How to Improve Concentration With Anxiety
Improving concentration is about trying to figure out what’s causing the distractions (besides anxiety) and refocusing your mind on what you’re doing. Depending on the severity of your anxiety it can be a bit difficult, since anxiety itself is what’s causing these concentration issues in the first place, but you should try the following:
Sensory Stimulation – Interestingly, adding slight distractions may help some people reduce their distractions. This strategy doesn’t work for everyone, but what many people need is something that drowns out their thoughts, like putting on the TV or a podcast or radio. The sensory stimulation that these provide make it harder to over-focus on anxiety thoughts, which in turn helps to improve your ability to focus on what you need to. However, you’ll need to make sure that you’re not distracted by that technology. I recommend facing away from the TV and putting the volume low enough that you can’t actually hear every word, but you can hear just enough that it distracts you from your negative thoughts.
Writing Out the Thoughts You Do Have – Another strategy that can be very effective is to write out recurring thoughts that are distracting your focus. Many people find that they have a lot of things on their mind, and that they cannot seem to stop thinking about those thoughts no matter how hard they try. It may be that your mind is trying to remember the thought(s). If you write them out, your mind will know that your thoughts are in a safe place, and so it won’t focus as much on trying to remember them.
Prevent Distractions – There is a difference between trying to avoid distractions and making it impossible to be distracted. For example, let’s say you’re a writer and you have a distracted focus that causes you to constantly browse the web. Rather than simply try hard to browse the web, do your best to make web browsing impossible by turning off your Internet or installing software that prevents web browsing. You can do this with other areas of your life that are causing distractions, like taking the batteries out of your remote control. Since many people find that they’re using these tools to cope with their anxiety, preventing access to them can keep you on the task at hand.
Timers – Another interesting tool is to give yourself a timer that you use for your “distraction time” and your “work” or focus time. People that work under a set timeframe have an easier time focusing, even if their mind is actively thinking about other things. If you have a timer, set it to something like 1 hour, and then work as hard as you can in that hour. Once the hour is over, give yourself 15 minutes to be distracted, then set the timer again for 1 hour of non-stop work.
Create Sub Tasks – Figure out what it is you need to do specifically, and then create numerous smaller tasks in list form that you check off one by one. This way even if you get distracted, you know exactly what you’re focusing on at any given time, and you can work until you finish it and them motivate yourself to the next task.
Breathe Better – Some people find that they have the most difficulty concentrating during an anxiety attack. This type of concentration issue is very different from the others, because it tends to last for less time but also makes it nearly impossible to pay attention to what’s around you. This type of concentration problem is often due to hyperventilation. During anxiety attacks, you tend to breathe in a way that causes less blood flow to reach your brain, causing you to lose some of your concentration ability. It’s not dangerous, but it needs to be fixed. Breathe better by slowing down your breathing dramatically and fighting the urge to gasp for more air. Make sure you take at least 5 seconds to breathe in, hold for two seconds, and take at least 7 seconds to breathe out.