5 Ways to Focus More When Reading a Book

I’ve seen a lot of comments going around of people struggling to focus on reading, particularly at the moment, during lockdown. I remember, during the times of A levels and the beginning of university, I struggled with reading too. It actually induced a lot of anxiety for me and I felt so restless I couldn’t focus for the life of me!

I wish I had someone to give me some useful tips in those times, so now that I have a little more insight, and have overcome these struggles, I thought I would share some advice.

 

 

Practice sitting still

I think one of the main reasons why it may be difficult to read is because most of us are just not used to sitting still! Most of the times we are rushing about our daily lives, constantly on the go, that sitting still is completely foreign to us.

And now, we are perhaps sitting still more, due to lockdown, but at the same time we’re not. Reading a book actually requires all of your body to be completely still (apart from turning the page), whereas if you compare that to working or eating or using your phone, you are moving your hands or typing or doing something at the very least. Watching TV can also be a good way of sitting still, but often you fidget without really realising it. 

Take a few minutes out of your day to just sit, and be, and breathe. 

 

Start small and make gradual progress

Suddenly becoming a master at reading is not going to happen overnight. You can’t learn a musical instrument that quickly, or learn how to play a sport, so don’t put that kind of pressure on your reading skills!

If you’re struggling with reading (even if you used to always be fine), start at the very beginning again. There is no shame in going back and reading for a mere five minutes and working your way up from there. 

Start with 5 minutes, increase it to 10 minutes when you feel comfortable, and keep going.

 

Use your phone less

Phone? What does that have to do with reading?

Scrolling through your phone, flicking between apps and typing super fast is draining your attention span – a lot!! You are so used to picking up information at a fast speed, that when it comes to reading a seven hour book, where you can’t get to the end of the story in two minutes (like a news article), you easily lose concentrate. When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense.

To reign in your impatience, cut out a portion of your phone consumption and try reading instead. You will be irritable at first, but stick with it. And next time you read an article or watch a video, try not to skim ahead to the end (as hard as it is!) because it is teaching your brain to take shortcuts. And, as I firmly believe, skipping to the end of a book is never okay… 

 

Read before bed

From personal experience, this is the method I used to get back into reading. I think that, in the day, it’s easy to get consumed with other tasks and sometimes it’s hard to find time to set aside to read, and when you do, distractions easily fall into place. No wonder anxiety hits. 

At night, just before you go to bed, there is nowhere you have to be. It is your time. So you are less likely to feel the pressure of reading.

Turn off your phone or put it on silent mode and just sit down with a good book. If you’re tired, just read for 5 minutes. It doesn’t matter. It’s just a bit of quiet time, and I find it’s a great way to drown out nighttime overthinking and lull me to sleep, without the blue light of phone screens and TV. 

 

Reduce your overall anxiety/stress

I believe that the overall anxiety/stress in my life was what made reading particularly difficult for me in the past. And I’m sure, due to the current pandemic, that a lot of people are feeling more anxious than normal, which is having an effect on the ability to read.

A while ago, I shared my own goals for reducing stress/anxiety and I’ve found that they’ve helped hugely in my own journey of self-development. You can check out that post here. And maybe try one or two of them yourself!

 

 

I hope these tips will be useful for anyone who wants to get back into reading, but is struggling to find a routine or overcome restlessness. 

Everything takes practice, so go easy on yourself.

You will get there in the end.

 

 

You can find me on social media here:

Instagram: @mymindspeaksaloud

Twitter: @mindspeaksaloud

Goodreads: mymindspeaksaloud

 

 

 

An Exciting Opportunity!

The last week has been very exciting! A writing opportunity popped up and I’ve spent the week planning, writing and submitting stories which will be appearing on an app in the near future! The app company is focused on stress management – tracking stress, finding its root cause, and making changes for the future. One particular section is focused on stories that you can put earphones in and listen to when you’re feeling overwhelmed – this is the part I’m taking part in!

I didn’t expect all of this to happen so quickly but, after putting together these pieces of writing, I headed off to London a few days ago to go to Dean Street Studios! It was such an insane experience – I’ve never been to a recording studio before, but to visit one that a lot of famous and influential people have been to made it even more exciting!

I had a look around the various studio rooms, took a couple photos, and then listened to the recordings! It was such a strange but wonderful feeling having my writing read out by actors and recorded. It didn’t feel quite real – almost like it wasn’t my writing at all – and I had to keep reminding myself that it was!

It was really interesting seeing what goes on behind the scenes and how things are produced and put together. There is a lot more to voice acting than it would seem – it’s not just about the sound of the voice, but the pronunciation of words, the pacing, the emphasis on certain syllables of the words. Every little bit makes a difference and it’s important when trying to get across a certain type of message.

I had such a great day learning how it all worked, meeting some lovely people, and just enjoying the whole process! I’m really excited to see how it all turns out!

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You can find me on social media here:

Instagram: @mymindspeaksaloud

Twitter: @mindspeaksaloud

My Goals for Tackling Stress/Anxiety

As some of you know, I shared a personal post a month ago about post viral fatigue. A lot has changed since then so I’m here with an update, as well as my plan and goals for the future.

After a lot of doctor visits, I eventually got referred privately to see a consultant. I finally got a chance to share all my struggles with no interruptions and a listening ear which was exactly what I needed. I had multiple tests – ultrasound scan on my neck and a lot of blood tests. It ended up being more blood tests as I would have liked since I’m a bit of a “mystery case” as the phlebotomist put it (they can never seem to get blood out of me!). I had 1 on the arm, 2 on the hand and 2 on the foot and they still got nothing! So that was a fun journey of returning to the hospital the day after with my warmest hoodie, a hot chocolate, gloves and some spontaneous jumping around. Got some interesting looks.

