Keys to limit the problems to concentrate at work, in studies, etc.
We are constantly performing complex actions and tasks that require a high level of concentration. Intense physical exercise, reading, working or studying, or even something as relatively simple as following the thread of a conversation requires that we invest our mental resources in carrying out that action. But we often find that for different reasons we are not capable of it. We lose the thread.
And it is that there are different elements that generate a lack of concentration that is noticeable in performance and in daily tasks. Let’s see how to recognize these symptoms and what to do to overcome them.
Concentration as a mental capacity
The concept of concentration is not exactly new or unknown. All of us have used the term more than once, we know what it refers to and that we have this capacity to a greater or lesser extent. However, before we start talking about when we are missing, it could be useful to give a brief description of what we understand as such.
Concentration is understood as the ability or capacity of the human being (and of other species) to focus their cognitive resources on a stimulus or action, in such a way that the rest of the environment is blurred and partially unattended unless some stimulation catches our attention. . In other words, it can be understood as a focus of attention makes concrete elements, selecting the stimulation and keeping it there. It allows us, as mentioned in the introduction, to follow the thread of a task and carry it out successfully.
The degree of motivation with respect to what we are doing has a lot to do with this skill : it is much easier to concentrate when we want to and we like to do what we do, when it absorbs us. In fact, there are concepts, such as engagement , based on it.
- Maybe you’re interested: ” Types of motivation: the 8 motivational sources “
Problems due to lack of concentration
But on more than one occasion we may not be able to maintain attention or invest enough mental resources to really focus on something, there is a lack of concentration. This at first glance may not seem especially serious, especially if we take into account that we live in a society in which the most basic needs for survival are generally covered, but the truth is that it can represent a big problem and be disabling to carry out an action effectively and efficiently. And it can have repercussions in various areas.
For example, at an academic or work level, our ability to concentrate allows us to carry out the tasks that are required of us or to properly record what we have to do or keep in memory. Not being able to concentrate properly will mean that we need much more time to perform each action, or even that we cannot do it at that moment. It is something that at some point has happened to all of us, but that is very common, it can generate poor performance.
In more extreme cases in which the subject was not able to concentrate at all for a long time, it could lead to school failure, conflict at work or in extreme cases dismissal.
On a personal level, the lack of concentration also translates into little desire to act. If we want to do something but lose the thread at the slightest, we end up getting frustrated, and leaving it for another time.
When it comes to social relationships, it can also create some difficulties. If we disconnect from the conversations they are having with us (which in general can be easy for the other to see), the other person may have the impression that we do not want or are not interested in the interaction, which can generate discomfort and even conflict.
But it is not necessary to take it to the extreme either. All of us often have some moment of lack of concentration, and although it is experienced as something negative by most, under certain conditions it could even be adaptive: basically our mind is informing us that we have something that worries us most at that moment, or that our attentional resources are low at that moment and we need to rest. The fact that it is dysfunctional is mainly due to the need to carry out the actions in question, and it may depend on the situation.
Possible causes of trouble concentrating
As we have mentioned, we all have moments when concentration fails us from time to time. In most cases we are not talking about a disorder, although in some disorders and diseases we can find ourselves faced with a continuous or repetitive lack of concentration as a symptom. Let’s look at some common causes.
When we do something, we don’t do it in a vacuum. We are located in a certain environment and context, in which different stimulations constantly appear that can interfere with our performance by demanding our attention.
2. Task competition
Doing two or more things at the same time, unless we have one of them highly automated, is complicated. Although we have some divided attention spans, focusing on something requires putting much of our attention on it, and the other task can be distracting.
3. Worries and thoughts
One of the most frequent distractors that tend to impair our concentration is the existence of thoughts or concerns that absorb our attention and make it difficult to keep our attention focused on something. These thoughts or concerns can be both important and banal.
It has been discussed previously, but fatigue is one of the most common causes of poor concentration. Our attentional resources are exhausted and we cannot keep them fixed on a specific element, which is one of the most frequent causes of concentration problems.
If we do something that we do not like and we would rather be doing something else, it is more difficult to stay focused. And it is that motivation is a very important element when it comes to keeping our attention resources focused.
6. Anxiety and discomfort
If we feel bad, we are nervous or we have just had some kind of displeasure, concentrating continuously can be complicated, since the discomfort itself (in addition to the possible worries and associated thoughts) will be demanding part of the subject’s attention.
7. Excessive expansiveness, extreme joy and energy
The opposite of the previous point can also make it very difficult to stay focused. The joy we feel also demands part of our attention, and unless what we are doing is its source, concentrating on other things becomes complicated. High energy levels can cause attention to jump and move from one point to another, not being able to concentrate.
