Anxiety disorder can profoundly impact our lives, beyond the common symptoms of sensitivity to stress. One of the ways anxiety can disrupt our daily lives is through impaired cognitive functioning. Anxiety and inability to focus at work or school appear to be interconnected. As anxiety symptoms escalate, the mind struggles to stay on task. Short-term memory functions are affected by anxiety as well, causing difficulty in remembering tasks or projects that are due, only adding to the work performance challenges.
Nearly one in five American adults are affected by anxiety disorder, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Learning techniques that can help manage the symptoms of anxiety and inability to focus is an essential strategy for individuals struggling with an anxiety disorder.
About Generalized Anxiety Disorder
The most common type of anxiety is called generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, with about 3.1% of the population, or nearly 7 million adults, struggling with this mental health disorder. GAD is characterized by pervasive worrying, so much so that it can impair daily functioning. The energy expended worrying about coulda, woulda, shouldas all day can be very taxing, impacting both energy levels and mental functioning. Individuals with GAD tend to ruminate over events that have already occurred, second-guessing themselves, or they may dwell on upcoming events and worry incessantly about anticipated outcomes. Fear and worry drive this disorder, with symptoms that include:
- Excessive worry
- Sleep disturbances
- Trouble concentrating
- Short-term memory problems
How Anxiety Can Affect Concentration
Individuals who struggle with anxiety often experience symptoms of mental confusion, foggy thinking, forgetfulness, and difficulty concentrating. While these symptoms may ebb and flow depending on the day and the stress load, they can be very frustrating for those with anxiety disorder.
Persistently elevated stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, are the cause of the brain fog that plagues individuals with anxiety disorder. This stress response has an adverse effect on cognitive functions, such as anxiety and inability to focus and short-term memory functioning. Poor concentration and lack of focus are common symptoms of anxiety disorder.
5 Steps to Help Manage Anxiety Symptoms
Understanding how anxiety can affect cognitive functioning is the first step in creating a strategy for managing the anxiety and inability to focus. By accepting that you will have to make some adjustments to work or study habits, you can begin to put into practice these new methods and begin to improve your mental focus, leading to more productivity and a boost in self-confidence. Some tips for improving cognitive functioning at work include:
- Take short breaks often. Instead of attempting to plow through a large block of focused work time, which will lead to wandering attention and loss of interest in the task, break up the work into smaller segments with short breaks in between.
- Make a to-do list. Start each day with a list of items that must be accomplished during the day. Allow for free time during the day as well, to intersperse enjoyable activities that will help keep you from burning out.
- Practice mindfulness. Training yourself to stay in the moment can help improve focus and concentration on the project at hand. When the mind begins to wander, rein it back in and refocus on the present moment.
- Switch tasks. When you begin to find yourself spacing out and losing focus, switch to a different task. Alternating your attention between the two tasks can help relieve boredom and stimulate better concentration.
- Mind your own business. Anxiety can lead to excessive worrying about things outside your control. Too often the mind wanders to unproductive worrying that stokes anxiety and inability to focus. Keep your mind on the task at hand.
Residential Anxiety Treatment for Intensive Therapy
For many people with anxiety disorder, outpatient psychiatric services may provide the means to manage the disorder effectively. Some, however, may find their anxiety disorder worsening over time. When reaching the point where relentless worry causes impaired daily functioning due to anxiety and inability to focus at all, a residential anxiety treatment program may be the best treatment option.
The residential anxiety treatment program can take a deeper look into the issues that may be impacting the anxiety using a more focused approach. Upon intake, a thorough evaluation of the anxiety disorder will provide information, such as a detailed medical and psychiatric history and a review of medications, which can allow the psychiatrist to diagnose the specific features of the anxiety disorder. Using this as a template, an individualized treatment plan can be crafted.
The comprehensive treatment approach will involve several therapeutic sessions during the day, such as individual psychotherapy, group therapy, life skills, family therapy, mindfulness training, deep breathing exercises, yoga, and other relevant therapies. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help individuals who struggle with anxiety and inability to focus by identifying disordered thoughts that may fuel the anxiety.
Anxiety Aftercare Services
It is important to continue to receive aftercare services following a residential program in order to reinforce the new strategies learned in treatment. Outpatient therapy is recommended on a weekly basis, which provides the ongoing support needed as the individual transitions back to their regular daily life. These sessions provide the necessary “tune-ups” when new stressors emerge that can trigger anxiety and psychological setbacks.
Finding a support group is also a beneficial aftercare activity. Being able to discuss daily challenges with others who struggle with anxiety disorder provides valuable peer support and creates a sense that one is not alone with these challenges. Group participants can also learn new techniques from each other for managing daily stressors and improving the quality of life.
Elevation Behavioral Health is a Leading Residential Mental Health Center in Los Angeles
Elevation Behavioral Health provides a proven, evidence-based treatment for the full spectrum of anxiety disorders in a residential setting. Elevation offers a warm, intimate escape from the stressors of daily life that keep your mental health reeling. At Elevation Behavioral Health you can focus your energy and attention on learning new ways to manage anxiety and improve focus. For more information about our program, please contact Elevation today at (888) 561-0868.