A Third Of Americans Feel Less Productive Since The Election, So Here's How To Get Your Focus Back
If you felt a shift in your productivity after Nov. 9, you're not alone. According to a new survey, a third of Americans have felt less productive since the election. This is understandable; it's become more and more apparent since the inauguration that we are living in anxious, fearful times. Those feelings are also totally valid, so please, allow yourself to feel them. The key, however, is in not letting those feelings paralyze you so much that you can't do anything at all — at work, in other areas of your life, or in the world at large. So, to go along with your feeling of solidarity with your fellow productivity-suffering Americans, here are a few strategies to help you get your focus back.
The survey, distributed by BetterWorks, a software company that helps workers set and track goals, and reported on by The Atlantic, polled 500 "nationally represented", full-time workers. 29 percent, it found, were still feeling the physical effects of the election, even three months after the initial results were announced, and were continuing to struggle with productivity at work. 87 percent reported reading political posts on social media throughout the work day, and 50 percent felt that political conversations in the workplace were destined to become an argument. Basically, offices have become prisons of toxicity.
What was referred to as "work depression" or job burnout has now become "election depression," but the effects are the same: it's a "state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion," said Edwin R. Shirley, PhD in an interview with Everyday Health. You may be calling in sick a lot; it's often a combination of feeling unable to face another day in the office, as well as actual, physical illness. You struggle to engage socially at work; you're increasingly reactionary and irritable; you have trouble sleeping; and you feel useless. Sound familiar?
But ultimately, letting the stress of the great Mango Mussolini's reign stop us from acting is... well, stopping us from acting. I'm not going to tell you that it's all fine, we're all fine, nothing's wrong, the world is great and we're not on the precipice of anything scary. Because that's not true. The world is a scary place right now. But in order to continue moving forward, continue fighting, and keep pushing, you'll need to learn new coping mechanisms. Now is not the time to drown; now is the time swim as hard as you possible can.
Here's how to, in the words of a certain blue fish I could name, just keep swimming:
1. Begin Each Morning With A Two-Minute Meditation
Waking up is the worst. If I could sleep in every day, I would. Sleep is awesome. But since alarms are around for a reason, engaging in the briefest of meditation — two minutes, even — when you first wake up can help you approach the day more centered, more mindful, and more calm. If you feel unsure of where to begin, try this six-minute guided meditation with Deepak Chopra, this five-minute guided meditation from The Guided Meditation site, or this 10-minute guided meditation from the Yoga Journal.
2. Take Breaks
Like, actual, 10 to 15 minute breaks. Get up from your desk. Take a walk. Breathe in for a count of five, hold for a count of five, release for a count of five. Ask any productivity expert, and they will say that continually working is the best way to burn out and get nothing done. So be kind, let yourself off the hook, and take a break already!
Look, I don't particularly like exercise either. But multiple studies have shown that it lifts "brain fog," alleviates stress and anxiety, and boosts mental alertness and concentration. You have to do it regularly, you have to do it often, and you have to actually get your heart rate up, but are you telling me you don't want to look good and feel good?
4. Get Outside
Sunlight is regarded as a solid treatment for seasonally-based depression, but nature itself also has regenerative powers. A 2007 study in the UK found that a walk in the country (have you ever heard a more British phrase ever?) helped ease stress and depression-linked symptoms by up to 71 percent in participants. There's even a branch of psychology linked to nature — "ecotherapy." Be the best weekend warrior you can be and get out there.
I'm not suggesting that you bury your head in the sand — avoidance is neither productive nor healthy. But, there are definite benefits to taking a break from social media and all devices — smartphone, computer, television — for maybe an hour or two each day. Read a book! Daydream about a vacation! When we become deeply entrenched in the maelstrom that is our country, we often lose sight of ourselves. You're still here. You're still surviving. Be kind to yourself and engage in some quality "you" time every once in a while.
For the love of whatever deity you do or don't believe in, get enough sleep. It's literally the first on the list for productivity, and also just, like, life tips. Honestly, what doesn't a good sleep schedule do? It resets your body. It resets your mind. It improves mood. It alleviates depression. It alleviates anxiety. It alleviates stress. It boosts your energy. It helps you maintain a healthy weight.