How to Stay Focused in Uncertain Times


By DeVry University

May 14, 2020
4 min read

Times of crisis, whether on a personal or societal level, can add a great deal of stress to our already busy lives. Monumental catastrophes, such as the 9/11 attacks, stay etched in the public's memory for a lifetime. During the events and immediately following, many Americans spent inordinate amounts of time watching news coverage which may have further added to their trauma. Some sources even question whether the constant media coverage resulted in an increased risk for developing PTSD among children.

The current COVID-19 pandemic is similar in that it affects most people's lives to a large degree. Even if your work life hasn't changed, constant news coverage and public discussions add to stress and panic, which isn't productive or healthy. While it's important to stay up-to-date on the latest recommendations, it’s imperative that we maintain our own mental and emotional health as well. Learning how to stay focused while studying, working from home or pursuing your personal goals is one way that you can feel like you’re still in control and maintain a sense of calm during the chaos.

How to Stay Focused While Studying or Working From Home

Focusing on tasks is easier said than done during a widespread pandemic. However, working or learning from home can help you keep your mind fresh and your anxiety at bay.

Even if you may have operated remotely prior to the pandemic, trying to work from home or complete online classes during COVID-19 can prove to be more challenging than usual. You may even be taking on e-learning responsibilities for your kids as well.  It’s now more important than ever to find new ways of maintaining focus amidst these enormous changes to your lifestyle and routine.

Here are a few tips to help you stay focused and on track:

  • Set a schedule. Setting a schedule for your work or classwork and for your down time will help keep your mind in the game. Knowing ahead of time when you need to be productive and when you can rest is key - just make sure you’re realistic with your scheduling.

  • Maintain your sleep routine. Working from home is flexible, which can cause people to stay up later than they normally would, disrupting their sleep patterns. Sleep is an important part of your physical and mental health. If you find yourself veering away from a healthy sleep pattern, make an effort to set and keep a bedtime routine and start using your alarm to standardize your waking hours.

  • Get outside and exercise. Exercise is a known stress reliever. It also boosts the immune system and therefore contributes to overall wellness. Adding regular exercise to your schedule will help you feel better and increase your mental clarity.

  • Organize your workspace. It's easy to get sidetracked when working from home. You might procrastinate because you want to check some household chores off of your to-do list or simply because there are other people to chat with and activities to do in your home. The best method to stay focused is by creating a space where you work. This can be anything from a corner of your bedroom or a set office space. Resist the temptation to do anything but work in the space once it has been designated as your go to work or learning spot.

The Importance of Learning How to Stay Focused During a Crisis

Maintaining focus during a crisis can be challenging, especially since we as human beings need to process serious life events on a psychological level. It can feel like a lot to cope with situations like this while also trying to be productive and maintaining your professional or academic success.

But keep in mind that maintaining focus does not mean ignoring the COVID-19 crisis. In fact, learning how to stay focused while studying or working from home allows you to engage your brain while also processing what’s happening in the outside world. Staying calm is also key to ensuring you can concentrate - so don’t forget to meditate, read or stay in touch with family and friends using tools like Zoom. Remember that self-care is essential during times of high stress.

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