stress and attention

Hi all, sorry for the lack of posts lately, but I’m pretty convinced that I shouldn’t try to write if I have nothing to say. I’ve seen plenty of blogs that seem to just keep spewing out garbage because they’ll lose their precious hit-counts if they don’t keep updating, but I’m not trying to make any money here.

The reason, however, that I haven’t had much to say is that I haven’t been doing much. Lately it’s been a struggle to stay focused. Now, those who know me may laugh at this, since I recognize that I have a strong tendency to bounce from topic to topic, but those bounces are usually on the scale of several months. Lately, I seem to be mostly unable to work on any project for more than a few minutes before I get side-tracked. The main symptom is that I seem to get a compulsion to seek newly updated information; I start browsing through all sorts of blogs, tweets, facebook posts, etc, looking for something new, and I get bored very easily and move on.

This has been pretty frustrating for me since I usually have quite an ability to sit down and get absorbed in something interesting like looking up a hundred new words in a language or something. What I realized lately is that this lack of attention is based on stress in my life. I hadn’t really realized before that there was a strong link between stress and attention-span.

Today, I happened to be watching my favourite news program, Democracy Now, and Amy Goodman (the host) was interviewing a guy from my home town (Vancouver, Canada) about drug addiction and harm reduction. In the interview, Dr. Gabor Maté discussed in detail about the effects of stress on infants, and how this can lead to things such as susceptibility to drug addiction, and to … Attention Deficit Disorder!

Now that I’ve made more of a connection between the current stress in my life, and these symptoms of reduced attention span and motivation, I’ll hopefully be able to focus more on relaxing and removing the stressful elements of my situation, rather than just trying to force myself to pay attention (which has probably just increased my stress, ironically).

I’ll probably come back with more commentary on this topic after I’ve read Dr. Maté’s book on the subject, but for now I’m just going to take it easy and maybe investigate some meditation techniques or something. Perhaps I should retreat back to German too, since I’ve noticed that it just feels soooo easy to read and listen to German, compared with the Swedish I’ve been working on. I know it’s just a matter of time until my Swedish comprehension improves, but it’s so nice to get that feeling of accomplishment from understanding German (although I still have lots of work to do there too).

Please leave me a note if you’ve experienced distraction from your studies, and how you deal with it 🙂


5 Responses to stress and attention

  1. WC says:

    I don’t know if stress affects my ability to focus, but I know it definitely affects my motivation. Too much stress at work means that I’ll sit and veg at home instead of studying anything. Too little means that I will find things at home that tax me, usually new things that I know little about.

  2. Shawn betts says:

    get with the times! ADD doesn’t exist. It’s ADHD.

  3. Chani says:

    I’m avoiding my homework right now! 😉
    and I’m stressed out because I’m avoiding it, so I avoid it because I’m stressed out…
    eventually I just have to sit down and stare at a wall or something until I feel like I can attempt to focus on the homework again.
    of course, that’s homework, where there’s lots of deadlines looming and I often need to get it done. with other stuff I usually just take a break.

    I think I’m getting better at just doing one thing at a time and not letting the pile of unfinished things distract me to the point of not doing *any* of them… but it’s still not easy.
    and I’m still here reading blogs instead of writing my essays.

  4. rcy says:

    some good observations here, pete.

    ive been realizing these days that when i cant concentrate it means theres something else going on. im not sure what stress is, but i think what i think of as stress is actually anxiety about other things that i need to be doing, or at some level think i should be doing. its hard to sit down and try to enjoy reading something in a language i half understand when the dishes are piled up to the ceiling and i havent responded to the backlog of emails and phone messages i have and i theres a big mess of unorganized papers and other crap on my desk that needs processing, etc etc.

    at that point its really tempting to just surf the net looking for something really really awesome and easy to be distracted by, to be drawn in by. but it doesnt really work for that long.

    so uh yeah. when that happens i try to go outside, or sit and meditate. sitting and focussing on your breath for awhile is a good way to bring me back to the present moment, and usually it becomes pretty clear through that what it is that is that im avoiding doing that i need to take care of so im not running around all agitated.

  5. water says:

    Hi, I really like your blog! great information site about your progress. I was wondering if you had a contact (Like Skype etc…) so I can talk to you in regards to language learning. I’m learning German aswell.

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