Time Management Answers

Difficulty having focus and big mood shifts, is it normal?

Online study can be a real struggle, especially since covid hit and everyone is more isolated. That has an impact on motivation, and if you are experiencing a lack of social input, reach out to friends, even if it is only online. It sounds like your work is imporant to you, and you made a big step in reaching out. I hope to leave you with a few ideas, whether you choose to go with online counseling opt out, or choose another counselor, I'm going to include several techniques below. I hope some of them either spark with you, or inspire you to come up with a few ideas of your own.    Changes in diet, sleep and exercise can lead to distraction. Too much caffiene can cause distractability instead of honing your focus. Lack of restful sleep can make eanyone distracted. Exercise can be helpful, but not at night. I'll get into that more below. Play detective. Look at your day, and see what is different than a time when you were able to focus better. Rule out the obvios, and then the less obvious.  It could be an internal change of neurotransmitter relase, and I will get into that more in a bit, too.    You already started on distraction minimization techniques, and we can delve a bit deeper into that too. Here are a few ideas.    What is your reason for studying? We all have different reasons to study. Some do it because they think it is interesting or important. Others do it because they feel forced to or feel guilty if they don't. Identify your motivation.  Start with the tasks that are most interesting and most important to you.  Before you start doing a task, think about what makes this activity fun or interesting. If it is boring, think about why it is important to you.    Set specific, clear, and achievable goals for the day: A goal that says "read" is too general and vague, and commits you to nothing. How about "read chapters 4 and 5 and write an intro to my essay, citing 2 quotes." Be realistic: 10 hours of studying isn't a realistic time frame, but 4 hours at a time, or 2 might be, with breaks along the way. Even knowing a break is coming up can help get you through and studying harder in the meantime. One hour at a time, 25 minute break.  Make a prioritized to-do list.  You have already begun managing your environment. Turn off your phone or put it on "do not disturb", make sure your study space is organized, make sure you have a snack and water nearby.  Try to avoid online multi-tasking. Finish one thing at a time to avoid a low completion rate. Do not exercise late at night. The endorphin release before bedtime will not help you sleep, but do try to include exercise in the morning or afternoon. That can help get you through your studies, and by bedtime the physical work will have helped to exhaust you for a better nights sleep.  Try not to eat before bedtime as that can lead to a lethargy, but a restless sleep.  You seem to know your weaknesses, look at your strengths, and see if you can see anything when you compare the two, to spark an idea using your strengths, and minimizing your weaknesses, for a more productive day.  Use your logic to approach these tasks in regulating your day, your mind and body. Practice. Practice creates habits. Habits condition our brains.  Online study may not have a schedule. Give yourself one. Our bodies and brains want homeostasis and our brain will fight our body for it. You may be experiencing an incongruity because you are not in a regulated daily pattern. You mentioned feeling blocked, in your head. If you try distraction minimization techniques, focus honing, self-sioothe, eat, sleep and exercsie right, attend to any changes between now and when you were able to focus better, maybe it is time at that point to see a professional in person. They can at least help you to rule things out, like depression or anxiety, or consider medication if they think you might not be producing enough seratonin, or if it seems you have adhd and need focus medication. That isn't seomthing we can do here on this platform, and in no way am I pushing you towards meds. It's a thought to have in the back of your mind, if life does not become managable after you have exhuasted all other resources, just to consider. And hopefully, you will find techniques that help before you get to that cross roads.  It is a little different, to write about techniques, knowing less than 100 words about you, so if anything doesn't resonate with you, just skip over it and look to the next idea. I wish you the best of luck on your journey and I hope I hit on something you find useful. 
Answered on 09/27/2021

How do I maintain self-regulated routines?

