It’s getting harder to focus and if you have ADHD/ADD you’re at even more of a disadvantage. Social media screams for your attention, WhatsApp and texts want you too, and even when you’re at home there is a constant demand for you to focus on many different things. Television advertisements, unsolicited calls, shopping online and many other distractions compete for our mental energy.
Staying focused is becoming harder. Research confirms that young children find it harder to focus on one thing, become bored more easily and don’t know how to manage their time when they are left to their own devices. On one hand, perhaps it’s a good thing because our brains are more active but in different ways. Different neural pathways are linking and igniting and who knows where that will lead in evolutionary terms? On the other hand, we are all a lot more stressed out these days.
Life is faster and we have to multitask and manage large amounts of information simultaneously. This is why many Cognitive behavioural therapists encourage clients to be mindful. This means being more aware of your own thoughts and where your energy is going. It also means that we need to practise slowing our minds down, try to do less concurrently rather than consecutively and focus on the present moment.
A worrying trend is emerging – people are living in their minds rather than focusing on their environments. Have you ever noticed how some days you seem so stressed out and bothered? When this happens, you are spending too much time in your head.
A simple way to calm your nerves and ‘reset’ is to ‘get out of your head’, and focus on what’s around you. What/who can you see? What can you hear, smell touch and taste? Spend time every day exiting your busy mind and focusing on the reality around you. It provides a real break for your brain. Keep repeating this – practise makes perfect and habituates your brain to taking mental time-outs.
Box breathing and PMR
Get our body out of threat mode – flight, fight, freeze, faun response. You can’t focus when you are anxious. A lower part of your brain takes over and no planning or executive decision-making is possible.
Learn to self-soothe
Get enough sleep
Gut related to the brain
Practise doing one thing at a time
This really goes against the grain these days. I find it hard to sit still and watch a movie. I want to be on my phone or do some dusting at the same time. It’s ridiculous. I am pretty sure that I have attention deficit disorder and my mind races with many ideas and thoughts descending at once. This is where box-breathing helps me slow down.
Making more effort to listen (what can I hear – see mindfulness)
Get out of your head. Focus externally. Think about it – what you choose to focus on makes up the entirety of your conscious life. If you focus on things that frighten you, you will probably lead a scary life. if you focus on what inspires you, you will probably be a happier person. We stay stuck on the negatives because this is the way our brains are wired. You can choose to be aware of this and remind yourself that your brain catastrophizes and makes up stuff daily in an effort to keep you safe.
Worry is useless and will only freak you out. Problem-solving and accepting that life is uncertain in many ways is the better approach. There is so much in life that we cannot influence or change and acceptance will go a long way to easing anxiety.
Use positive coping statements