Are you feeling overwhelmed? Top tips to regain your focus

Trying to focus and concentrate throughout daily life can become overwhelming and exhausting. This can create feelings such as anxiety, sadness, exhaustion, guilt, and shame, which can severely impact every part of our relationships, work, and self-esteem.

These feelings can impact our relationships, causing them to fracture, induce conflicts, and arguments to begin. We can lose touch with our friends and dearly miss the connections we had made. Work becomes overwhelming; as we rush through jobs, we are just waiting to be hauled into the office to be told we are useless, not good enough, and sacked. The guilt of juggling and stealing time from here, there, and everywhere becomes overwhelming, so we can give up trying. In turn, new feelings arise to sit alongside the current feelings, such as panic, isolation, and loneliness, as we have to keep how we are feeling to ourselves while everyone else seems to be managing just fine.

Unfortunately, sometimes we miss the indicators to these feelings, and begin to wonder "why do I feel this way?"; "why can’t I just be happy - I have everything I ever wanted?"; "what is wrong with me?". We don’t always notice that we are dropping the juggling balls; we believe we are managing our time effectively because we are getting everything done, and only superhero crusaders can complete a to-do list like mine! In today’s society, being busy has become the norm, as has using social media to present to the world how you are having the best life and coping like a superhero crusader, juggling all the wonderful parts of your amazing, adult life.

The reality? It's exhausting, and most of what we do can be rushed with minimal to zero focus, leaving us feeling like a failure in some, if not all, parts of our lives. We forget what we are passionate about, and everything feels like a chore. We forget why we love our loved ones; a resentment has crept in from analysing how much effort and time is being displayed in comparison to yours. Life has become a competition. We forget to ask "what are we doing it all for?"; running on a hamster wheel day in, day out, asking ourselves "surely life must be better or feel better than this?".

What makes us happy can be right in front of us, yet we are missing it by choosing to not focus, choosing to join in with the societal norm of being a crusading superhero, and remembering to post every minute of your accomplishments on social media. Ask yourself what you would truly like to accomplish today, this week, this month? Not what you think you should, but what you want to and, more importantly, could. How much of what you are trying to focus on, firstly, is yours, and secondly, do you enjoy? Ask yourself what are you not focusing on - what are you not prioritising?

Simplify your life, learn to say no, and ask yourself in the morning "what would I like to focus on today?". Choose only three tasks. Do you want to read your child a bedtime story? Do you want to cook a nice meal instead of having another takeaway? Would you love to put your clean washing away that is piled so high it's hitting the ceiling? With three chosen tasks only, you have a reason, if needed, to say no to others. Try to create and learn boundaries, and respect them.

It doesn’t matter what it is, it matters that you choose it. Begin to disengage in activities that weaken your focus, saying yes when you mean no, having a drink when you don’t really want one, scrolling through social media because you think you are bored instead of realising you have no focus, flitting from one Youtube video to another... choose one and watch. Focus. Try unplugging or disconnecting the Wi-Fi when you are completing your three chosen tasks.

When was the last time you talked to a loved one or friend without picking your phone up? When completing your chosen tasks, remember one task, one outcome. That is all. If you find your mind wandering, repeat it out loud and train your thoughts to focus on the here and now.

When choosing your three tasks, ask yourself "what do I want to do?". If you hear yourself say "what do I need to do?", you will begin to focus less. The language you use is vital; change 'should', 'need' or 'must' to 'could'.

For example, "I should make a healthy dinner". 'Should' sends a message of failure, and triggers feelings of guilt and shame. You could be sending unconscious messages to yourself that you are a bad mother, father, husband, wife, or partner. You never cook healthy homemade meals, you're failing at being a good adult, you are sending messages to yourself that you are not good enough, possibly a core belief triggering feelings from childhood. Feelings such as shame, guilt, anxiety, and failure could flood you without you realising why, as we don’t always notice our self-talk, yet it can affect your mood, thoughts, thinking, and behaviours for the entire day.

Change 'should' to 'could' - "I could make a healthy meal" - this sends the message of choice. 'Could' gives you options, gives you conscious responsibility that you have the possibility to choose and focus on something you want to do. You feel in control, responsible, like an adult - empowered!

Notice your feelings then reflect on your self-talk. We don’t always hear our self-talk, but we do feel it. If you have used 'should', 'must', or 'need', you may feel overwhelmed, anxious, shameful, guilty, or a failure. This is your indicator to change your language, change your focus, and change how you feel.

Choosing tasks to focus on is empowering. You begin to enjoy the process, making choices rather than feeling obliged and resentful. Choosing the language we use as self-talk is taking responsibility for how we feel, think, and behave.

Try the challenge for a week each morning - choosing three tasks you want/could focus on - and write them down. Try not to deter from the three, however, the tasks may have to change due to circumstances. Self-discipline is crucial, and this requires focus, however, there may be days you just cannot complete this technique. That’s ok. Trying is doing, and it won’t change overnight. It takes perseverance, effort, and want.

At the end of the day, reflect on your three tasks, asking yourself the following questions:

  • What did it feel like to complete the tasks?
  • What did it feel like when I was engaging in the tasks?
  • How do I feel about myself today in trying this challenge?
  • Did I unplug/turn off the Wi-Fi today?
  • Did I have conversations without looking or using my phone?
  • Did I consciously change how I feel today at any point?
  • What are my feelings right now?
  • Do I feel I had moments of focus and concentration today?

You are capable of amazing things. You could control all your thoughts, thinking, and behaviours. The more you practice this technique, the more self-awareness you will gain, enabling you to control your focus and concentration and the feelings that can be generated. Good luck!

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Runcorn, Cheshire, WA7
Written by Joanne Pitt, Psychotherapist and Supervisor. MBACP BSc Hons (couns)Dipsup
Runcorn, Cheshire, WA7

I am an experienced Counsellor, Supervisor and Lecturer in counselling. I work with Adults, children and young people in private practice and lecture on Bsc Honours degree in counselling. I have 10 years experience in both roles and have currently over 3600 supervised counselling hours.

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