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How to focus on study/work when we are anxious?

24 Answers
Last Updated: 11/18/2020 at 8:16pm
How to focus on study/work when we are anxious?
1 Tip to Feel Better
Moderated by

Paola Giordani, Psychoanalyst

Licensed Psychoanalyst

I have helped and am helping people cope with loss, divorce, anguish and parenting. Depression is also a major issue that comes up.

Top Rated Answers
August 24th, 2015 11:03pm
Do not drink coffee or any other kind of caffeine. Practice 4-5-6 breathing (breathe in for 4, hold it for 5, let it out slowly for 6 seconds). Take breaks. Realize that the human brain can only really focus for 50 minutes. Break up studying into little sections instead of trying to knock it all out in one 4 hour block. Try to get lost in your studying - like really think about it and try to understand it in your life and world. Anxiety often includes a vague fear that you will not be able to do it or the task is too big. You can do it :)
October 1st, 2015 9:40pm
I recently found that seven cups can help with focusing on studying. When I am anxious around work it is usually because I worry about getting absorbed and being completely alone in my work, because I can't cling to my surroundings or my worry- essentially, I can't just 'let go' of my worries or fears. So I went onto sevencups and found a listener and asked them if it was okay if we didn't talk. That I had had a bad day and needed a hug and could they just stay online with me whilst I did some work and check in on me every fifteen mins so I knew they were still there. I also said if they had to go that was fine but just to let me know so I could find another listener. Whilst I waited for a listener to become available initially, I also went into a group chat room and said I was there to wait for someone and had work to do. I got totally absorbed but when it all got too much I knew I could come out of my work and chat with my listener and feel safe. This place is amazing. I wish there was a physical version of this just so my eyes didn't go funny from all the screen time.
May 31st, 2015 8:39pm
Take the time to calm yourself down. Do things to de-clutter yourself, such as cleaning your room or just your work area. If the work itself is stressing you, then take the time to organize what it is that you need to do into bite-sized chunks that are easy to get done and don't forget to reward yourself for all that you do. Always do the short, easy tasks first so that you can feel accomplished and will want to get more done!
January 29th, 2015 4:09pm
Pace yourself, take things one at a time and remember that you can do it, as long as you believe. It can be hard but you just have to try!
December 8th, 2015 4:44pm
Anxiety keeps you from retaining knowledge, and also may contribute to errors. The good news is that anxiety can be managed: talking to someone, seeing a psychotherapist, or practicing mindfulness are all great ways to reduce anxiety. Did you know that 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation per day can improve standardized test scores?!
May 12th, 2015 1:24pm
I would recommend to take short breaks and just relax by listening to calm music and just closing your eyes and letting your soul nourish itself. Also, music while performing tasks that don't require too much attention is a nice way to deal with anxiety for me.
October 6th, 2015 4:56am
Take a deep breath, and slowly exhale through pursed lips. This forces your heart to slow down, which can help slowing your mind down as well. Than create a visual list, and create checklists from that list that creates a manageable checkmark whenever you finish it. I firmly believe that by visually seeing what we need to accomplish in easy, not-so-intimidating tasks, it creates a sense of calm for anyone :)
August 18th, 2015 11:10pm
I find that grounding yourself physically helps a lot. It is easy to get carried away in your emotions, grounding them gives the feeling of having more control.
September 28th, 2015 6:15pm
Divide work up. Do a little at a time. One chapter. Few questions from a worksheet. Then allow yourself some break time to refocus and relax. :)
September 11th, 2017 3:32am
Our brain functions best when enough rest is taken. For example, working continuously beyond 2 hours will come with a decreased productivity. Extra work beyond 9hrs a day is also not productive. I am not sure if your anxiety is work-related. If it is so, regular small breaks will reset your anxiety level and boost productivity. Low productivity is also a trigger for anxiety
May 21st, 2015 9:06pm
It's almost impossible to focus when you're anxious, so I'd say that your first priority should be taking care of the anxiety. Take a half hour to take care of yourself. Do things that relax you and make you feel calmer, and make sure that you continue to keep yourself calm and relaxed while you're working by taking breaks and taking good care of yourself during them. You'll be much more productive in the long run if you take the time to deal with your anxiety instead of trying to push through it!
May 22nd, 2015 12:35pm
When i am anxious yet need to study or be fully present at work, i try to work in short intervals, i will work hard for half an hour then give myself 5 minutes for my mind to wander, minfulness training i feel helps with this, as when it is mind wandering time you have some control on it and have the ability to bring yourself back to present and back to study / work. if you can be fully present in your work or study, your mind wont wander to much. i also find very low calming music to help stay focussed. anything too upbeat is only going to stir your anxiety and also watch out for what lyrics are being put out to you.
January 24th, 2017 8:35pm
