Think back to a time when you were very stressed. You can probably identify exactly how you felt in that frazzled moment. You can also likely pinpoint a moment of frustration when your mind wasn’t quite as focused as you wanted it to be.
“During the symptoms of stress, your brain can’t handle as many demands,” says Katelyn Carroll, CREATION Health Employee Experience Coordinator. Your brain is focused on getting you (and your body) through that stressful feeling, not finishing the important work report that sent you into a tailspin in the first place.
You see, refocusing your mind during stress requires understanding, managing, and even preventing your stress triggers from the very beginning.
Carroll offers her eight tips on how to do this.
Take a brain break
Both your body and mind can max out. “Research has proven that your brain needs a one- to five-minute break every hour and a half,” says Carroll. So, if you are feeling stressed and less focused, take a brain break.
Your brain was not designed to fire in ten different directions for eight hours straight. Think of your computer. If you open too many programs and windows all at once, it slows down. Sometimes, it crashes. To keep your brain from doing the same, shut down some “windows” and recharge. After, you might be surprised that you are even more focused and productive.
Technology can support your brain function by helping you keep track of your tasks and time, or facilitating your work with more accuracy and efficiency. While doing this, though, it can also overstimulate your mind.
If you find yourself taking a brain break by checking your social media accounts, you might want to unplug instead. Carroll recommends, “Think about truly disconnecting your mind (even if just for a minute) by getting some fresh air outdoors, going for a quick walk, connecting with a friend, or closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths, for example.”
Organize and prioritize
Stress can mount when your mental checklists become a jumbled mess. Carroll suggests prioritizing your tasks in three columns: “have to,” “need to,” and “love to.” This allows you to filter your to-dos based on your obligations, goal-based tasks, and things that make you happy.
Some tasks in one of these categories might take precedent over others at different times. “Prioritizing tasks this way helps you keep your responsibilities in constant balance and therefore mitigate stress in your life,” says Carroll.
We talked about cleaning up your task list, but what about your workspace? Carroll points out: “Organized, clean work areas are soothing to the brain and create fewer distractions.” Staying organized can also help you get to things easily, which prevents the stress of scrambling to find something important when you need it.
It’s hard to say no. Fear of missing out or worrying about of not living up to others’ expectations of you are stressful feelings of which to deal; however, Carroll reminds us: “The only person who knows all of the responsibilities on your plate and how much you can handle is yourself.” If your stress is mounting and you- and your mind- are spread thin, say “no” when you need to.
“Physical exercise is one of the best ways to cope with the symptoms of stress,” says Carroll. Physical activity gets your heart rate up, increases your blood flow, and helps your mind focus on something positive.
It also increases the “happy” hormones in your body, so you can feel better emotionally and physically. Even short bursts of physical activity in your day can help your mind refocus and even perform better.
If you’re mentally exhausted, take a minute to reach out to a supportive person in your life. “Social support is important for managing stress and boosting your general outlook,” says Carroll.
Hearing the voice of someone of which you care about can help you feel more connected to others. This improves your sense of support for completing tasks and achieving goals.
“Stress is a response based on how you perceive the world around you,” says Carroll. It’s a cascading chain of events that happens when you experience negative feelings: fear, disappointment, sadness, or being overwhelmed- to name a few.
Refocusing your mind on the positive aspects of your life can bring you to a calmer state of mind. Carroll advises, “Taking 60-seconds a day to list things for which you are grateful can maximize positive feelings and minimize the stressful ones.”
Carroll concludes, “The symptoms of stress can be different for each person (emotional, physical or behavioral), so it’s important to know how your stress tends to appear.”
Recognizing these frazzled moments will cue you to refocus and put these tips into practice.