How are you? It has been a very interesting and sometimes challenging five months as we work ourselves through the changes to our environment brought on by the Corona Virus. Who could have imagined this scenario? The repercussions of this situation on our society, our community, our businesses, families and our personal lives are only beginning to be recognized. One of the most common concerns I hear from people is that this re-jigging of our lives has shifted our attention and interfered with our ability to focus.
Attention as a process, is actually pretty complicated. We are bombarded by 2 million bits of information at any given moment. Our brain can only process about 126 bits of information or data at a time. This is still quite a lot! Most of these 126 bits of data becomes background or part of our ‘non-selective’ attention. We rely on our senses to filter out this background information and ‘select’ or focus on things that are important to us. Selective attention enables us to focus on an item while mentally disregarding all other non-relevant information, without the need to actually remove these distractions from the environment. At the end of our selection exercise, there are really just six or seven pieces of information that we consciously pull out and focus on.
For instance, when you are taking a Saturday drive down a beautiful country road, you may hear the birds singing and the frogs chirping in the background. You notice the trees are providing a comfortable shade from the sun and you hear the wind rustling in their leaves above you. The road is rough and kind of bumpy, so you slow down. You start to focus on the herd of cows that have appeared on the tarmac on front of you. Essentially, while your senses have acknowledged a number of the non-essential environmental pieces, the important items that you need to be aware of involve your speed and the cows crossing ahead. You focus on coming to a stop.
Today, in the world of Covid 19, a number of our senses have been interfered with. We are struggling to smell when we wear our masks or face shields. Masks also make it difficult to converse. We are having to speak more loudly so that others can hear us through the cloth. Our ability to communicate is also challenged by the loss of facial expression. The majority of us rely on visual expressions to accurately read the conversation. What about the heat! Have you noticed how hot you get while wearing a mask. Do you wear gloves as well? If so, your ability to sense the environment through touch has also been hampered. Have you been to the grocery store? There are signs everywhere saying please don’t squeeze the fruit. Well, how are we supposed to know whether we are purchasing a ripe lemon or orange?
In short, we have had to adjust to a whole new way of interacting from a sensory perspective. Of course, we are all going to be thrown off by this. We have introduced a number of factors into our sensory environment that we simply never had to deal with before. The heat from the masks and gloves is uncomfortable. Our conversation has been hindered and our sense of touch has been negatively impacted. Our system for filtering information has become confused. We don’t know which pieces of information are relevant and it has become difficult to achieve and sustain focus as a result.
Perhaps one of the positive aspects is that we are all in this same place together. We are waiting patiently in line when necessary. We are developing tolerance and understanding about social distancing. Our collective focus has been on keeping those most vulnerable, safe from this virus. And yes, there are some areas where we are struggling. Our ability to focus is just one of them.
If you would like to speak about strategies that can help you to regain or improve your ability to focus, to increase your success and to live a life of your own design, please call to book a 30 minute phone session with Simone Usselman-Tod, Dynamic Visioning Coach, Certified Life Coach & Business Coach and Certified NLP Master Practitioner. Don’t forget to ask me about my new signature program! Learn more about Dynamic Visioning.