I'd be very careful doing that and consider what you're anxious about and how long you are anxious already or whether it's a recurring thing in your life. Your mental well-being is more important than your study, focus on that, see what you can do about your anxiety. If you really must focus on study/work it might help to first write everything out that you're anxious about before going to study/work.
March 20th, 2017 9:10pm
The most important thing is just to start to study. It doesn't matter if you think you'll stop soon, or not do a good job, you only need to start, with no pressure
June 30th, 2020 12:25am
If you want to study when you’re anxious, my suggestion Is to grab some relaxing comfort foods and snack on those while watching something funny for 15 minutes. This allows your to have a break from anything that’s bugging you and you’ll be able to study or work a lot better once your nerves are calmed. If you don’t have any time for a break, I also think it’s a good idea to listen to music while studying because it will also allow you to be more at peace and to study easier and more efficiently, which was the main goal.
August 11th, 2020 6:52pm
I like to step outside and take deep breaths looking at nature and trees and trying to think about something positive. I like to vent about my emotions and get them out to feel free again. Whether speaking with a loved one or writing my feelings down in a journal, any source of venting how I feel helps me tremendously. I also like to find a source of outlet when it comes to getting my mind off of things. To do this, I like to watch comedy movies, garden or create things. Once these thoughts are out of my body, I am able to focus on study/work.
July 4th, 2016 1:49pm
Take a deep breath, count to ten, and then release it slowly. Focus on your breathing. Concentrate on your heartbeat. Little things like that can help you to feel grounded. If all else fails, it's okay to take a short break to relax.
July 19th, 2016 8:59pm
Listening to Classical music or piano music can help you focus also sitting outside (if the weather is okay) as sometimes listening to the outdoor sounds is good for focussing and anxiety.
April 3rd, 2017 9:13pm
It depends on what you are anxious about. If it is something controllable and something that can be solved, do it. If not, try thinking that you don't want to spoil your studies because of something else because then you'll be in more trouble.
March 6th, 2018 12:52am
As you are anxious and are trying to focus on studying and working, there are two options you can either do some work or subject to study on and take breaks in between and when you're ready you can continue from where you last left off and an alternative is finishing everything you need to do and relax the rest of the day.
June 4th, 2018 8:12pm
Try to have an hour for yourself, before studying or working. Close yourself somewhere where you can think and not be disturbed. Play some classical music (Vivaldi - Four seasons). Lie down on the bed, couch or a sofa, close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Try to do this every day
June 5th, 2018 7:46am
When anxious we are likely to take short, quick breaths which only make us experience heightened physical sensations of anxiety which in turn makes us more anxious. It would help to slow down and take deep breaths, and focus on your breathing to stay calm and concentrate while you study/ work.
July 8th, 2019 5:46am
Take a break and try to unwind before resuming your work. From experience, I know how stressful it can be when you want to get your stuff done, but it won't happen if you are so stressed that you cannot focus. So take a break and do something relaxing. Try meditating, taking a shower, eating a snack or even going for a quick walk. Then, when you have a clear mind you'll be better able to focus. If you find yourself getting stressed again, take another break and destress before returning to your work. And you can always try to change your work environment to make it more calming so you can limit your stress.
November 18th, 2020 8:16pm
Every student and person experiences different spectrums of stress; some more than others when doing exams. Factors such as stress levels, distractions (too much time spent on the phone or the TV), diet, timing can affect how you take the information required to study for an exam. It’s important to address every bit of the problems you experience if unsure of certain topics academically to the teacher and arrange support groups sessions with friends. Hence it is important to evaluate which aspects you do and do not know well of the topic of concern. You can do this a few weeks before your exam. There is no shame is asking for help. In cases where anxiety is too extreme and affects your performance in exams do not hesitate to approach your teacher to see if exam arrangements can be put in place such as separate accommodation. Your mental health is more important and hopefully, you can work with your teacher to ensure that you can succeed in your class whilst keeping a check on your wellbeing. Exercise in the form of meditation or sports is good for brain activity and taking a walk in the fresh air - it’s completely okay to take 15 minute short breaks to let your brain refresh. Using a timer to stay focused for shorter amounts of time is a helpful tip. One must figure out the array of revision skills that work best for them (mnemonic devices, note-taking flash cards to remember important facts). Ribbs reflective cycle is a good way of reflecting back on past revision experiences in terms of what tactics worked well and did not work well. Also do not forget to inhale deep breathes through the nose slowly and then exhale. Best to keep a bottle of water near you when studying for an exam and keep snacks around you and cut down time of social media (only use it for the purpose of finding academic related information). Best of luck for your exams . 👍