Lost your focus during lockdown? How to get it back.

Did you lose your focus during lockdown?

When I was in my final year of A-levels my favourite history teacher was replaced by a teacher I didn’t like. He had new methods of essay writing that jarred with what I’d been taught already. He also thought potato, singular, was spelt potatoe. Imagine?! As a consequence of these changes (in my head anyway) the first essay I ever wrote for him on Gladstone got marked 11 out of 25. I was distraught! I was a straight A-student. I didn’t GET low marks. I marched directly to the staff room in tears to find my lovely other history teacher who talked me down and helped me through the pain (and who reminded me that Gladstone was rather dull).

Aside from the mildly adolescent over-reaction, the disappointment motivated and focused me. After the initial upset I began to realise he may have a point, that there may be some gaps in my knowledge and understanding. Although he still wasn’t very approachable he encouraged me to read around the subject more. In both the Christmas and Easter holidays before my A-levels I set myself a schedule in order to bridge the knowledge gap and practice my essay writing. I was writing two history essays a day which my lovely other history teacher had kindly agreed to mark for me (one even got a signature from Sean Bean who I was rather smitten by at the time since she was working on the set of Sharpe).

I’ve always been like this. Set me a challenge, or tell me I can’t do something, then give me a day to get over feeling cross and I’ll get stuck in. As a teenager it was to the point that my parents were a bit concerned for my state of mind. Blinkered has often been used to describe me. I do focus.

Why have we all lost our focus and motivation during lockdown?

During lockdown however, I’ve struggled to find any focus and it’s not a part of my personality that I’m used to or comfortable with. And it seems I’m not alone. Do a quick search on ‘focus and lockdown’ and you’ll find it’s a national if not worldwide phenomenon.

Reasons range from the obvious:

  • Disruption of our old routines and loss of habits. If it take between 5 and 60 days to create a habit, we’ve had four whole months to lose them
  • Some of us are grieving, or have got sick or perhaps have worries over symptoms as yet undiagnosed.
  • Some of us are worried for or have already lost jobs.
  • Our daily routines – whether it’s work from home, walk round the loop, or feed the family – have got dull to the point of painful (if you’ve ever done a tele-sales job you’ll be familiar with this particular pain).
  • We’ve had the things we used to find joyful taken away from us. For me it’s singing or music. Even hugging! I miss that so much.
  • Lots of us may have been homeschooling. It’s been like taking on new jobs in addition to our own, with very little training a lot of distraction.

Then there are the more subtle reasons that get into our heads:

  • Society has labelled some jobs or roles more important than others. It’s understandable given what we’ve been through but it can’t help but sap a little motivation.
  • Large chunks of society have been marginalised or made to feel ‘weak’. Self-isolating, shielding, over 70s, ‘BAME’ (don’t start me on that) or pregnant. There’s a whole lot of labelling going on.
  • There’s so much else to think about. Fears for our loved ones. Worries for our future. Looking after our neighbours or children. The daily briefings and weekly ‘new things to think about’. This week it’s masks but there’ll be something else.

And then there are the unconscious changes we’re all going through. The constant stress affects our limbic system also know as our fight or flight response.

We’re too scared to be focused

I loved this explanation by Alex Frey, co-founder and director of The Mindfulness Project, speaking in Time Out magazine:

“Rest assured that you are not the only one feeling that your attention span has dwindled to that of a goldfish in this situation. The mounting stresses and uncertain future are causing our limbic systems to work harder than usual right now. This system is activated by real or imagined threats and tells our body to fight, flight or freeze to keep us safe. In this state, we also don’t have access to the prefrontal cortex part of our brain which helps us pay attention, rationalise, stay calm, plan and seek creative solutions.”

Ah! So that’s it. Perhaps instead of trying to push through and work harder (which is my go to – as per my history A-level example) we actually need to stop, breathe, take a little time out and maybe even play.

School Summer Holidays

It’s the start of the school summer holidays in England. Normally a time I’d be encouraging you to find ways to stay active during the LONG summer break. But this year is a bit different, maybe instead of doing we actually need to rest and reset.

Whether you have children at home or not, we have a new chapter ahead of us. Coronavirus is definitely not over. We aren’t back to normal by a long shot but some freedoms, for many, are returning.

If you’re not ready to feel ‘normal’, that’s okay

There is a sense or a pressure from society to ‘be and feel’ normal again and that can make us feel frustrated or worried that we aren’t there yet.

It’s also the time of year we’d normally run our Fat Loss Hub or run fitness challenges but you can’t fly if your wings are broken.

Perhaps you’d like to dip your toes back into your usual exercise routine. Perhaps you’ve been maintaining your usual exercise routine but need a bit of a change.

If, like me, you’re a schedules person, you’re going to need to schedule in play and rest too. We can’t force the focus if our fight or flight systems are stressed.

Our summer holidays programme is going to look a little different. Our classes will be running, with a few amendments to ensure we get some proper rest with our family, but we’ll be sharing some pre-recorded ‘on demand’ shorter length classes for you to dip into. These will include some stretch, relax and mindfulness sessions. We’d love to think you could incorporate these into your day.

If the thought of this fills you with fear (don’t worry, there won’t be chanting) then try a more mindful walk or bake. Grow some stuff. Radishes or micro greens. Things that grow quickly and easily!

The key will be starting small. Lose the massive to do list. If one of your to dos includes getting back to a class you have missed for months then we’d love for you to do that. If you’re shy, tell us first and we won’t even mention you are there!

Find a fitness buddy

And if you’re still struggling with motivation, get some accountability. Find a friend or get onto the Facebook group and find a focus buddy. A focus mate.

Are you going to Pilates at 9.30 on Tuesday morning?


Me too. See you there.

I need to go for a run on Friday. Does anyone else?

Yes. Me.

Can you make 4pm?


Okay so let’s check in before and after we run to make sure we both do it.

On Friday I sat down with various bits of paper and a pencil to come up with a new schedule. Not a list but a schedule. But I’m now realising I too need to add onto that list time to play games with the kids and time to spend in the garden with a cup of tea. I may be searching for that 17 year old super motivated student in vain because let’s face it, she didn’t have all that much to worry about really. It was easier then to be single-minded.

So let’s make this next six weeks time to recuperate, sit with how it all feels and lower the expectations on ourselves and come back refreshed and more hopeful. Fix our wings and get our focus back. If you’re not ready just yet, we’ll be waiting for you. x

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