If you have a tendency to zone out at times, let me assure you, you are certainly not alone in this. In fact, it’s very common. For example, many people deliberately watch soaps with the intent of zoning out to get off to sleep.
But there are also times when zoning out can be quite the hindrance. For example, when your child is telling you about their dream, and instead of being present for them, your mind may well be on getting breakfast ready or doing the laundry.
Or a worse scenario may be you’re in a business meeting and your head just keeps repeating Lady Gaga earworms. If someone asks for your thoughts on a matter, you won’t have a clue what to say.
For many people, the occasional daydreaming does not present a problem, but that’s not the case for everybody. But if you feel you are zoning out a little too often for your liking, then please read on.
This article is going to look into what zoning out is, compare it to similar states, and ask why you might be zoning out too much. Then I’ll give you some pointers on how you may be able to solve the issue.
And without further ado, let’s get straight to it!
What Exactly Is Zoning Out?
Zoning out is simply the term used to describe a temporary loss of focus. A common example would be walking upstairs and then forgetting why you were going there.
In such situations, you may find that your body can still go through the motions, but it’s as though you’ve left reality behind and have lost track of your purpose or intent.
Sometimes this zoning out can involve your mind simply going in another direction, thinking about something that’s irrelevant to the here and now. Or simply daydreaming.
There are some who like to zone out on purpose. And with good reason, it’s an excellent means of soothing an overactive mind, not to mention an effective temporary remedy to stress.
Accidentally zoning out, however, can be extremely problematic. For example, many people can zone out when they are driving and aren’t able to recall parts of their journey. Take a moment to reflect on how dangerous that could be.
When you zone out, your body goes on autopilot, and is still able to carry out familiar tasks, such as driving or making coffee, or even nodding along in a business meeting when everyone else is.
But going on autopilot is not enough, and it is a phenomenon that ought to be nipped in the bud. You could miss out on important information or guidance, or even have a traffic accident.
Zoning Out Vs Brain Fog
The term brain fog is often used interchangeably with zoning out, but they aren’t really the same thing.
Brain fog is basically a term for cloudy thinking, when your ability to think clearly is clouded, and you aren’t as able to think clearly.
There are several factors that could produce the effect of brain fog. Most commonly it is mental exhaustion, or mental health conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), anxiety, or depression.
And there are also other medical conditions that can produce this effect. This includes migraines, headaches, allergies, thyroid problems, allergies, and diabetes.
Here are some of the other ways that people describe brain fog:
- Wandering mind
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling flat
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Cloudy thinking
- inability to carry out basic tasks
- Tired eyes
Zoning Out Vs Dissociation
If you haven’t heard the term dissociation before, it’s basically the phenomenon of emotionally detaching from the reality of the situation you are in.
This is the brain’s way of dissociating from trauma, and it serves to protect you from painful experiences, because when you are experiencing dissociation you may feel as though your memories or feelings on the matter are actually your own.
Severe episodes of dissociation can be the result of one or more potential causes, including trauma, depression, and anxiety.
Why Do I Keep Zoning Out All The Time?
More often than not, zoning out sometimes or spacing out is usually only temporary.
And because it’s usually temporary, and you can easily get back to where you were, and carry on. Which means that it is rarely any real cause for concern.
However, if this is happening to you on a frequent basis, then this can become particularly frustrating because it can really interfere with the task at hand, and sometimes even with the simplest of everyday tasks. And, as mentioned earlier, this can be very problematic.
If you are beginning to feel that your zoning out or spacing out is starting to become problematic, or particularly frustrating or detrimental, then you should turn your attention to what may be causing it. Because only then will you be in a position to do something about it.
Now, let me walk you through some of the possible reasons why you keep zoning out and losing your focus.
Not Getting Enough Sleep
Sleep is critical to proper brain functioning. If you are not getting enough sleep, your brain simply isn’t able to work as well or have enough energy to get you to concentrate on the task at hand, and you will be at risk of zoning out.
Sleep is one of our most basic needs, and depriving yourself of an adequate night’s sleep every night is detrimental to your health, and it compromises your ability to focus during your waking hours.
This is one of the reasons that self-care is so important, and if you glean nothing else from this article, please recall the importance of a good night’s sleep.
Too Many Distractions
Now, in the days of social media, people are more distracted than ever before. I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear a notification pinging on my phone, I feel an urgent need to pick up my phone, and see what it is. And if I don’t, it plays on my mind until I do.
And with the string of photos, retweets, memes, videos and comments that follow, you kinda get drawn into a whole realm of distraction that effectively removes you from the world around you. The temptation to get suckered into this realm is palpable.
