Why Do I Feel Scatterbrained?

12 minutes to read
Splash image for Why Do I Feel Scatterbrained? - Tiger Medical Institute

“One thing the human brain is incredibly good at is finding stuff to worry about, and when it does, it activates the ‘fight or flight’ threat response systems that have been part of our physiology for millions of years.” ~ Dean Burnett

If you feel overwhelmed or anxious these days, you can count yourself among the many.

The world has experienced many events that have caused fear, anxiety, isolation, and unprecedented levels of disruption for so many. The collective and individual stressors continue to cause life to feel unsettled.

You may need help focusing on conversations, concentrating intensely on meaningful work, or feeling like you can relax. You are not alone.

You Were Built to Survive

The autonomic nervous system (ANS) helps to regulate how human beings process and manage stress.

The ANS is made up of the parasympathetic and sympathetic systems.

The sympathetic system is referred to as the fight, flight or freeze response when dealing with stressors.

The parasympathetic system is the rest and digest response.

These symptoms have been at work in humans for ages, creating instincts to avoid terrible predators while also seeking refuge and nourishment that allowed people to survive and thrive.

It may seem like a small comfort, but our instincts to detect stress and danger are valuable tools that enable us to deal with difficult circumstances as individuals and as communities.

The difficulty for many people is that they haven’t developed strong skills that help them oscillate between the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems.

Recognition is terrific as long as there is a healthy way to process the stress and tools to help diminish the negative effects of the stressful events.

Too Much Stress Can Impact Your Focus

The feeling we associate with being scatterbrained might be best described as easily distractable.

The inability to focus for long periods can lead to higher stress levels, especially if we are aware of how distracted we are.

If you’ve ever found yourself lying awake in the middle of the night and desperately want to get back to sleep but can’t, you might relate. The more you try not to think about how awake you are, the longer you stay awake.

There are many distractions in our day.

The internet gets a lot of blame (and rightly so), although there is no shortage of other causes.

There is an overabundance of advertising vying for attention on the web and TV.

Are you trying to avoid those ads by subscribing to a streaming service? Good luck. The format for those is a deluge of new content dumped all at once. Algorithms are intended to keep you engaged, plus a running clock that gives you no chance to escape the next episode.

There is also a 24-hour news cycle that splits its time between divisive political issues and fearmongering. Viewers have learned to look for relief in the same commercials they used to despise.

Meanwhile, there are a lot of actual events happening that also demand your attention, and some of them demand action.

It isn’t enough to know about the next wave of the virus. You must also ensure you have enough goods before the supply chain fails or stores close, or work-from-home extends another six months.

The human brain and central nervous system are more than capable of dealing with stress most of the time. However, there are consequences for too much negative input.

For many people, the feeling of being overwhelmed is a new constant.

You Were Built to Thrive

What can you do to cope with the stress, renew your focus, and learn to settle your mind?

A few key things can be done to help decrease stress and set yourself up for success. Here is a quick beginner’s guide to improving your health.

1. Start With Your Sleep

Sleep is an essential part of recovery for all people.

Aim for 7-8 hours a night and begin to track your bedtime and wake time.

Consistent habits around sleep are a hallmark of those that report higher levels of sleep quality.

2. Pay Attention to How Often You Eat, Not Just What You Eat

Time-restricted eating is a beneficial practice that can help eliminate unnecessary and unwanted snacking.

Ideally, go 13 hours between your last meal and breakfast. If that feels daunting, start with a smaller window.

If you are going to shorten the timeframe, choose to eat earlier in the evening and eliminate late-night snacking.

3. Movement Matters

It isn’t uncommon for even the busiest people to find time for a quick workout. The problem arises when you look at the rest of your day.

Suppose you find yourself sitting for hours before a computer screen, commuting for additional hours, and accumulating only a couple of thousand steps a day. In that case, your quick workout isn’t giving you the benefits you think it should be.

It’s essential to stand up, stretch your body and move around consistently throughout the day. There are also tremendous benefits for digestion with a short, brisk walk after a meal.

4. Just Breathe

It may sound simple, but taking two minutes to focus on your breath and clear your mind can have an enormous impact on your mind.

Try box breathing for two minutes in the morning and afternoon, and work towards a more extended evening session as part of your bedtime routine.

A suitable starting method for box breathing is a four-second inhale, four-second hold, four-second exhale, four-second hold, and repeat until the timer goes off.

5. Ignore the Dos Equis Guy

You may or may not be familiar with the famous beer commercial that encouraged people to “stay thirsty, my friends.” While the reference is aimed toward the ambitious consumer to keep seeking more out of life, the truth is that too many people are thirsty all day.

Hydration is a crucial element to staying healthy.

Dehydration can lead to fatigue, brain fog, and even physical discomfort, such as cramping and stomach irritation.

Try to drink half your body weight in ounces of water each day.

If you are behind the mark by dinner, try not to play catch up. Too many fluids before bed can be disruptive to your sleep.

Take The Next Steps to Not Feel Scatterbrained

If you want to learn more about fatigue and stress, its causes, and interventions, check out a few of the articles below:

Kevin Hodges

Kevin Hodges

Chief Operating Officer

Who Should I See If I Can't Focus?

Steve L. Adams 10min to read

Who Should I See If I Can't Focus?

How Can I Improve My Focus?

Regan Billings 8min to read

How Can I Improve My Focus?

How Can I Improve My Cognitive Health?

Dr. Adilia Kreps 17min to read

How Can I Improve My Cognitive Health?