Greetings and thank you for your question with detailed background information. Based on the information you provided, it seems as though your struggle to maintain routines and complete tasks is chronic. Meaning, it has been ongoing for some time. I applaud your courage for asking this question to cause a positive change. To answer your question regarding how you can help yourself maintain routines, instea do doing everything in the moment and forgetting about it; I suggest starting small and growing upward. Start by making a list of all the tasks you need to accomplish - this list initially may be overwhelming. Then select 2-4 tasks and make them goals for the day or week and work on them. As you accomplish the task, check them off the list. This can be a good and rewarding feeling! Mission accompished! Honestly, there are tasks that most people do not like doing but must get done. For example cleaning the bathroom/toilet bowl. Most people prefer to not touch. However, they must get it done, so they are scheduled and completed. For you, when you start, I suggest not focusing on being "inspired" and having a strong desire to complete the task. Instead, view it as a task and complete it. It sounds as though you are not moved by rewards or the outcome/benefits of a tidy environement. Hence, we will not place a significant value on that. Please note that food is fuel. I read that you stuggle to eat enough due to lack of energy and motivation to fix food for yourself. Plus, in the mornings you are often running late and do not have time to fix breakfast to eat later. Based on your struggles with accomplishing tasks, the bigger question and my thought is that you be evaluated for possible signs/symptoms of depression. I suggest you talk further with a counselor regarding your symptoms, duration and intensity for further evaluation. My recommendation on how you can do things you do not want to do is to put the task in perpective and be honest with yourself that you do not want to do it. However, for health or whatever reason, it must be done. Much of your work has to do with changing your thought patterns surrounding completing tasks. I suggest you engage in mindfulness practices: Box Breathing, Progressive Muscle Relaxation, 3X3 Focusing activity, Aromatherapy (laveder oil). These practices will help to ground and center you to focus on a task. Allot time to complete a task:20-30 minutes and follow thorugh by completing the task. It is possible that you may not finish the task. However, you have started. Better than you were before. Presently, you may be experiencing exclusive thinking: all or nothing. Work to allow some flexibility in your thinking. Dedicating some time to completing a task and ultimately completing that task is more productive than waiting to gain the energy to complete it. It may be helpful for you to engage your support system (family/friends) to serve as your accountability partner to accomplish tasks/thoughts. Tell the idenified person your goals and ask that they check-in with you within a specified time. Knowing that this person will be contacing you to follow up may add a pep in your step to completing the task. I suggest you work on your time managment skills. Do not put off things to the last minute to get done. Allow more than enough time to get things done and be at scheduled places. This prvents you from constantly rushing and not being able to meet your basic needs (for example - eat) prior to to leaving or on the way. To addres your time managment needs, set multiple alarms to awaken you and work to be ahead of schedule. In summary; start small, and grow, track your progress with accomplishing tasks, use your support network for accountability, change your perspective regarding things to get done - they must be done regardless of how you feel and address your time managment needs.  You an do it! Baby steps - one day at a time - one breath at a time. I hope this response has been helpful to you in answering your questions.
(PhD, MPH, MSW)
Answered on 09/27/2021

How can I get better if I feel I'm in the wrong path but I know it's the right one?