This is why mindfulness has become something of a buzzword at the moment. Mindfulness is the practice of living in the present moment, in the here and now with presence.
Instead of having your mind elsewhere, such as ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. We’ll come back to this again shortly.
Underlying Medical Condition
There are occasions when zoning out can be more serious than mere daydreaming through some boring business meeting, or missing a few details of your kid’s dream.
And if you happen to be zoning out so frequently that it’s becoming problematic for you, you might want to consider whether your zoning out is as a result of an underlying medical condition.
Zoning out can be a symptom of one or more of the following medical conditions (these aren’t listed in any particular order).
- Sleep deprivation
- Periods of stress
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Thyroid disorder
- Insulin resistance
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
How To Find Focus And Stop Zoning Out
As you will understand by now, the habit of zoning out can be frustrating or even dangerous at times.
But, as was mentioned earlier in the article, zoning out can have a flip side and be beneficial at times, since it can help us to unwind after a long day, or help us discover an idea after loosening our focus a little.
The human brain is not equipped to maintain a powerful, steady focus at all times. But as we all know, there’s a lot to be said for having the power of focus and concentration as you set about doing complex tasks, such as studying for an exam, or going through company accounts.
If you suspect that your zoning out may be caused by an underlying medical condition, then that is certainly what you should concentrate on at first.
But once you’ve gone through the list and eliminated the possibility that your zoning out is in fact caused by a medical condition, then there are measures you can take to help regain your concentration and focus.
Now let me walk you through some ideas for preventing zoning out and improving your overall concentration and focus.
Make Healthy Lifestyle Changes
The first action you should take to rectify any zoning out that’s not due to an underlying medical condition is to examine your lifestyle, and evaluate whether there’s room for improvement.
Two of the primary factors influencing brain function and concentration are sleep and exercise.
Now, it has been said that not everyone requires the same number of hours of sleep. So, rather than say to you that you need to be sleeping X many hours of sleep per night, you need to judge for yourself whether you feel you are getting enough.
If you find yourself frequently tired during the day, or tired for long periods in the day, then it may be the case that you’re not getting enough sleep.
Similarly, exercise is also important for making you feel energized and getting you to concentrate when necessary instead of zoning out.
Boost Your Concentration With Grounding Techniques
And, as mentioned earlier in the article, there’s also mindfulness to consider. If everyone were to practice the art of being in the present moment, this ability will grow like a muscle.
You can begin this mindfulness practice with some simple grounding exercises. Not only is it a great way of managing negative thoughts and feelings, but it also pushes you into the present moment and prevents you from zoning out. Both during the short term, and if you continue to practice, for the long term, too.
Different grounding exercises work better for some people than others. And the only way to find out which of them suits you best is to actively try them out and judge which techniques are the most effective for you.
Here are some examples of grounding techniques:
- Repeating affirmations to yourself to provide motivation or comfort
- Savoring a small bite of food, paying attention to the scent, texture and flavors
- Narrate your actions to yourself as you go about your various tasks of the day
- Correcting your posture, and notice if you feel uncomfortable for any reason
Improve Your Brain Power With Puzzles And Games
When the concept of brain training emerged around 2050 it was met with plenty of interest. It’s a means of deliberately keeping your brain active by doing some kind of puzzle to solve or games that require thought and attention.
This brain training activity does not have to come from any specific brain training platform. It could be as simple as doing a crossword puzzle, playing a game of chess, or trying your hand at Sudoku or such.
Some studies have shown that deliberate brain training not only improves your cognitive ability and memory, but also serves to improve your concentration and focus as well.
Supercharge Your Focus With Supplements Such As Nootropics
If you have reasoned that your zoning out is not caused by an underlying condition, and you have tried the different means of improving your focus detailed above, then it may be time to turn your attention toward supplements and nootropics.
There are several food supplements on the market that are thought to help boost cognition and focus. The most common of which is caffeine, which is always readily available.
But if that doesn’t sound good to you, whether it’s because you just don’t like coffee, or you’re already drinking too much caffeine, then you may want to consider an alternative option.
For example, you may be interested in nootropics, such as L-theanine or citicoline supplements. Nootropics are supplements or drugs that are thought to improve brain function. They can help with attention, cognitive function, creativity, and even boost mood and motivation.
Adderall is also an example of a nootropic, but if you decide that Adderall is not for you, you may be interested to know that there are alternatives to Adderall out there.
So, as we have seen, there could be any number of reasons why you might be zoning, but the important thing now is that you know where to start rectifying this problem and improving your focus and concentration.
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