Is anxiety affecting your concentration? If you suffer from anxiety, you likely know that a common anxiety symptom is difficulty in concentration. Anxiety can send us into a true tailspin of disruptive and irrational thinking that can affect our ability to focus.
How Anxiety Affects Concentration
Anxiety causes a stress response in the brain and body. The stress response sends a rush of hormones flowing into the body. And when stress hormones are released, our heart rate rises, breathing speeds up, and blood is diverted to limbs over the brain. In this state, our perception and intellect are clearly impaired making it hard to concentrate on a task at hand.
This makes me think of an experience I had a few weeks ago. I was writing an article on a day I felt particularly anxious. My stress level was so high that I felt unable to think clearly enough to put my thoughts into coherent sentences. The negative self-talk began, my heart raced, and my attempts to focus just exacerbated my anxiety. I broke into tears and closed my computer in despair feeling like a terrible writer.
When my boyfriend came home, he saw my anxiousness. He suggested I spend some time on my yoga mat while he revised my article. Thirty minutes later, he had made a few tweaks and I felt clearer to finish writing. I needed that moment away to employ my coping skills to gain clarity and concentration.
What to Do When Anxiety Affects Your Concentration
When anxiety affects your concentration, try the following:
1. Take breaks. If you’re working on a project, try scheduling breaks every 45 minutes with a timer. Use your break to take a walk or practice mindfulness techniques to reset.
2. Reduce caffeine. A cup in the morning may get you going, but excessive caffeine intake will make you a jittery mess.
3. Adjust your self-talk. Internal statements like, “I can’t focus,” and, “I’m hopeless,” will only make anxiety worse. Shift your self-talk to, “I can focus and it’s normal to need a break.”
4. Get in touch with your breath. Since deep breathing can worsen anxiety for some, I usually advise my clients to practice breath-synchronized movement. Simply lifting your hands off your lap on an inhale and returning them to touch your lap on an exhale is an easy example.
5. Tune into your senses. Rest your brain by closing your eyes. Take a couple of minutes to get in touch with what you hear, see (internally), smell, feel, and taste.
Remind yourself that lack of concentration is temporary. Just as anxiety will come and go, so too, will concentration. Recharge and reset with some self-care. Yes, anxiety affects concentration, but you can get past it.