Episode 131: 4 Tips for Finding Focus During a Crisis

Here are four quick tips to help you regain your focus during this time of crisis.

Show transcript:

Welcome to the SimpleMoney Podcast, where we make personal finance less intimidating. I’m Dawn Starks, a financial planner and lover of the simple life. I’m here to talk about money and simplicity. Let’s dive in.

This is Episode 131: 4 Tips for Finding Focus During a Crisis.

I think by this time we’re all feeling the stress of this global crisis that we’re having, whether we realize it or not. Some of you might be thinking, “Oh I’ve got this!” and “It’s great and it’s almost like a vacation!”, or “I have all this extra time!”

But even if you feel positive about the quarantine overall, you’re still under stress. And when we’re under stress, we tend to look at our health differently and treat ourselves differently, and we don’t take as good care of ourselves. So there are things that we need to watch out for, because sometimes you overtly feel that stress, and then it’s real obvious that you’re not doing the things you need to do. And other times you think that you’re going along just fine, and it really turns out that you are having stress, and kind of internalizing that stress.

So, some of the people who are on the front line, or dealing with the crisis directly – first of all, hats off to those folks – those are the folks who are obviously feeling the stress. But the folks of us who are maybe just inconvenienced by this – we have to work from home, we don’t get to get out and about as much as we want – there’s still stress there, too. Because we can’t help watching the news and watching our investments bounce all over the place with the market.

And we know about all this uncertainty, and so – I guess we don’t know about it – we have all this uncertainty about what’s going to happen next, and that causes, like, this low level of stress in your body, and in your mind. So there are things that we need to focus on and think about in order to try to relieve that stress, and try to get our focus back. Because when we’re feeling that underlying stress, it can really take its toll on our focus, our ability to do good work and stay on task, and just stay present in whatever it is we’re doing. So, every day I’m still feeling a little bit of, you know, a little bit of low-level tension. And I feel like it’s better now than it was several weeks ago, but I think that still, it’s there. So these are some tips that you could use to try to regain your focus during this rough time, because even if you don’t feel like you’re feeling overly stressed, you probably have had lack of focus. So here are some things to do.

The first step is to Assess and Take Inventory. So, just like you can’t figure out where you’re going to go on a journey unless you figure out where you are right now, you have to know where you are in order to be able to plot a course to where you want to go.

Same thing happens with a crisis. So, if you haven’t done so already, you know doing things like inventorying your pantry and figuring out what you’re short on – the things that you can do, in order to try to make your life easier in the coming weeks. Because I don’t think we’re out of the woods here, we’re going to be in this crisis for some time yet.

So you’ve probably already been making do and trying to get the things you need from the grocery store, and some things have been out, but you can sort of take an inventory of where you are now. So we’ve made it through roughly a month of self isolation, or quarantine, or whatever it is you refer to it as. And now we’re going to continue moving forward this way.

Some states in the United States have decided that they’re going to open back up. So maybe your life, if you live in those states, is going to be a little bit different. But for those of us who are still under stay-at-home orders, take an assessment of where you are with things. As directly as things like in your pantry, but also kind of, in your head.

Where are you with your work? Where are you with projects? Where are you with just your mental health? And so take an inventory, kind of assess where you are and try to figure out what is the best game plan going forward.

Another tip to help you get more focused during this time is to just Be Kind to Yourself. When we’re all feeling stress, we’re all going to be a little bit more short tempered, or less focused and attentive on things. And so it’s really going to take an effort for us to get that focus back and to be able to overcome the stresses that we’re having.

So recognize that we’re all in this together. And don’t beat yourself up when you’re not able to do your full workload, or when you just can’t seem to get a handle on homeschooling your kids now, and working, and keeping the house clean. Recognize you’re not superhuman and that this is an unusual situation and just be kind to yourself and try to replace those negative thoughts that you’re giving yourself with positive and kinder thoughts.

Another tip is to Rest, and Breathe, and Go Outside, (so I kind of lump those all together in one). But making sure you’re getting enough rest is really critical. When you’re under stress of any kind, the first thing that can often be impacted by that is your sleep.

Surely you all have had the experience where you’ve had a stressful time in your life, and you either can’t get to sleep at night, or you’re waking up in the night and you can’t get back to sleep.

And there’s just a lot of impediments to getting good, healthy sleep. So that really needs to be something that you focus on in this time of stress and crisis, making sure you’re getting enough rest. If you can go to bed earlier, that would be good. If you can sleep a little longer, that would be good. If you can sneak in a nap when you haven’t slept well, that would be helpful.

