As 2020 draws to a close, most people have now spent three-quarters of a year learning and working through a screen. In this new era of technological dependence, it’s more important than ever to discover strategies to maximize concentration and productivity when working online. Understanding how physical aspects such as exercise, nutrition, and sleep play a role in our attentive abilities is critical to improving concentration and overall stress level.
The endorphins produced during exercise play a major role in boosting happiness and relieving stress. Not to mention, regular exercise can more permanently lift your mood as it provides an escape from outside pressures. Distracting yourself by setting goals and working to achieve them is a great source of feelings of purpose and self-satisfaction according to Paula Kooperman of https://www.psk4life.com/, fitness instructor and founder of the virtual exercise program PSK4LIFE. “Whether your exercise of choice is yoga, or cycle, or running, whatever it is, I think tuning out the world and tuning into trying to make yourself feel better really seems to do wonders,” she says. “It’s about getting stronger and feeling strong.”
As for how to get this mood-boosting and therefore concentration-boosting exercise, she suggests experimenting with trying new things, reconsidering the word “exercise” as “physical activity”, and sticking to what you love. “Find something you like to do because if you like it, you’ll continue to do it,” she recommends. In fact, according to Kooperman, the silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic increasing the need for at-home workouts is that people have the flexibility to customize their routines to work for them. “Not everyone has equipment, so grab water bottles. Grab soup cans. Grab two containers of barbecue sauce. It doesn’t really matter, you’re just being creative with it and trying to do something new… We’ve all learned to adapt and get creative.”
Even brief breaks from work can be the perfect time to use physical activity for a mental reset. Kooperman proposes meditation or anything to get your heart rate up and body moving, such as going for a walk and getting some fresh air, completing a 15-minute exercise class, or even stepping outside for a short run around the block. This provides an opportunity to readjust your focus by eliminating distractions and improving your mood and level of energy.
As for nutritional strategies, Paula Kooperman’s husband, Dr. Steven Kooperman, an OB/GYN, suggests avoiding sugar and highly processed foods. Since these cause an energy and concentration crash, it’s far better to fill up on a plant-based diet that includes protein and carbohydrates in their natural forms as often as possible. Caffeine, too, in moderation can be a major contributor to a focused and productive state. Although caffeine is proven to increase concentration, Dr. Kooperman also warns that consuming caffeine in high doses every day will likely lead to addiction and a dependence on it to function.
Dr. Kooperman further emphasizes the importance of quality sleep in the ability to properly focus on tasks. In his opinion, “No you shouldn’t be high before going to bed, no you shouldn’t be drinking before going to bed… you get lousy sleep cycles and lousy sleep, then you get lousy immunity and you get lousy concentration.” For teenagers, 8-10 hours of uninterrupted sleep is highly recommended, while this number falls closer to 7-9 hours of sleep for adults.
In order to be as focused and productive as possible, maximizing energy through staying active and proper sleep and nutrition is critical. The COVID-19 pandemic, despite its drawbacks, has given us much more time to take care of ourselves physically. Utilizing the above strategies to ensure physical wellness can have a profound impact on the ability to concentrate. In conclusion, the endorphins, stress-relief, and sense of purpose and accomplishment that exercise produce on top of the energy that a proper diet and sleep schedule provides is likely to enhance mental acuity and establish smarter, more efficient learning habits.
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