One common problem that many people with chronic illnesses have is staying focused. This can be caused by a myriad of reasons. The illness itself can affect cognitive processing or cause “brain fog.” Inability to focus can also be caused by medications as a side effect. Whatever the case, there are ways to combat it and regain your focus.
Here are 7 easy tricks to help you focus:
- Get up and change your scenery. The shift in energy can do wonders for your mind. It could be as simple as walking to the bathroom, going and getting a snack, or taking a quick walk around the office.
- Use the power of a timer. Set a timer for 15 minutes. Work, remaining completely focused on the designated task until the timer goes off. Then get up and move around a bit. If you find even 15 minutes is too long, shorten the time. Try doing 10 minutes fully focused. If you’re able to do longer periods of time, many people swear by the Pomodoro method – 25 minutes of focused work followed by a 5-minute break. After four “sets” of the 25 minutes on/5 minutes off, take a longer break of about 15-25 minutes and then resume.
- Stand up and do calf raises. Calf raises contract your calf muscles, which in turn squeeze the blood vessels in the calves, improving blood flow throughout your body. (Simply raise your heels off the ground to do a calf raise.) This raises your heart rate and blood pressure, and is sometimes all you need to get some fresh blood flowing to your brain.
- Drink a full glass of water. Dehydration can sap your ability to focus rapidly. Your brain cells need an abundance of water in order to function fully. Experts recommend drinking half of your body weight in ounces to prevent dehydration.
- Have a healthy snack. Low blood sugar is another culprit that can rob you of the ability to think clearly. A snack with a mixture of carbs, protein and fat is your best choice. Think peanut butter on apple slices, almond butter on a graham cracker, trail mix with nuts, seeds and dried fruit.
- Use aromatherapy. Essential oils, specifically peppermint, rosemary and clary sage, can bring about an improvement in mental clarity. Add some lemon or lemongrass for an increase in energy. Essential oils can simply be put in a pot with water on the stove and allowed to simmer, or used in a diffuser. Alternately, if you’re in a public office setting, place some in a roller bottle and roll the oil mixture on your temples and under your nose when you need a boost.
- Start practicing meditation. Meditation has been scientifically proven to improve your ability to focus and to reduce stress. Twenty minutes a day of meditation is the optimum amount for the most benefit; however, if you’re new to meditation, start with just 5-10 minutes at a time. There are many resources online and books that teach you how to meditate. You can also see if there are classes in your area.
The above tips should help tremendously with your ability to focus. I would suggest that you pick one and try it for continued success. After you’ve adopted one of the new habits, try a second one. If you find that the ability to focus interferes in your daily life more and more, be sure to talk to your doctor about it.