10 Ways To Recover Your Focus
Burnout is a dangerous condition that can lead to depression, exhaustion and epidemics of sleeping until noon and stuffing one’s face with junk food. Symptoms of burnout include feeling stressed and unable to focus on anything; you may feel like your brain is incapable of producing ideas and that your workload is too much to handle. There are ways to cope with this lack of focus, though, so before you succumb to an entire bag of potato chips, try these tips to restore your mental energy.
1. Find The Source Of The Problem
Stress is a problem, but it’s not a root cause; feeling overworked, unfocused and burned out are just symptoms of a larger problem. There can be many different reasons for feeling stressed, from a too-heavy workload to bad hours to an unpleasant boss. Identifying the main source of your inability to focus is a small but important first step toward correcting the problem.
2. Take A Vacation
Vacations actually do reduce your stress levels, according to a recent study. In fact, taking some time off can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease, not to mention all the psychological benefits it offers, such as spending time with family, relaxing, exposing your pasty indoor skin to the sun and actually having fun instead of working yourself to death.
3. Take A Break
Maybe a vacation isn’t feasible, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a day or two off and allow yourself the luxury of a three-day weekend (or, if you’re feeling daring, maybe even a four-day weekend). Scientific American decrees that you need more downtime, so take it; giving your brain some time off allows it to replenish its creativity, attention and motivation, while forcing yourself to try to focus will only further frazzle you.
4. Delegate Responsibility
“You can only work so many hours in a day,” says Mind Tools, and “there are only so many tasks you can complete in these hours… you can’t do everything that everyone wants, and this can leave you stressed, unhappy, and feeling that you’re letting people down.” If there are other people around who can do the same things you can, let them, and then let your brain refocus on one task at a time rather than trying on everything in the world.
5. Exercise More
Exercise is probably the last thing you think you have the time or energy or desire for if you’re struggling to get your brain back on track. However, if you’re stewing in the misty swamp of brain fog, says Harvard Med School, regular exercise is the best thing for you. It “stimulates brain regions that are involved in memory function to release a chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF rewires memory circuits so they work better,” according to Harvard Men’s Health Watch.
“When you exercise and move around, you are using more brain cells,” says Dr. John Ratey, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. More active brain cells means more BDNF, which means better concentration and more brainpower.
6. Sleep More
When we work instead of resting, “our productivity goes down and being ‘on’ all the time begins to take a toll on our health,” according to Psychology Today. It won’t solve all your problems, but consistently getting a good night’s sleep is a great way to relieve stress and reboot your brain.
7. Assess Your Goals
“Don’t fill your life with activities, projects, meetings and groups you don’t enjoy,” says Main Line Health. “The tasks people enjoy or are good at normally are the activities that energize them. The tasks they find distasteful or boring drain them of energy and create stress.” Taking stock of your goals — both personal and professional — will help you focus on the ones that are most important to you.
8. Banish Negative Thinking
Although too much optimism can lead to inaction, thinking positively still has a beneficial effect on mental health. Positive thinking may increase people’s ability to cope during times of stress, according to the Mayo Clinic; putting a positive spin on difficult situations might make people better able to handle stress in a productive way, so the next time your first reaction to stress is to declare that you hate the world and everything sucks, try thinking about it from a different perspective — you might find that the situation isn’t as tough as you thought.
9. Decide What’s Really Important
Is it more important to you that you’re done working at exactly 5 p.m. every day and get to spend lots of time with friends and family, or is it more important that you attain your career goals no matter what? Figure out your priorities in every area; if they don’t gel with what’s happening in your life right now, make as many adjustments as you can so your life better meshes with your values.
10. Say No
Taking on a bunch of new responsibilities or extra tasks might seem like a great way to jumpstart your creativity and energy, especially in your more dazed, caffeinated moments, but this tactic will most likely backfire. The stress of added work and the pressure of more responsibility often speed up the effects of burnout, and giving yourself more things to do will only spread your attention span thinner. Maintain realistic goals regarding what you can and can’t do; it’ll ease the pressure and allow your mind to refocus on the essentials.