long-term memory retention and focus. Not drinking enough water can actually affect the brain’s ability to pass along neurotransmitters and hormones through the body, which can have bad effects on the brain’s general wellbeing.
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