It's only natural for the mind to wander from time to time; staring out the window, procrastinating, and feeling distracted are all normal occurrences, particularly when you're bored or anxious. However, when concentration issues become a recurring problem or your productivity in the workplace and personal relationships suffer, it could indicate an ongoing issue. Difficulty concentrating often occurs during menopause due to hormonal changes affecting various parts of the brain, which reduces attention span and hinders short-term memory. Nonetheless, menopausal “brain fogs” can be managed with simple adjustments and techniques; follow this seven-step plan to increase concentration.
Before embarking on a task that requires prolonged focus, tailor your meal choice to maximize concentration. Avoid overeating, as this causes sluggishness. Combining carbohydrates with protein has been found to improve mental sharpness, so eat a meal like a ham sandwich on wholegrain bread to increase concentration and help counter afternoon energy slumps.
It's difficult to concentrate on a task if you feel pressured by time constraints. Set aside ample time to complete your task so you can focus wholeheartedly on it without becoming distracted by other chores and plans for later in the day.
Set the Scene
Establish an environment that's conducive to productivity. Find a setting with plenty of natural light, and open a window to keep the room cool and ventilated. Put your phone and any other distractions away, out of sight, and look for a comfortable chair to work from; sit comfortably, without slouching.
Dehydration can lead to fatigue and slumps in concentration. Over the course of the day, consume at least 6.7 cups (1.6 liters) of fluids. Preferably, this should be water as opposed to sodas, because water hydrates the brain without raising blood sugar levels and causing inevitable energy crashes later in the day.
If the task involves reading, learn how to read efficiently. Begin by skim reading a piece, taking in the titles, subtitles, and bold text to give you an overview, help you root out the irrelevant parts, and zero in on the information you need. Focus on the relevant passages with a pen handy so that you can underline important ideas without interrupting the flow of your reading. If you've understood the key idea in each paragraph - which is generally found in either the first or last sentence - you've most likely understood the pieces as a whole.
Take Regular Breaks
Take short breaks every ten minutes; stand up and shake your limbs to stimulate blood circulation around the body, as circulating oxygen to your brain will enhance mental sharpness. Sip water to rehydrate the brain. Taking regular breaks will replenish your energy levels and maximize your productivity in the time you do spend on-task.
Be Here, Now
Refer to the mantra “Be here, now”. Whenever you notice your thoughts straying from the task at hand, avoid getting frustrated; simply tell your mind to “be here, now” to gently guide your focus back to where it needs to be. With practice, this technique will become habitual.
Tackling concentration issues is important, particularly if they are affecting your professional performance or personal relationships. Though the listed suggestions may seem a lot, many of these are simply good habits for maximizing concentration. Once you have adjusted your approach to tasks that require concentration, they will soon become second nature. Read about mental exercises to help concentration.
- Alhola, P. & Polo-Kantola, P. (2007). Sleep deprivation: Impact on cognitive performance. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 3(5), 553-567. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2656292/
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Increase Productivity. Retrieved June 12, 2014, from http://www.cdc.gov/workplacehealthpromotion/businesscase/benefits/productivity.html
- Kansas State University. (1997). Improving your Concentration. Retrieved June 12, 2014, from http://www.k-state.edu/counseling/topics/career/concentr.html
- Office of Mental Health. (2012). Dealing with cognitive dysfunction. Retrieved June 12, 2014, from https://www.omh.ny.gov/omhweb/cogdys_manual/CogDysHndbk.htm
- Purdue University. (n.d.). Depression at work - reducing stigma and producing outcomes. Retrieved June 12, 2014, from http://www.purdue.edu/hr/pdf/DEPRESSION_IN_THE_WORKPLACE.pdf
- University of New South Wales. (2014). Tips for Effective Reading. Retrieved June 12, 2014, from https://student.unsw.edu.au/effective-reading