Singapore is becoming an increasingly fast-paced society, and its younger population are thrown into high-pressure environments very early on in their lives — possibly even from kindergarten! With the immense amount of stress and pressure from an overwhelming mountain of academic demands, enrichment classes and extracurricular activities, it is inevitable that students will feel like their minds are scattered once in a while.
The brain has an executive function — it directs ourselves, organizes our thoughts and helps us sort out our priorities. A scattered mind is the result of an executive dysfunction, causing us to have difficulty in focusing and paying attention for extended periods of time, causing a drop in our productivity.
When you find yourself experiencing this, consider practicing mindfulness. While anxiety is the act of worrying about the future, mindfulness is the act of tuning in purposefully to your body and mind in the present moment and surroundings, by paying careful attention to your current thoughts, emotions and physical sensations. By doing this, you are removing distracting thoughts unrelated to your current activity and environment, along with the unnecessary stress of worrying about things that have not happened, and might never happen. You will be more likely to make sound decisions and channel more motivation into completing the tasks that you have set out to do.
Here are some tips to practice mindfulness and regain control of our minds!
Keep Your End Goal In Mind
Before you start a new task, ask yourself: “What am I trying to achieve?” Keep this goal in mind throughout the process of executing your task. As you go through every step needed to complete your task, the end goal will take on a clearer form in your head. This gives you something to go back to whenever you find yourself straying off the path, and helps in refocusing and evaluating whether your actions are helping you achieve your final goal.
Pay Attention To Your Breath
Racing thoughts, shallow and fast breathing, hunched shoulders, sweaty palms — these are some indications that you are feeling overwhelmed. You know your own signs and symptoms best! When you find yourself experiencing these symptoms, put aside your tasks, switch off your mobile phone and other electronic devices, and just BREATHE. Focus on the flow of air entering and exiting your nose. Take slow, deep breaths and feel how the tension leaves your body with every exhale!
Journal Your Thoughts
When your thoughts feel all over the place, take out a pen and write down everything that is racing through your mind. Writing is a therapeutic exercise — seeing your thoughts on the page will help you separate what makes sense and what doesn’t. Writing down the things that bother you will give you better control over your emotions, help you self-regulate your actions and reactions, and reduce the level of pent-up anxiety within your mind and body.
Recognise Your Priorities
Often, our mind is in a clutter as we are not sure of what is important to us and what we truly want to achieve. We are unsure of where to start and how to start. As a result, our mind starts to get disorganised. To solve this issue, simply start recognising your priorities. For example, you have a mountain of assignments to finish by the end of the day, but your friends have asked you to join them on a mobile game. What should you do then? Answer: focus on finishing up your assignments first. You can always play with your friends when you have lesser tasks at hand, or when time is more in your favour. Imagine fretting over your untouched assignments while you are gaming with your friends — besides putting you in a panic, you would not be able to feel the satisfaction!
Therefore, recognise and understand what your priorities are and make them your utmost importance. This way, you will have less to worry about, allowing your brain to relax.
Do It One At A Time
Do you feel the need to rush through your tasks just to get them done as soon as possible? You might even try to take up two or more tasks at the same time so as to save time. However, this is not efficient at all. Trying to speed things up and doing a lot at a time can cause your brain to be confused. It would also be challenging for you to focus on the task in front of you as you would be thinking of the next task to complete. As a result, this causes you to be less productive and efficient. Instead, you should take things slow and complete your tasks one at a time. This way, you will be able to clear your mind of clutter, ensuring that you complete your tasks purposefully.
Furthermore, take a look back at the tasks you have completed. It will appear to you that you have gotten a lot done, allowing the sense of satisfaction to wash over you!
Take A Break
You might think that pulling an all-nighter or working non-stop would ensure that you complete most of your tasks promptly. Although it might be the case, not having enough rest can cause your brain to be in chaos. A study done showed that not having enough sleep or rest can affect cognitive flexibility, reducing the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. You will be more likely to experience burnouts when you don’t have enough rest, causing you to be less motivated to get the next task started. This would be a huge issue especially when you still have a lot of tasks to complete! Therefore, when your brain is overloaded with information, take a break and get back to your tasks when you are more refreshed. This way, you will be able to focus and get more tasks done efficiently.
Declutter Your Workspace
A messy workspace can cause your brain to be more scattered. A study done showed that too much clutter inhibits the brain’s ability to focus and process information. Your brain would be too distracted by the clutter around you, affecting your ability to concentrate on your tasks. Therefore, try to clean up your workspace and only have items you will need for your tasks around you. Remove items that could distract you such as your mobile phone, games or any items that you are used to fidgeting with. Furthermore, try to tidy up your workspace before you go to bed every night. That way, when you wake up the next day with a neat workspace welcoming you, you will be more motivated to work on your tasks!
There is nothing wrong with being distracted by your scattered mind every now and then. However, when it becomes a constant in your daily life, you become more stressed out and unmotivated to get your tasks started. Therefore, when your mind is scattered, try following the tips mentioned above!