Over the years, I’ve navigated periods of anxiety/stress by using focus. Prolonged periods of stress, such as we are all experiencing, can see focus impaired or amplify hyper-fixation, as a way to cope (focussing intensely on one thing). Adapt. Carve a little slow living into life. This list will give you a place to start…
- Incorporate activities, study and work in topics, areas or subjects that fascinate/stimulate you, where you find it much easier to sustain your concentration. This uses the hyper-fixation in a positive way.
- Set reminders for eating and resting, for times when you are deeply focussed.
- Avoid the negative side of hyper-fixation by minimising exposure to negative stimulus, such as entertainment, apps or news that triggers strong feelings of distress (that you don’t need to be experiencing).
- Have a journal or notebook, where you write down concerns, worries and what is heightening your stress. You can sit with the thoughts/feelings one at a time and decide on some actions to minimise, manage or resolve the issues.
- Have clear boundaries that are easy to maintain in relationships, so you can be open with those you wish to.
- Keep any plans, schedule, projects streamlined, so you can break each part into smaller steps, to reduce overwhelm.
- Always start from a place of accepting reality as it is, as this provides a solid foundation beneath shifting emotions.
- Engage in conversation in a slower, more back and forth manner, so you have time to process and listen more fully, when the other person is speaking. Example: When expressing complex thoughts or feelings, break down what you want to say in two or three parts, expressing them one at a time so the other person can respond. If you need to explain something in a block, so as not to forget parts, offer the same courtesy to the person you are speaking with.
- Try the rule of 1-2 and apply it (1 book being read for work, 1 for leisure), to allow some space in your schedule.
- Have short lists for each day, stacking tasks you need to repeat regularly – the habit will form of doing them together.
- Over-simplify initially, when struggling to express emotions, in order to start talking. Then elaborate.
- Meditation helps expand “sustained” focus. Explore various styles and find one that suits you.
- Take some deep, slow breaths whenever focus wanes or anxiety spikes. Make the exhale slightly extended compared to the inhale and don’t fight the pause between the breaths. It is relaxing though sharpens your awareness.
Choose a few and adapt them to suit your lifestyle. It can help restructure your week. People tend towards hyper-activity or hypo-activity. I simplify this with my kids, by talking about feeling UP or DOWN. UP is agitated, fidgety, unable to stick with one task to completion. DOWN is a foggy, disjointed thought process and weighted exhaustion. It feels like every single thing requires a mammoth effort.
I have activities to bring me down when I’m up (journal, meditate, read), and up when I’m down (clean, walk, garden). Because these activities are part of my days, stress is managed on an ongoing basis. We all have days where it overwhelms us. Being present helps focus on one thing and one day at a time. Intensity recedes with observation. Sometimes noticing something reduces its impact on us. Not everything requires action or attention. As we ride the eddies of lockdown fatigue, where possible, let more harmony into life.