Hi Mary,  Thank you for reaching out to ask this question.   For many people, getting started at college can be overwhelming.  Usually, they have a different high school experience and feel unprepared for the individualistic style of college.  College tends to have a large workload between classes, labs, research and homework, and you are largely left up to your own schedule and time management to get these tasks accomplished.  It's an adjustment that usually happens throughout the first year.  If you can get through the first year, many seem to be more successful from thereon.   However, you mentioned having a "demanding high school experience which led to some damaged mental health."  I feel going right from that experience into a college experience will be a difficult transition if the high school experience isn't processed and your mental health tended to. It would be ideal to go into the college experience with a clear head.  It does sound like you are focused on your degree and have a passion for it since you have been practicing since you were young because it interested you.  I would hate to see your love and passion for your degree diminish because of these extra challenges.  You mention needing rest and I'm wondering if trying to deal with the high school challenges and deal with the adjustment into college isn't emotionally draining you.  Next, there is a time management component to this when you discuss procrastination and not being able to get your tasks done due to needing to rest.  We can become easily overwhelmed when looking at the BIG picture and our energy just leaves us and we just want to retreat, rest or do a more pleasurable activity (tv, music, reading).  Then our tasks become even bigger with more deadlines and we become even more overwhelmed and that can easily lead to depression and anxiety.  My recommendation would be to just do ONE thing - no matter how big or small, and tackle it.  I would also recommend doing something positive or rewarding once this task is completed.  Think of it positive reinforcement.  Then you can move on to the next task.  These tasks could be reading one chapter, doing one research paper, study for one test - it doesn't matter how big or small, what's important is just taking that first step.  You could also write a list of all things you would like to accomplish that day.  I would recommend keeping it to four or five things and KNOW that you may not get to all of them.  You want to set yourself up for success.  It may be easier for your to get a day planner and put everything in there to help keep you more focused and organized.  I hope some of these suggestions are helpful and strongly encourage you to reach out for more support as you navigate this challenge.  Sincerely, Diana Sebzda  
(LPC, FT)
Answered on 09/27/2021

M going to write one of the toughest exam in this world i.e. IITJEE after 20 days .

Hi,  You have a few things going on so I'm going to try to answer each one and hopefully relieve some of the stress that you are experiencing, especially right before your exam.   So if I understand the question correctly, you need to take a really difficult exam in about 20 days.  You are also experiencing depression and anxiety regarding this situation.  Finally, you find it difficult to overcome negative thoughts, or overthinking.     When we have a potentially overwhelming situation looming (exam, project, job interview, etc). we can become easily overwhelmed by the enormity of it and not know where to start, or even to become motivated to start.  By avoiding or delaying taking steps to conquer this project we make the job even bigger and more overwhelming, knowing that we might fail, miss a deadline, etc.     So first, breathe!  I know that sounds very simple, but when we do slow, deep, methodical/controlled breathing it is the ONE best thing we can do for ourselves to help conquer anxiety and stress.  There are many apps out there that can help with this if you're not sure how to start this type of breathing exercise.  My favorites are "insight timer" and "calm."  But you can find many videos on YouTube as well.   Second, just take one step toward your goal, just do one thing.  Don't even think about, "well if I do this, I need to do that first."  That's a stop sign for us if we are overwhelmed or have low motivation.  Just pick one thing and DO.  It doesn't matter if it's a five-second task or a five-hour task, just pick it and do it.  It might mean reading a chapter, studying one page, take one practice exam.  Don't worry about all the other things that need to get done, just do that one thing.   Third, I would find some kind of reward to give yourself after the completion of that one task-positive reinforcement.  "If I do this one thing, I'll take a five-minute break and surf the web. or I'll eat a snack, or I'll crank out thirty push-ups."  Whatever is most meaningful for you that will motivate you to keep going. Fourth, when thinking about overthinking (no pun intended), or having persistent/intrusive negative thoughts, there are techniques that can help combat that type of thinking.  In the cognitive-behavioral world, it's called "stinking thinking."  We waste a lot of time thinking about the what if's and bad things that can happen when we don't know if that is actually going to happen.  It would be great if we had a crystal ball but we don't so we are just projecting negativity based on no facts to merit it.  In other words, that kind of thinking isn't serving you well.  Using Mindfulness techniques would be really great to help curb that kind of thinking by staying in the moment and only focusing on what's in front of you, the here and now.   Cognitive-behavioral therapy and Mindfulness therapy are both good therapies/techniques that would greatly benefit you.  I strongly encourage you to continue seeking support and advice in this forum, whether it's through chat or engaging in sessions with your own counselor.  Some of these techniques take practice and a little more educational background than allows in this setting.   But I hope that you found this information helpful to get you started for your exam.  The best of luck to you!  Sincerely, Diana Sebzda
(LPC, FT)
Answered on 09/27/2021

How do i overcome maladaptive day dreaming?

