Have you ever felt like your attention span was completely out of whack?
Let me shed some light on this, as someone has recently enlightened me.
Too much attention inward…
Often times when we have too much to do (guilty as charged), it can be challenging to focus on one thing at a time because we can only think about how we feel internally. How we feel worried. How we feel stressed. How we feel like we’ll never get to all those “things” that need to get done. It’s really just internal chaos, right? And because of it, none of those things actually end up getting done anyways!
Too much attention outward…
On the flip side, sometimes being too focused on external things can cause us to neglect our internal feelings. Example. Today I was SO focused on completing the mock ups for our health and wellness portal at work that I literally forgot to pee. No, I didn’t pee my pants, but I realized after I was done with the mockups that I hadn’t gone to the bathroom for hours.
Attention in alpha…
When it comes to attention and feeling present, the ideal state to shoot for is called “alpha.” This is where 50% of your attention is focused on your internal feelings and 50% of your attention is focused on the other stuff. But it’s hard to get there! Take another example of being in a fight with someone. Maybe you are so worked up about something that you can’t resolve the external issue because all you can focus on is how that person is making you feel at the time. Or maybe you are harping so much on the issue, that you neglect the fact that you need sleep, or are thirsty, or what have you. So what can you do about it?
How to get there…
The “5 Things Relaxation Exercise” can help with this, as it is a technique that simply helps you feel more present. It can redirect your focus and is useful for when you are feeling overwhelmed, out of control, and need something to calm you down on the spot. It’s also helpful for reducing tension, anger, and relaxing the body to fall asleep.
How it’s done…
For example, if I was feeling overwhelmed now at my desk, I could say out loud (or think to myself):
- I see my computer.
- I see my water bottle.
- I see my cell phone.
- I see the windows.
- I see my calendar.
Then after saying those 5 things I see, I would say:
- I hear the heater rustling.
- I hear a car driving by outside.
- I hear the sound of my fingers typing.
- I hear the music I have on in the background.
- I hear the heater rustling. (It’s OK to repeat items).
Finally, I would say 5 things I feel, keeping in mind that the “feeling” part does not refer to emotions such as “I feel stressed” or “I feel overwhelmed,” but actual physical sensations:
- I feel my feet on the floor.
- I feel my hands typing on the computer.
- I feel my feet crossed over one another.
- I feel myself sitting in this chair.
- I feel my tongue against the roof of my mouth.
Then repeat again with 4 things, with 3 things, with 2 things, and finally with 1 thing in each category. At the end, notice how you feel. If you feel more relaxed, you can stop. If not, go through it another time. You may lose your place and get distracted. That is okay, just start again anywhere. The point is that by the end, however many times it takes, this exercise should help you feel more present and focused.
What do you guys think about this technique?
It may sound a little silly or basic, but it actually really works. I have used it many times and have found that it just brings me back to a state of calm when my thoughts are all over the place. I urge you all to try it! It’s good for your mental health. I know I don’t write about mental health all that much, probably because it is a topic so near and (not so) dear to my family, but I want to start writing more about it. You can do burpees until the cows come home, but what does it really matter if your brain isn’t feeling at its best?
Does anyone else have any relaxation techniques that you want to share?
P.S. If you are looking for something to read tonight, check out this article in Time. And then be thankful, because whatever you are complaining about today could probably be a lot worse. Right?