Written by DiveThru Team
Reviewed by Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW
Feeling Unfocused: A Guide To Your Emotions
Published Dec 23rd, 2020 & updated on Dec 7th, 2021
Picture it: You’re sitting at your desk ready to get to work, or start on that assignment for school. Only there’s a problem. No matter how hard you try, you just. can’t. focus. So instead, you pull out your phone and start scrolling through your social media apps. Maybe you repeatedly hop between the never-ending saved tabs on your desktop. Then, you tell yourself you need a break and start watching YouTube videos about the most random shit, like the ‘Top 10 Funniest Moments on Schitts Creek’… (Anyone? No? Just us?) And before you know it, three hours have passed and you’ve accomplished nothing. Feeling unfocused (and like total garbage), you think to yourself: Ugh, WHYYY am I like this?! You’ve already fallen behind as it is, so you convince yourself that picking up a coffee will 100% help and you’ll actually buckle down this time. Then once you come back to your work, the cycle just repeats itself. Sound familiar?!
Look, we all have days where our minds just don’t wanna focus. We are BUSY, okay! There’s lots on our mind. We’re constantly bombarded with news 24/7 (the good and the really, really bad), we have social lives, work, hobbies, relationships, finances and so much more that constantly demand space in our delicate human brains. But life doesn’t stop, and it sure as hell doesn’t cut us some slack. So when we’re feeling pretty unfocused and maybe a ‘lil scatterbrained, we gotta take matters into our own hands.
But you’re not alone in this! We’re here to help you combat feeling unfocused so that you can crush your goals like the magic human we know you are.
A Deeper Look At Feeling Unfocused
Alexa, play “Focus” by Ariana Grande.
It’s time to talk focus. The APA Dictionary defines focus as: “n. the concentration or centering of attention on a stimulus.” So then basically, feeling unfocused = not being able to concentrate or center your attention a stimulus. See what we did there? Truly genius.
You don’t need us to tell you that feeling unfocused can have a negative impact on your life. When we lack concentration, it can really affect our performance at work, school, relationships and other areas of our lives where we just wanna do the best we can!
Why do we feel unfocused, though?! Welllll, there’s lots of possible reasons. Are you getting enough sleep? Are you giving your body enough food and water? Maybe you’re dealing with anxiety or stress? Be honest with yourself. If you’re not taking proper care of your body and mind, it eventually will come back to bite you. Hey, no judgement here! We’re all guilty of neglecting our mental and physical wellbeing now and then. Like we said, life keeps us busy. It’s easy to forget the importance of looking after ourselves as our top priority.
How Feeling Unfocused Shows Up Mentally
When we’re feeling unfocused, there are a lot of signs that can show up mentally. Most often, you tend to have a hard time completing tasks and making decisions, both of which are things we’re expected to do every damn day. Sooo when we can’t focus, it can be super frustrating and leave you feeling so unproductive!
Maybe you also have a hard time remembering things that happened a short time ago. Or you keep forgetting where you left things like your wallet, so you have to tear apart your apartment to find it. You might have a hard time sitting still and keep fidgeting. Thinking clearly can be a problem so you might make mistakes that you don’t usually make, like grabbing a hot pan without an oven mitt. Or you could make a careless mistake like not spell checking your essay before submitting it (orgasm instead of organism? #fail). It could also come down to just not having the energy to focus on what you’re doing. If you’ve started showing up late to important meetings or appointments, or other people point out how distracted you seem.
If you constantly feel unfocused and nothing seems to help, it could be a sign of a larger issue. Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, emotional trauma, chronic stress, and attention disorders like ADHD are a few different conditions that can affect your ability to focus and will need professional help to manage.
How Feeling Unfocused Shows Up Physically
If you’re feeling unfocused, chances are there’s a few physical signs you might be noticing. You could have a hard time getting enough sleep and constantly feel tired, which could be linked to thyroid issues. Your hormonal levels could be off if your adrenal gland isn’t giving you enough energy to concentrate. It could also be that you have a low red blood cell count which means your brain isn’t getting enough oxygen, also affecting your energy and focus.
Burnout from some of the stressors in your life, like your workload or rocky relationship, can also make you feel unfocused. If you’re dealing with any of these symptoms, it doesn’t automatically mean something is seriously wrong. Buuut if you’re constantly feeling unfocused and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better, it’s time to reach out for professional help to get this feeling under control.
5 Ways To Cope With Feeling Unfocused
Like we said though, feeling unfocused is a common problem. We’re not gonna be our most productive selves 100% of the time (but it would be pretty sweet if that were the case!). So here are some simple ways you can use to regain your focus and kick ass again:
1. Practice deep breathing
Breathe in. Breathe out. Taking a moment to focus on your breathing has actually been proven to lower anxiety and reduce stress. Plus, deep breathing slows your heart rate and provides your brain with enough oxygen to chill out a bit. 10/10 recommend!
2. Try the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding exercise
Engage all five senses and mindfully notice five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. Go in any order that makes sense for you and your current situation – no pressure!
3. Run your hands under water/splash face with water/hold an ice cube
This method might sound weird, but we swear it works. Mindfully note the temperature of the water and the feeling on your skin. The sensation of the water helps by slowing your heart rate, lowering your cortisol levels (stress hormone), and releasing endorphins (happy hormone). Simple, yet effective!
4. Move your body
Let’s get physical! Go for a walk, stretch, ride a bike, dance, you name it. Exercise releases endorphins and improves your mood. Plus, it actually boosts your energy and improves focus. It does alllll the things!
5. Practice meditation
Meditation is a method that’s been used to relieve stress and improve mental clarity since, like… forever. This practice allows us to slowww down and shift our mindset. If you’re not sure how to meditate, start out with a guided practice. Hey, everyone’s gotta start somewhere!
There you have it! Some insight and tips for when you’re feeling unfocused and need a push in the right direction. We hope this helps you out, friend. Now go get shit done!