How do you focus when you’re feeling stressed? The truth is -- you don’t. We all know what anxiety is like: Your mind can’t stick to any single topic for more than a couple of seconds. You toss, and you turn, shifting restlessly, as if settling your body might settle your racing thoughts.
Stress short-circuits the mind in all sorts of ways. In this article, we’ll cover why we tend to lose focus when we’re stressed and all the best ways to find concentration during, especially stressful days. So grab your cup of java and get comfortable -- let’s dive in!
Why We Lose Focus When Stressed
When you experience stress -- whether the cause is a bear chasing you through the woods or a snarky comment made by a colleague -- a chain reaction happens in your brain. Experts lay this out in detail, but what’s really important is understanding how an emotion can trigger a fight-or-flight response.
You see, the changes start in the amygdala, a brain area that is responsible for processing emotions. This part of the brain then contacts your hypothalamus, which essentially acts as the brain’s command center.
From there, your hypothalamus spreads stress signals throughout the nervous system. Your nervous system then readies the body for fight or flight -- pupils dilate to improve eyesight, digestion slows, heart rate and pulse increase, the mind races, constantly on the watch for threats.
In a survival situation, those changes keep us alive. But when in our day-to-day lives, they can do quite a bit of harm.
Chronic Stress: A Global Concern
Okay, so if stress is a perfectly normal response, why should you try to reduce it? Because stress becomes problematic when it becomes chronic or long-term -- that’s why.
Chronic stress can harm you in many ways, such as:
It can damage your DNA. Research suggests chronic stress leads to shorter telomeres (the protective casings at the end of chromosomes) which can lead to early cell aging - yikes. So before you invest in the super pricey fine-wrinkle cream, take a closer look at your stress levels!
It can lead to burnout. Left unchecked, chronic stress at the office can become full-blown burnout. In fact, the issue is so ubiquitous that in 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) updated its definition of burnout in its handbook of diseases, calling it a “syndrome” brought on by “chronic workplace stress that hasn’t been successfully managed.”
Okay, so how do you know if you’ve got it? According to WHO, burnout is characterized by “feelings of exhaustion or energy depletion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of cynicism or negativism related to one’s job, and reduced professional efficacy.”
It can harm your noggin. One recent study found that high levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) are associated with lower brain volume and poorer memory -- especially in women.
It can lead to or exacerbate mental illness. Believe it or not, chronic stress can lead to depression and increase your risk of developing an anxiety disorder. It can also worsen existing mental symptoms.
How To Kick Stress To The Curb For Better Concentration
By now, we hope you understand how terrible chronic stress can be for your health. It can lead you down a damaging path if you don’t find ways to de-stress. And what’s more, is since stress triggers the flight or fight response, it can make it extremely difficult to concentrate.
Thankfully, we’ve got some great tips and tricks to help you find concentration during, especially stressful, days.
Meditation can be thought of as the opposite of multitasking -- it forces your stressed-out mind to deeply explore the present moment. In other words, it forces your mind to stick to the task immediately in front of you.
Meditation has been practiced for years to reduce stress and improve concentration. It’s free, you can do it literally anywhere, and it has almost no learning curve.
To meditate: Sit or lie down in a comfy spot. Experienced meditators can meditate just about anywhere, but for the rest of us, trying to get our om on in a public place like a subway station or airport can be a little overwhelming, to say the least. Find a comfortable chair or bed and minimize distractions for you. Focus on your breath. Don’t try to control it. Listen intently. And keep breathing.
You might notice that your mind keeps wandering and think you’ve failed. Just the opposite in fact. Each time your mind wanders is an opportunity to practice bringing your attention back to your breathing. You can think of it like doing reps at the gym for a specific muscle group, except this muscle group is your ability to focus and jump off unhelpful and stressful trains of thought.
Drink A Clean Energy Drink
One great way to improve your focus when you’re feeling stressed is by drinking a clean energy drink -- like the ones from Proper Wild. These powerful, plant-based energy shots are made with clean and simple ingredients, backed by science, designed to maximize your productivity.
With 2x more caffeine than a cup o’ joe and 15x more L-Theanine than a cup of green tea for insane focus (without the jitters or crash), it’s no wonder why so many people look to Proper Wild for a little pick-me-up -- especially on stressful days.
Oh, and the best part? Unlike other energy drinks on the market, Proper Wild’s Clean All-Day Energy Shots are made with absolutely no added sugar, so you don’t have to worry about gaining any unwanted weight, which is a common concern with many of the drinks on shelves today. Pretty cool, right? We think so too!
Go For A Stroll
Sometimes, the best way to reclaim your focus when you’re feeling stressed is to simply take a break. Stretch your legs, go outside for a stroll and take in the fresh air. Nothing clears the mind more than getting outdoors.
Catch Up With A Buddy
Humans are social animals. So with that in mind, another great idea for a focus-restoring break is to call up a buddy. It doesn’t matter who, so long as you enjoy chatting with them. Try to really listen to your friend. Allow yourself to react rather than thinking about what you’ll say next.
Living in the moment is an excellent way to reduce stress and rediscover your focus and concentration.
Improve Your Snooze
Believe it or not, sleep deprivation can easily disrupt your concentration -- not to mention other cognitive functions, such as attention and memory. Occasional sleep deprivation shouldn't cause too many issues for you, but regularly failing to get a solid night’s rest can affect your mood and performance at work. So, do yourself a favor and get to bed at a decent hour -- trust us, it’ll help.
Whether you rely on a tasty energy drink, meditation, or phoning a friend, it’s important to get your stress levels in check, especially if you’re trying to concentrate.
Here at Proper Wild, we truly care about your health, so we created an energy drink designed with you in mind that’s backed by science. Plus, if you ask us, our Clean All-Day Energy Drinks are pretty tasty and don’t taste like a cocktail of chemicals and artificial sweeteners!
If you’re looking to find concentration and improve your focus, look no further and try our tasty energy shots today. Trust us, you’ll be glad you did!