So things that you can do to get your body the time that it needs to recuperate and restore itself, that’s going to help with the stress.

Otherwise, what happens is you get in this loop where you’re not sleeping, you’re not getting enough rest, so your body is stressed out physically as well as mentally and emotionally, and then that’s going to lead to more stress. And then that stress is going to lead to more sleeplessness, and so on and so on. So you really do want to focus on that.

Also, recognize you’re going to be shallow breathing a lot. When you’re under stress, you’re not going to be taking deep, healing and cleansing breaths. So focus on that. Recognize that, “Ooh, you know, gosh, I’m feeling kind of tight in my chest, and I need to make sure I’m taking good breaths to relax myself.”

And going outside is helpful for this. So, if you live in a place where you can just step outside of your home, and be in nature, or at least in the fresh air, that’s great. For some of you, it may require a little bit more of getting down hallways in an apartment building or what have you, but whatever you can do, even opening a window and getting some fresh air. But the fresh air and being outside, especially if you can get into nature, into the woods, just into a grassy area where you can breathe deeper and feel a little bit more restful.

So the last of my four tips, (because that last one I kind of squeezed a couple in there) but the last of the four that I had is to Exercise Some Discipline. And what I mean by this, is that, it’s all well and good to say, “Hey, you need to be nice to yourself. You need to rest.” But we can take that to the extreme right? And then get nothing done that we need to get done during this time.

So, it’s important for us to be kind to ourselves and give ourselves some grace. But also, life has to move on. We have to get our bills paid. We have to do things. We have to cook meals, and feed our kids, and feed ourselves and so on.

So recognize that, and put yourself on a little bit of a schedule if need be. But try to make sure that every day you are getting three square meals, that you’re getting some exercise, that you’re getting good rest. You know, make yourself some goals in that way to try to get basics in place, to make sure you’re not letting things go. This is not the time to ignore your bills, especially if you are having financial difficulties as a result of this crisis. Don’t ignore your bills. You want to be proactive on that, so be disciplined and create a system, or a schedule for yourself while things are different now, so that you know that the things that need to get done, are going to get done.

And you don’t have to feel like you’re actually piling onto your stress by the fact that “Oh, I can’t focus and I can’t get anything done!” And therefore you’re not getting the things done, and that’s going to add to your anxiety about about being unfocused and not getting your work done. So exercising a little bit of discipline.

And speaking of exercise, try to get some exercise. This goes along with the rest, and, you know, being nice to yourself. It doesn’t probably feel like working out is being nice to yourself. (That actually is, probably for most people, not being nice to yourself!) But you don’t want to let your exercise go by the wayside.

If you’re used to going to the gym or having classes, and you can’t do that right now, try to find ways to make sure you’re doing that at home so that you’re staying active, because exercise also will reduce your stress level and will increase your feeling of well-being.

So that’s it. Those are my four tips for finding focus, or increasing or improving your focus, when we’re having a crisis. Not just this one, but really any crisis.

These are the things you need to do. Stop and Assess. Where are you? What needs to happen? You know, what are your – we can talk about it as a physical inventory or just a mental inventory. So you’re just sort of stopping and assessing the situation.

And then the next thing was to Be Kind to Yourself. Recognize it’s a crisis. You’re not going to be your top-notch person, your best person – you’re not. So recognize that, give yourself some grace. Be kind to yourself.

Make sure you’re getting rest. That’s the third thing, Resting and making sure that you’re taking deep breaths and not shallow breathing. So watch your sleep patterns. Make sure you’re breathing well, and if you can get outside and breathe fresh air, that would be even better.

And the fourth one is to Exercise Some Discipline. Don’t let this be a free-for-all of like “Well, I’m just going to be nice to myself and do nothing productive for the next however-many weeks.” Life needs to move on.

Don’t dig yourself further in a hole by not getting your bills paid and, you know, work around your house done, or your work for your job done, or whatever the case may be.

Get some discipline in there, work on making sure you’re getting some things done every day to move yourself forward, and not get yourself further into a hole which will cause you to be further stressed and anxious.

All right, well, how about you? How are you handling the stress of this moment these days? You can let me know by emailing me: dawn@simplemoneypro.com. If you’re a Facebook user, we have a free community on Facebook. It’s called the SimpleMoney Community, you’re welcome to join there and share your thoughts. And that’s it. We’ll see you next week.

Thanks for listening. If you enjoy the SimpleMoney Podcast, be sure to subscribe on your favorite podcast player.

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