Mental abilities such as memory or the ability to concentrate are not always stable, but as a general rule they tend to decline little by little with age. We are talking about a normative loss, not being necessary to suffer from any type of dementia.
Disorders and diseases in which there is a lack of concentration
Although the above causes are common in the entire population, as we have indicated in some disorders and diseases, concentration fails due to the alterations generated by these conditions. A few of them are as follows.
1. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder
ADHD is characterized precisely by the difficulties to maintain concentration and the facility of these people to be distracted, whether they present hyperactivity or not. Those who suffer from it are easily distracted, they tend to forget objects and things to do and have difficulties completing tasks. In cases where there is hyperactivity, there is also agitation, nervousness and impulsivity.
2. Alzheimer’s and other dementias
Dementias and neurodegenerative diseases often cause problems with attention and concentration as brain deterioration occurs. Along with memory problems, the ability to concentrate is often one of the first skills to wane.
Although the first thing that comes to mind when talking about schizophrenia are hallucinations, another of the frequent symptoms of those who suffer from this disorder is the presence of difficulties in attention, especially in those who suffer some impairment. This without taking into account the presence of a possible psychotic outbreak, in which concentration tends to drift towards hallucinations.
3. Mood disorders
People with depression often have difficulty concentrating, and their minds are often occupied with negative thoughts. The sadness and automatic thoughts that are generated in depressive episodes, the anhedonia, apathy and passivity that usually accompany it make it very difficult for the patient to concentrate.
As for people who suffer from bipolar disorder, in addition to the problems of depressive episodes, they will also have a lack of concentration when they are in the manic phase. In a manic episode the person is expansive, energetic, accelerated, agitated and may even be irritable. Focusing and maintaining attention on a specific stimulus is much more complex, jumping from one stimulus to another.
4. Substance use
A large number of drugs and other substances make it very difficult for those who take them to concentrate, either due to depression of the nervous system or excessive stimulation. On the other hand, other substances such as coffee can increase the energy level of someone tired, or others such as linden relax someone nervous, to the point of facilitating their concentration.
Some ways to exercise your attention span
Lack of concentration can be annoying and cause various problems in our day to day. That is why training it is very advisable. Some ways to hinder lack of concentration or even strengthen this ability are as follows.
1. Practice physical exercise
The regular practice of exercise and sports contributes greatly to improving the ability to concentrate, as well as burning energy and allowing endorphins to be released that will make us feel better.
2. Get enough sleep
We have already indicated before that fatigue is one of the factors that causes lack of concentration in our tasks. We need to get enough sleep and rest to be able to recover our energy and resources.
Linked to the previous point, we find the need to disconnect from our duties, our work or studies on time. It is necessary to have some time to yourself, without always being absorbed by the same task. If we do not disconnect we will end up exhausting ourselves, whether we sleep or not.
4. Don’t surround yourself with distractors
The mobile, the computer, the television, the people talking around … If we have a lot of concentration capacity, they may not bother us, but most people will see how their attention is captured by these types of distractors. Although they do not ring, their presence allows you to draw attention (does anyone look at Facebook, WhatsApp or surf the internet even though they should be doing that work that they have to deliver next week?).
We are also not saying that we should isolate ourselves completely to do something, but we must be aware and not self-restrict.
5. Seek to find motivation in what you do
Setting goals that really motivate us and linking them to what you’re doing makes it easier to stay focused. If what we are doing does not motivate us, we can try to make sense of it by linking it to our daily lives or establishing it as a necessary step to achieve that goal.
6. Practice meditation
Meditation has been shown to be effective in stimulating attention capacity, as well as being a practice that allows us to relax and visualize things in a more objective way.
7. One thing at a time
Taking care of several things makes it difficult to keep your attention on one and leads to a lack of concentration. Organizing and dedicating yourself to a single task makes it easy to stay focused on what we do.
8. Where is important
Carrying out each action in a context that facilitates it is helpful. Studying in bed, for example, makes it easier to fall asleep doing something (and in turn, when it comes to sleeping it is more difficult for us to do so) while working at a desk makes it easier to work on a computer, write or read. Light and sound conditions are also important.
9. Read and write
Reading and writing are actions that, although once we have learned, they may seem simple to us, they usually require high doses of concentration. Especially if we do it by hand. In addition, structuring a speech to express what we want to express forces us to focus on finding a way to do it.
10. Create a schedule
One way to strengthen concentration, as well as the capacity for discipline, is to develop a planning that takes into account what we are going to do. In this planning we must incorporate not only what we have to do, but also rest periods. Now, it is important that the planning is realistic because otherwise it can generate demotivation.