Daydreaming itself isn’t worrisome unless it begins to hinder daily activities. In this case, you mention that you have reached a point where you find yourself daydreaming so much that you have failed ( I assume you refer to school) and feel shame and guilt. This can be categorized as maladaptive daydreaming. Maladaptive daydreaming isn’t an official diagnosis. However, it is common enough to have been researched and recognized as a problem for many individuals. Some individuals use daydreaming as a coping mechanism to help deal with experienced trauma or abuse. Others may incorporate daydreaming to help cope with daily stressors in life. Identifying when and why you begin daydreaming could help in managing episodes of excessive daydreaming. For example, if you are a victim of trauma and notice that every time you experience a memory of that trauma you default to daydreaming in order to help handle the stress of those memories, this is notable. An effective way to begin tackling this issue is to journal when you notice that you have experienced an episode of daydreaming. Ensure that you record the date, time, type of daydream and if possible the length of how long you spent daydreaming. By journaling about these episodes, you can begin looking for patterns that may help you understand why and when you tend to daydream more often. For example, if after journaling for a week you notice that you daydream most frequently after lunchtime, then establishing practices to help you avoid daydreaming after lunch would be a great place to begin. Journaling may also help you notice stressors that trigger you to daydream. Stressors could include memories, smells, time of day, tasks that you might have to complete, etc. Something else to consider is your overall health and self-care. How much-uninterrupted sleep do you get daily? Have you had an annual physical and blood work done by your primary care physician? Do you usually eat a healthy balanced diet? Do you have a diet high in sugars and fats? Have you been diagnosed with any disorders that may cause you to daydream? Are you taking any medications with this as a side effect? Many health factors can weigh into this habit. If you don’t receive enough sleep at night you may lose focus during the day and begin daydreaming. Perhaps your blood sugar drops during certain periods of the day causing your energy levels to drop and you to daydream more. You also mentioned that you use daydreaming to escape from reality. When you come back to reality you feel depressed because you haven’t completed the tasks that demand your attention. Putting a plan in place to help organize these tasks and break them down into smaller chunks could make the tasks more manageable, less stressful to tackle thus making them easier to complete. Perhaps you daydream when you realize you have lots of work to complete and you revert to daydreaming as a way to cope with the stress of the work. Managing your schedule and tasks may help you get more work completed and useless daydreaming as a way to cope. Using SMART goals and schedule planning sheets can help you break down daunting tasks into smaller chunks that are easier to complete in shorter amounts of time.
Answered on 09/27/2021

How to get focus In school

Olivia, The reason we don't focus many times is because we are bored. We get bored when we think what we are doing is a waste of time. We can't see the purpose for the work and whatever we are doing just doesn't give us the benefits or pleasure we desire. I will give you three things to consider that can bring you the focus you desire. First, create a meaningful "Why" in your life for going to school at all. Don't just go to school, go to school for a reason! Whatever contribution you want your life to bring to this world use school to help you do it. Use school to help you learn how to solve problems because in life , whatever you do you're going to face many different kinds of problems. School is the place you train your mind to think and think correctly. Second, put some "Law and Order" in your life. Learn how to live according to certain principles you set up for yourself. Make laws for yourself like, "I finish what I start!" Make laws like, "I do what I have to do, then I do what I want to do!" Those are laws that you must make your own. Make them apart of your character. The "Order" is work first, fun later. The "Order" is to make yourself a pyramid of what is most important down to what is lease important. Encourage your mind to give more respect to things that will really help you and move you closer to your goals. The final thing is"Reward Yourself". After a job well done, like finishing some homework, or reading assigned chapters, reward yourself with a specific amount of time to just do what you want to do. After you reward yourself get back on your grind. Accomplish something else that can bring you another reward. If you do these three things; Create yourself a meaningful "Why", Get some "Law and Order" in your life, and "Reward Yourself" when you do well, you will not only do better you will be great and have fun at the same time.
(M.A., LPC)
Answered on 09/27/2021