By: Dr. Peter Egeto, C.Psych (Supervised Practice)
Everyone has this thought run through their head when they’re having trouble focusing on a work task, school assignment, or other commitment. It is a very frustrating obstacle, so why can’t we just focus?
Attention is the first, and crucial step to apply our thinking power to a task. Without it, we’re unable to learn, problem solve, or think clearly. There are lots of reasons why our attention can be challenged.
Anxiety often takes attention away from the task at hand. Evolutionarily, anxiety developed partly to help us survive by looking for threats in the environment. Although your project deadline may not be a life or death “threat,” the emotion still kicks in and draws your attention away from the work you’re trying to do.
Alternately, some people’s brains develop differently, and have trouble controlling their attention. This is referred to as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). People with ADHD have great difficulty focusing because they are easily distracted by other thoughts or things in their surroundings. It can feel like your head is a vortex of racing thoughts, which can make a simple task frustrating or daunting.
How can I focus better?
Luckily, there are ways to optimize your attention. Completing a neuropsychological assessment is a good way to tease apart whether your attention is hindered by anxiety, or potentially ADHD. It can also offer solutions tailored to your unique issues. Anxiety management strategies can free up your attention, while ADHD can be managed with medication, therapy, or both.