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Can't focus: How to improve your concentration after mental health breakdown

Concentration is the oil that keeps the machine of life running smoothly. 
After a mental health breakdown, Improving your concentration can make a dramatic difference to your quality of life. 

Concentration is the quality that enables you to focus on one thing at a time with single-minded determination.

Without getting your ability to concentrate back, you become a distracted, disorganized person who struggles to accomplish much of anything. Your plans won't come to fruition. 

Minor details will constantly hamper you. 

You will find it hard to hold a job or carry out a plan. In school, you will underperform. 

Relationships will be unsatisfying. 

You will experience a constant state of malaise. Your life will become a never-ending exercise in coping with minutia.

All that said, the truth is that our ability to concentrate is a valuable skill we often undervalue. Until something in our life steals that ability from us. What if the thief that stole your ability to concentrate is totally beyond your ability to control. 

What if you can't concentrate because you suffer from depression, 

anxiety, PTSD or physical health problems that have upturned your life? Do you have to live life resigned to this, or are there things you can do to bring back your ability to concentrate and focus for meaningful lengths of time?

In this article, I would like to reveal eleven simple yet powerful techniques you can use to get your focus and concentration back to where it belongs. 

To start, I would like first to explore a few common problems. You will most likely contend with on your were to achieving optimum concentration...

Brain fog

Brain fog is an annoying condition that can last for weeks, months and even years. It is a common catchall term for a cluster of related symptoms that can significantly decrease your quality of life, including...

Poor memory, inability to think clearly and make decisions, fatigue, decreased concentration and ability to pay attention, lethargy etc...

The problem is often caused by stress, anxiety, dehydration, failure to get enough sleep... Other possible factors include the use of certain prescription drugs, nutritional deficiencies, hormone imbalances, thyroid problems, vitamin or mineral deficiency etc...

Some people fall for the mistake of just waiting it out. The hope is that the brain fog will reduce by itself and get back to their normal life.

The problem with thinking like this is that it ignores the common reality that brain fog results from embedded lifestyle choices. 

Meaning that the problem will keep returning even if you are fortunate to overcome it. Sadly the problem will worsen over time and could promote the repeat retriggering of depressive and anxiety-based problems.

 

Hyperfocus

Hyperfocus is when your attention becomes riveted to one thing in your environment, to the exclusion of everything else. 

This may be because you have something bugging you that you can't let go of. Or it may be due to having common conditions like ADD/ADHD.

In depression and anxiety, hyperfocus becomes more of an unhealthy preoccupation with negative aspects of the present or the future. Often leads to feelings of hopelessness and an inability to cope with life's challenges.

Hyperfocus can be a helpful survival skill when you are confronted with a challenging situation. However, when it becomes a regular part of your life, it can cause real problems. If it continues after the initial stress has passed, you may start to miss out on many other essential aspects of your life.

Some people think that it is just a "brain thing" and can overcome it with willpower. 

This is not true. Not only is it not true, but if you try to "will" yourself to stop focusing on something... you will often trigger an even stronger response. 

Scattered mind

The scattered mind syndrome can get frustrating. Often because you know what they should be doing, you can't seem to "get it together" to do it. 

You may be able to start a project but always find you cannot finish it. 
It is widespread for people in an intense life or works environment to feel mentally scattered. 

 Sometimes this is due to mental clutter. When your brain is cluttered with too many thoughts and ideas, it becomes difficult and sometimes impossible to stay on one particular train of thought for any significant period.

At other times, a persistent problem with a scattered mind can signify a more serious underlying cause. 

High blood pressure, diabetes, sleep apnea, ADHD, depression and bipolar disorder can all contribute to someone being scattered and unfocused.

Now that we have listed the possible problems here are the 11 strategies for improving concentration...

1. Reduce risk of Alzheimer's later in life

Did you know that research shows that people who have more serotonin in their brains are less likely to develop Alzheimer's later in life https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21870888/. The good news is that with an increased ability to make good decisions you can promote the production of serotonin in your brain.

How does this work?

Firstly, making good decisions can enhance the functioning of your prefrontal cortex, which allows it to work more efficiently.  In turn, this allows you to have a better judgement of things and makes it easier for you to make good decisions.

This can then translate to an accumulation of positive life events that then promote more good decision making. All of this puts your brain in the best place for optimum serotonin production.

And that's where today's FREE CHECKLIST can give you an advantage...

2. Establish A Routine

Your body and mind need routines to function at peak levels. For example, if you exercise every day at the same time, your body gets used to the routine and it will be easier to work out at that time every day. If you eat breakfast every morning, your body gets conditioned to the routine and it will crave the food every morning when your wake up. Your mind needs routines too. If you write things down on a calendar or diary each day, you create a routine for yourself that keeps your brain focused on certain tasks. It’s a proven way to improve memory and focus.

