A woman losing concentration while working from home, holding her hands to her head

How to refresh your brain when you feel your concentration slipping

Posted by for Mental Health

Struggling to stay focused while working from home? Give your brain a chance to refresh with these simple tips.

Whether yours hits mid-morning, late afternoon or somewhere in between, we all have that moment during the working day when our concentration begins to slip.

This loss of focus can be frustrating – especially when you’re in the middle of something pressing – but it’s an important reminder that your brain needs a break.

Giving your brain a break from concentration is crucial for a number of reasons. Not only does it allow your brain to ‘refuel’ in order to tackle the rest of the day, but it can help to reduce stress and gives your brain a chance to process the information it’s received throughout the day.  

“We know that if we don’t fuel our bodies, they don’t work optimally, and we will end up feeling more tired and drained because we don’t have enough calories to keep us going,” Beverley Blackman, a counselling directory member and psychotherapist, previously told Stylist

“The mind doesn’t need ‘fuel’ in quite the same way – instead, the mind needs a break from concentration in order to regenerate and allow it to relax.” 

In this way, it’s clear that incorporating more breaks into your day – even if they last less than ten minutes – can make a real difference to your overall concentration and productivity. But what can you do during these breaks to refresh your brain and restore focus when you return to work?

To find out more about how you can refresh your brain throughout the working day, we asked Sue Peacock, consultant health psychologist and author, for her top tips. Here’s what she had to say.  

1. Destress, destress, destress

A woman lying on her back breathing deeply to relieve stress and boost concentration
Stress relieving activities will boost your concentration in the long run.

One of the best things you can do to refresh your brain is actively decrease your stress levels. Simply taking a break from work will help to prevent stress from building up throughout the day, but by incorporating stress-reducing activities into your break-time, you’ll be able to boost your concentration even further.

Peacock explains: “The more we know about the brain, the clearer it is that stress is the enemy of concentration. So, take the time to do whatever it takes to feel calmer and more in control and, with luck, the work will take care of itself.” 

2. Take a walk

At this point in the pandemic, you’re probably tired of being told to go for a walk, but it really can make all the difference.

“If you feel yourself lacking in concentration or just flagging, often just getting up and moving will help – if you can get outside, all the better,” Peacock explains.

“This is because moving your body helps wake up your mitochondria, which are the parts of your cells that generate energy. Some exercise such as a brisk walk several times per week can make your mitochondria double in size, which helps the body produce more energy.”

Peacock adds: “The combination of fresh air and exercise also stimulates blood flow to the brain so you can regain clarity and focus.” 

3. Have a laugh

A woman laughing at a funny video on her phone during a break from work.
Laughter can boost your mood and improve your willpower.

If you’re looking for an excuse to bring some more laughter into your life, then this is it. Not only have studies shown that laughter can relieve stress (making it an effective way to nail point one in this list), according to Peacock, it could also make concentration easier.

She explains: “Some psychologists think that laughter may put us in the right mood for work, because staying focused on difficult or challenging work takes willpower.” 

4. Use essential oil

If you’re in need of a quick fix for your slipping concentration levels, using an essential oil to boost your energy levels could be the solution you’re looking for. 

“Citrus or spicy scents will stimulate your nervous system and re-energise you,” Peacock explains. 

“Perhaps keep a small bottle of lemon essential oil in your desk drawer and either inhale from the bottle or add a drop to a cotton ball or hanky to refocus your mind.” 

5. Take a nap 

A woman waking up from a nap during her lunch break to boost her concentration.
A short 20-minute nap could improve alertness and boost creativity.

If all else fails, using your lunch break to take a nap is a sure-fire way to refresh your mind if you’re feeling extra groggy – as long as you don’t let yourself sleep for too long.

“According to the National Sleep Foundation, a quick 20-minute nap will improve alertness, performance, boost creativity and refresh your mind,” Peacock explains. “However, don’t let yourself sleep for longer as you will feel groggy.”

She adds: “If you constantly need to nap, you need to sleep longer at night.” 

If working from home during the pandemic is taking its toll on your mental health, you’re not alone. From the isolation of being separated from colleagues and the stress of relying on technology to the threat of redundancy and the anxiety of applying for a new job, there are a number of reasons why you might find this time particularly challenging.

So, what can we do about it? We’ve got a plan.

Our Work It Out campaign, supported by Mind, aims to give you the tools and resources you need to take care of your mental health while you’re stuck at home. From completing your Work 5 A Day to dealing with issues including anxiety, loneliness and stress, we’ll be exploring all aspects of WFH wellbeing.

For more information, including how to complete your Work 5 A Day, you can check out our guide to getting started.

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Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.