Once it was completed, I got all the results back and turns out nothing is wrong. I didn’t really know how to feel at all. I was so relieved there was nothing majorly wrong but I also didn’t have an answer to my problems. I’ve been told by the consultant that it could have been a virus that’s thrown my system completely off, or it could be the result of chronic stress/anxiety that’s manifesting itself in a different way.

The way forward is for me to now tackle my stress/anxiety and live the best possible healthy lifestyle I can, in the hope that my symptoms will fade (which they already are, so that’s progress!).

 

Here are my goals for 2019/2020! 

 

  • EXERCISE MORE

Over the last two years at university, I’ve been exercising through badminton club and the occasional walk around the park/lake. On reflection, this isn’t really enough. Aside from the fact I probably spend most of badminton sitting around chatting and not actually playing, when I do participate in exercise it’s not intense enough, nor is it a good duration. As much as I love badminton, I’m thinking of quitting it this year to focus on other forms of exercise that will be more beneficial (and I don’t want to overcommit myself to both). I’m planning on doing yoga and zumba classes, as well as possibly joining a walking group/club. I’m actually really excited to try something different and I’m feeling positive about the effects it will have on my stress levels.

 

  • DRINK LESS ALCOHOL & CAFFEINE

I say drink less, but to be honest I’m going to try not to drink any at all if I can. Both alcohol and caffeine are stimulants which means anxiety/stress feeds off of it. Realistically, if I ever want to reach a consistent stress-free state, I will have to cut out things that will purposefully cause spikes in my progress, so alcohol and caffeine has to go! I think cutting caffeine will be easier since I love chamomile and sleep teas so I will live off of them! In terms of alcohol, I normally only drink it socially anyway, but I’m aiming to avoid clubbing this year because that’s the only time I feel as though I have to drink.

 

  • SCHEDULE IN SELF-CARE

I am the worst person ever at self-care. I spend way too much time working, I get too invested in other people’s problems, and I have a habit of just ignoring how I’m feeling in order to make others feel better. But I’ve decided that now I need to be a little bit selfish, otherwise my health will suffer. I’ve created a list of self-care ideas (which I will probably share with you all sometime) and I’m aiming to complete at least a few of them each week.

 

  • DIVERSIFY MY DIET

In terms of the average uni student, I’d say my diet is pretty good. I eat 3 meals a day, I remember to eat a good portion of fruit/vegetables and almost always buy fresh food. However, I do get into a bad habit of repeating the same meals. To improve my digestion, but also for a little excitement, I’m going to switch around my meals and try some new things, as well as replacing my go-to vegetables (onions, peppers, mushrooms) with ones I don’t have so often (aubergine, carrot, green beans). I love cooking so this one should be pretty fun!

 

  • USE MY PHONE LESS

Since my phone/social media detox on holiday, I’ve learnt I need to live in the moment more. I’m so much more relaxed this way. I’m going to create more of a distance between myself and my phone and check it less throughout the day (maximum 15 minutes on it). I know there will be times when I break these rules because I can’t instantly change myself, but it’s something to work towards and eventually succeed at.

 

  • PRACTISE DEEP BREATHING

For some reason, I’d got it into my head that deep breathing just wasn’t working for me. My body naturally reacts to it with a faster heart rate and I instantly assume that it’s just making things worse. However, I think this is because I don’t breathe enough; my body is constantly stressed and it’s used to breathing shallowly. The only time I notice my breath is when I’m anxious so it’s no wonder I associate focusing on my breathing with anxiety. To change this, I’m going to focus on my breathing more, regardless of my body’s initial reaction. I’ve found that after 15 minutes or so of breathing, my heart rate does eventually drop. If it doesn’t, I grab a hot cup of chamomile tea instead and that normally does the trick.

I think the biggest thing I’ve taken away from all of this is to listen to my body more. I’m starting to notice more and more when my body gets stressed/anxious and instead of ignoring it, I am now doing something about it. It’s easy to feel as though you have no choice but to plow through, but a few minutes out of your day to just breathe, or have an apple, or do yoga, is nothing in the grand scheme of things.

 

My goal for 2019/2020 is to live a healthier and stress-free lifestyle – what’s yours? 

 

You can find me on social media here:

Instagram: @mymindspeaksaloud

Twitter: @mindspeaksaloud

Spa Day!

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a spa with my Mum! Surrounded by a forest, the grounds were really beautiful and, as cliche as it sounds, I felt so peaceful and relaxed. There was a lake around the side where we inevitably took some photos in the sunset, and there was also an outdoor pool with these giant pods that you could sit in by the side of the pool.

We were lucky enough to have a ‘Head in the Clouds Massage’ which was predominantly a massage on the head and shoulders. I have a lot of pressure on these parts of my body due to stress, so it was really relieving for me. I also took a book (Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fireread my book review here!) and my Mum took a book that I had convinced her to read because it’s amazing (Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig – yet another book review here!). Aside from reading, we also took part in a Stretch & Relax exercise class which was predominantly yoga. I really enjoyed it and it helped us relax in the evening before bed.

The following day I was feeling extremely tired (a combination of lack of sleep and being too relaxed – if that’s even possible) so I went for a lie down by the pool. Unexpectedly, as soon as I sat down on the bed, it started to wobble and I realised it was a water bed! I was a bit shocked to say the least. I hadn’t tried one before so it was quite strange feeling the water underneath me and yet not being in contact with it. However, it was really comfortable and I almost drifted off to sleep whilst listening to some piano music.

Overall, I had such a fun time and it was a nice break away from my phone and the outside world (something we all need from time to time). I thought I would share a few photos below if you’d like to have a look!