Stress and Focus

Kristof, Author

Ever wondered why it can be so hard to focus at school? Me neither. Let me rephrase. Ever wonder why it can be so hard to focus generally? No? Fine. Still, these are important questions as the answers turn out to be pretty relevant to most of life.

For one, stress can make it difficult to focus. Some stress can be motivating. For example, deadlines and positive pressure are effective with some people. However, when stress becomes severe or chronic, it can have negative effects.

Stress is a natural response to danger. Stress has a way of impacting your performance in a creative variety of ways.

For one, stress can make it harder to concentrate as your brain scans for threats. This effectively makes you more distractible due to the increased vigilance stress demands on your brain.

Another issue that is caused by stress is a lack of motivation. This is because stress triggers our fight, fight, freeze response. Due to this response, we may naturally procrastinate more as we are stuck fighting, flighting and freezing in the face of our stressful problems.

Yet another issue caused by stress is a lack of sleep. When we are stressed, our brain recognizes we may be vulnerable if we try to sleep, thus keeping us awake and sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation can in turn lead to worsened memory, affecting our performance.

Now that we’ve established some issues caused by stress and their relation to our daily performance, let’s look at ways we can focus. In the process, we might find a means to deal with our stress!

A handy way of focusing is deliberate breathing. Try focusing on your breathing, keeping your breathing natural for 5 breaths. Focus on breathing with your stomach rather than your chest. When you are breathing more with your stomach, you are using your diaphragm which is associated more with safety than breathing more with your chest, which is associated more with danger and anxiety. Having breathed naturally for 5 breaths from your stomach, you should reflect on how you feel. Hopefully as you reflect you notice you feel calmer and more focused. If not, you’ve at least proven you have more control over yourself than you may have previously believed.

Something else that may help your ability to focus is to organize. After all, anxiety and stress is the way our bodies respond upon the realization they may not have what they need to deal with a given situation. If you break down the tasks you need to accomplish into simpler steps, such as by writing them down, you may realize you are more capable than you originally believed as you see yourself able to overcome each step one at a time. Thus, you should be more focused after having organized the steps needed to complete a task.

Finally, an often overlooked part of focusing and coping with stress is addressing your basic needs. One overlooked basic need is sleep. If you get sleep on a schedule, getting at least 8 hours of sleep and not changing more than an hour between when you sleep and wake up each night, you will feel much more rested and be able to focus more easily. Another basic need is eating. It is important to eat little and often. If you skip a meal, you will feel much more hungry later and cope by overeating. In addition, you will be less focused during the time you are hungry if you aren’t eating often enough.

To wrap things up, stress is the force that makes it hard to focus, and we can focus better by addressing what stresses us out. The methods I went over for focusing were deliberate breathing, organizing, and addressing basic needs. If you can utilize these methods successfully, you should find yourself stress free and focused!