3. Divide Your Day Into SEGMENTS

Break down your day into manageable segments that are easy to manage. It might be getting dressed in the morning, making breakfast, walking the dog, driving to work, working at your desk, driving home from work, preparing dinner, and so on. Each of these segments should be easy to complete and you should have a sense of satisfaction after completing them. It gives you a feeling of accomplishment and allows your mind to know what to focus on next.

4. Prioritize What You Need To Do First

It’s amazing how effective this simple technique can be. Many people make the mistake of starting with the things they want to do first. But that’s the worst thing you can do. Start with the things that need to be done and add the things you want to do later. This will keep your “engine running” at full-tilt throughout your day and keep you sharp.

5. Graded concentration exercises

Pick something you want to learn. It could be playing the guitar, learning a new computer program, reading a book or whatever. Next, pick a specific area you need to concentrate on. Maybe it’s reading the first ten pages of the book, memorizing a phone number or playing a song on the guitar.

The idea is to make the exercise as challenging as possible. Concentration exercises are most effective when they are difficult. The more you struggle, the more you will succeed. So decide how hard you want this exercise to be. If you are just starting out, make the exercise very easy. But be careful. If you make it too easy, you won’t get the benefits of the exercise!

6. Flexing and releasing your concentration muscles

Close your eyes and picture yourself in a quiet place. Try to free your mind of all distractions – no phones, TV, radio or other people. Just you, your environment and a notepad or piece of paper and a ballpoint pen or pencil.

Now, for a few minutes, just let your mind wander. Do nothing – don’t think about anything in particular. Let your thoughts flow freely as you experience the “spontaneous creation” that occurs when your brain is idle.

After a few minutes, start paying attention to your thoughts. You may find you were thinking about something you had to do. Or maybe you were daydreaming and had forgotten what you were doing. Don’t judge. It doesn’t matter. What matters is…

7. Develop memory exercises

Concentration exercises are a great way to train your brain. They work like this: You learn something new, then review the information several times until it is firmly embedded in your brain. 

Next, you test yourself on what you already know by presenting yourself with new challenges around the subject—tests like this force your mind to work harder and help you remember the material.

You can use concentration exercises like this to help boost your short-term memory, increase your intelligence and make you a more effective person. 

 

8. Practice Visualization

What you do is, create a clear picture in your mind and hold it there. Then, you ignore everything else around you and concentrate on that single image. 

Soon, other things will drop out, and your mind will become clearer. 

 To begin the process, close your eyes and take several slow, deep breaths. As you breathe in, imagine each breath bringing oxygen into your body. Imagine that as you breathe out, carbon dioxide leaves your body. 

What I want you to do first is to create a clear mental picture of your goal. Please do this for a few minutes and notice how it begins to relax and steady you. Then open your eyes and begin to think about your goal. 

Now, hold that mental picture in your mind for a few seconds. What it is you want to achieve. It can be something big or small, something you want to learn, solve, create, get better at… whatever. Just make sure it's something concrete. 

Then, open your eyes and take several more deep breaths. Notice how much clearer your mind is now. You've just performed a simple exercise that will bring your scattered mind back into focus. 

 

9. Learn To Say “No”!

The hardest part about improving your concentration is saying no to things that are cluttering up your life. When you say yes to too many things, you end up having too little time and energy for the things that count.

10. Set Realistic Goals!

Don't set goals that are impossible for you to achieve. Concentration improves when we take on challenges that are within our skill level. Setting yourself up for failure before you even start will only cause unnecessary stress.

11. Not taking things so seriously

When you force yourself to be serious, you actually increase your stress level, decreasing your focus. 

If you are trying to learn how to ride a bike, play a musical instrument or just about anything else you are trying to learn, trying too hard will only cause you to make mistakes. 

To help you relax and take things less seriously, start by doing a few short simple things like taking a hot shower or bath, wearing silk pyjamas, and having a cup of chamomile tea. Next, you could read a humorous book or watch a funny video clip. Do something that makes you laugh for a short period. 

When you are too rigid in your thinking, your brain refuses to let go of the "mental load". Mental load causes mental fatigue, which in turn causes you to make careless mistakes. So lighten up allow your brain to become more pliable. 

Once you do this, your brain will "reclaim its freedom" and you will start to focus better. 

 

Concentration is one of those “hill-climbing” skills that get better with practice.

Maybe you have anxiety or depression and are on so many medications your brain doesn't have the capacity to focus. Or maybe you have suffered a “brain-break” caused by a physical illness or injury. Whatever the cause, the end result is the same. You have lost the ability to focus and concentrate on one thing for any length of time.

This is a tragedy. It robs you of your productivity, your enjoyment of life and your potential for personal and professional fulfilment. Plus, it puts you at risk for making mistakes, having an accident, or contracting a serious disease.

Concentration is one of those “hill-climbing” skills that get better with practice. And with these specific strategies and tools, you will be able to climb that hill again... And again... And again!

Book a consultation with Adewale

Written by Adewale Ademuyiwa
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