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Mental health & Wellbeing: 7 ways to improve your focus and reduce stress

Tuesday 17 May 2016

If you’re having trouble making the most of your time, have poor concentration, or difficulty getting things completed and out of your mind, it can be stressful to say the least. Luckily, armed with our expert tips you can make some simple changes to your life and be rewarded with improved focus and reduced stress.

With all the pressures of modern life pulling your focus this way and that, it can be hard to concentrate on the task at hand – whether that’s in your home life or at work. An inability to concentrate can stop you from getting things done, meaning that the jobs pile up and your stress level increases.

Lady medidating

Work-related stress accounted for over a third (35%) of ill health cases at work in 2014/15, showing that it can have a significant effect on your health and wellbeing – and even put your ability to work at risk.

The seven tips below are simple to follow and could help you improve your focus and reduce the risk of stress.

1. Switch off

The constant pinging and buzzing of our smartphones can make it hard to switch off – quite literally! However, we should all aim to get some time away from technology, especially before bed as it can disturb sleep. Equally important is knowing when to switch off your work technology so you keep a good work-life balance.

“Weekends should be as work-free as possible. If your boss or manager gives you a work mobile, then I suggest turning that and its associated email function off at the end of the working day,” says psychiatrist Dr. Mark Silvert, a Medical Director & Consultant Psychiatrist at The Blue Tree Clinic.

“It's all too easy just to check your emails on holidays, weekends and evenings and then find yourself subconsciously feeling nagged by some piece of unfinished work. The key to being happy and stress-free is being strict with yourself.”

2. Take time for yourself

In order to be focused, mentally alert and happy, it’s vital that you dedicate some of your time to yourself! Find something you enjoy and do it often, taking time to re-energise and relax.

“I always recommend that people take 20 minutes for themselves a day, whether that’s meditation, listening to music or reading something that inspires them. Alone time will allow you to really clear your mind of any negative energy and focus on what is important,” explains Pete Cohen, life coach and author of self-help book Shut the Duck Up.

3. Practice mindful meditation

If you want to reduce the stress in your life and improve your focus – and let’s be honest, who doesn’t – mindful meditation may help. There are thousands of free, guided meditations online that’ll allow you to spend some quiet time with your mind and reap the benefits afterwards.

“We spend so much of our life living in the future or the past. Taking time out to live in the present moment and practice mindfulness meditation can be a powerful reset switch,” says Neil Shah, Chief De-Stressing Officer at The Stress Management Society.

4. Take a breath

No-one quite knows how the mind and the body are connected to each other, but we all know that they are. Use this to your advantage when you feel like you’re becoming stressed and need a quick way to calm down.

“When we are calm, our breath is calm. When we are tense, our breath is tense. The good news is that it also works the other way round – so if we calm our body through our breath, our minds will follow, “explains mindfulness expert Rohan Gunatillak, creator of the popular mindfulness app buddhify and director of creative studio Mindfulness Everywhere.

“So even if we don't feel calm, by taking some deep, measured breaths, we can fake it before we make it!”

5. Identify stress triggers

Before you can deal with stress, it’s imperative that you’re able to identify your personal triggers, especially if you aren’t going through a major upheaval.

“The first thing to do is assess your daily habits and emotions. Do you always feel stressed when you are running late? Do you feel overwhelmed at work?” asks David Brudö, co-founder and CEO of Remente, an app that offers several stress management courses.

“Once you identify the source, you can take positive action and deal with stress much easier such as attend stress management courses, read about techniques to reducing stress and download apps that will help you handling daily tasks and stress management.”

6. Create manageable ‘to-do’ lists

When you have several balls in the air, it can become difficult to keep track of things so that things seem to spiral out of control. The humble to-do list can be a great help, allowing you to stay focused and on top of your tasks.

“Try to break tasks down into small and manageable components, instead of a general to-do list. For example, instead of saying ‘complete assignment’, break it down into smaller elements that you allocate a set amount of time to and which you can then tick off the list,” says psychologist Niels Eék, Co-founder of Remente and Sweden’s very first specialisation psychologist.

“This will help you concentrate on the task at hand without losing focus and procrastinating.”

7. Eat a brain-healthy diet

The foods we choose to fuel our bodies can have a direct influence on how well we are able to concentrate, as well as on how well equipped we are to deal with potentially stressful situations.

"A brain-healthy diet is essential for keeping your memory and intellect sharp and your mood buoyant. This means foods rich in healthy omega 3 fats and mono-unsaturated fats like oily fish, avocado and olives, protein to support production of neurotransmitters (brain chemicals that influence mood, memory and concentration) and antioxidants found in berries, green tea, leafy greens to improve blood circulation and protect the brain from damage,” reveals nutritionist Christine Bailey, Director of Advance Nutrition Ltd, Nutritionist (BSc Hons), TV Chef and Presenter and works as a Food and Health Consultant.

“In addition keeping the sugar low and blood sugar levels stable through the day can improve concentration.”


While you’re making positive changes to your life, and making to-do lists, why not ensure you have all the necessary life insurance protection in place, so you can take one thing off your mind.

However, if you are concerned that you still won’t be able to avoid stress, consider income protection cover to make sure absences from work don’t leave you in a difficult financial position

So remember, eat healthy, take time for yourself, take breaks from technology, try meditation, find your own outlet, make to-do lists and take a breath to feel calmer. Here’s to a less stressed, happier and more focused you!


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LV=, County Gates, Bournemouth, BH1 2NF, UK