Running on Empty? 3 Steps to Boost Focus and Energy

Written by on June 23, 2020 in Accountability

Focus. It’s important, it works, but even in the best of times, it’s not easy.

Today we’re grappling with a prolonged period of disruption and uncertainty courtesy of the coronavirus global pandemic, and widespread demands for political and social reforms. 

Then there’s global warming, still very much a thing, and we’ve just entered hurricane season, which weather experts predict will produce 60% above normal activity.

What could possibly go wrong?

The point is that right now it’s nearly impossible to escape worries over the economy, employment, finances, relationships, and of course, physical and mental health. 

No matter how well you’re managing to cope, we all have limits. Failing to recognize that can lead to mental and emotional fatigue.

So, if you’ve been feeling like you’re running on empty, exhausted, and struggling to focus, now you know why.

Fortunately, there are a few basic steps you can take to ease, if not overcome mental fatigue while boosting your energy and ability to focus. 

3 Steps to Boost Energy and Focus

Clear the Mental Clutter

Write down absolutely everything that you are worried about and everything you want or need to do. It doesn’t matter how small if it’s taking up space in your head, get it down on paper.

Then go through and mark off the items you have no control over.

Permit yourself to feel what you feel, express your anger or frustration over the injustice of life or the bad behavior of others.

Then let them go.

Now prioritize what’s left on your list. Don’t worry about how to deal with these things yet, first, you need to get clear about what needs attention.  

Going through this exercise regularly, for instance by writing in a journal each evening, will go a long way toward keeping mental clutter at bay in the future.

One Chunk at a Time

You’ve heard it before, whether you’re tackling a problem, life change, or an important goal, take small steps.

That advice isn’t new, but it is normal to be running in low gear right now, which means you’re probably not as productive as usual, and it may be a little tougher to make decisions.  

So, to make progress try drilling down even further than you normally would and focus on one chunk, one tiny step at a time.

For an easy, and familiar example, let’s take a common complaint on social media right now – how much weight you’ve gained while in lockdown.

Let’s say you need to lose 10 pounds. Divide the 10 pounds by a realistic time frame, say 2 months, so that’s a healthy 5 pounds a month, or a bite-size goal of 1.25 pounds a week. 

No matter how small you break a goal down, celebrate your progress!

Create a Stop Doing List

The key to giving yourself room to breathe and the space to focus on the things that matter is to develop a clear understanding of the activities and behaviors that do not contribute to your life.  

This is the purpose of a Stop Doing list.

For example, you could give yourself permission to worry over the economy or search for the latest on coronavirus and COVID-19 coverage, but set a 30-minute time limit.

Here are a few more examples of things to stop doing:

  • Answering emails as they come in.
  • Endlessly scrolling social media newsfeeds.
  • Checking every notice as it pops up on your smartphone.
  • Saying yes when you want to say no.
  • Micromanaging others.
  • Avoiding the hard stuff.
  • Putting up with toxic relationships.

I refuse to waste my days making up all kinds of ways to worry about all the things that will not happen to me. – Jason Mraz

A Mental Exercise to Build Focus

The 3 simple steps outlined above can help to clear your mind and free you to focus on the things that matter, but sometimes – no matter how hard we try – our mind insists on doing its own thing.

Here is a simple 4-step exercise you can use to increase your capacity to focus attention where you need it to be.  

  • Bring your focus to your breath.
  • Notice when your mind wanders off.
  • Disengage from that train of thought.
  • Bring your focus back to your breath and hold it there.

And the next time your mind wanders off and you notice that you’re thinking about, say, checking Twitter rather than your breath, repeat that basic mental rep again. And again.

This seemingly simple exercise looks easier than it actually is.

It takes active attention to notice that your mind has drifted, and a mental effort to end that reverie and go back to the breath.

But this mental workout, if done with regularity and persistence, will help you to increase your capacity to focus, and make it easier to keep it where you need it to be.

Will you be the passenger or the driver in your life journey?
About Marquita A. Herald

Marquita Herald

Marquita is an author, pathfinder, resilience coach, and the chief evangelist at Emotionally Resilient Living. She’s also an unapologetic workaholic who loves red wine, rock n’ roll, road trips (and car dancing!), peanut butter cookies, and (especially) a dog named Lucy.

She’s saddened and frustrated by excuses and cruelty and believes authentic compassion is the most powerful force in the world.

  • To learn more about Marquita and Emotionally Resilient Living Start Here

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