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Focusing: It Takes Effort

Focus is something that is very important for people to have. We need to be focused to complete work projects, have conversations with loved ones, complete any sort of task, and even take care of ourselves, including taking care of our mental health. It seems as almost everything we do every day requires some amount of focus. Doesn’t that sound exhausting? We are consistently putting a large amount of attention and energy into one thing and then moving onto the next. It does not help when there are so many things happening in our world that distract us from truly focusing. For example, maybe your phone buzzes while you are reading this blog post, and of course you are going to pick up your phone to check what your notification was. Attempting to focus on multiple things actually uses more of our energy. Another example is the fact that we have constant access to the news where there are so many different things happening throughout the world, and truthfully so many terrible things. It can be hard to focus on something happening in your own life, when you are constantly thinking about other things going on around the world. Focusing is hard work and our brains need a break.

Dr. Srini Pillay, a psychiatrist and the author of Tinker Dabble Doodle Try: Unlock the Power of the Unfocused Mind says our brains do best when they can toggle between focus and unfocus. How do you do that? Here are a few tips he suggests:

  • Unfocus your brain. Do not feel guilty about taking breaks throughout your day. It is actually very important for our brains to take a break.
  • Engage in positive constructive daydreaming. You can do this by allowing your mind to wander. Maybe you imagine you are walking on a warm beach or hiking through a mystical forest. While you are imagining, pair it with some sort of low-key activity, like walking or knitting. This simple process can help you later in the day when you really need to focus on whatever you are trying to get done.
  • Block interruptions before starting big projects. Before beginning any big project, turn off any sort of distractions. Try turning off notifications to your phone and putting away any other devices that are distracting.
  • Know when you can focus the most. Everyone is different. Some people can focus the best right away in the morning after they have had a cup of coffee, while some individuals focus best in the afternoon, and some individuals focus best in the late hours of the night. It changes from person to person, but it is important to know when you can focus the most, so that you can try and accomplish your big projects during those times.
  • Try new hobbies. Learning new hobbies can help us to be more creative with solving other types of problems we encounter.
  • Consider a digital detox. This looks different for each and every person. Do whatever works best for you. You could try and turn off your devices for a full day, turn off notifications, or maybe delete social media accounts from your phone.

There are numerous things we can do when it comes to unfocusing. It is important for us to be able to focus and complete tasks that we need to get done, but too much focusing can lead to exhaustion and can negatively impact our mental health. Try some of the tips mentioned above, and make sure you are taking care of yourself.

Katie Zimmerman, Project Coordinator for The Kim Foundation

Katie Zimmerman joined The Kim Foundation in June 2019. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Studies and Sociology from Central College in Pella, Iowa. During her time in college, she volunteered at many non-profit organizations and took multiple sociology classes which focused on mental health. Katie’s role at The Kim Foundation includes running the social media accounts, assisting in the Youth Advisory Council, and providing mental health awareness and education to the community through A Voice for Hope and Healing presentations.