How to Regain Focus in Stressful Times


How’s your concentration? I know I’m not alone in lately having difficulty focusing on my work. I know because so many recent conversations have landed on the same sentence, “I’ve been so distracted!”. It is more important than ever to stay engaged in the current political goings on, given the rapid pace of change and the sometimes confused messages out there. Getting back to our work is not as simple as turning away from social media and the news of the day because we must remain informed and vigilant.


Yet we also need to get stuff done, so what can we do to refocus as needed?


Give this technique a try. I’ve adapted the idea from cartoonist and author Lynda Barry and expanded a bit here to meet our needs.

Barry calls this Spiral Draw, “an exercise in both relaxation and concentration”. I like it because it’s a sort of physical form of meditation (like walking a labyrinth) and it involves drawing which can open the way to creative thinking. It feels a bit more accessible than sitting meditation because it offers something more physical than breathing as the lead-in.

Ready to give it a go? Grab some paper and a fine-tipped writing implement.


Start with a dot.


Begin drawing a line in a spiral outward from the dot.

Keep the line as close to the previous ring as possible WITHOUT touching.



If your line touches, begin another spiral dot.

Let go of distracting thoughts, even the ones about how wonky these circles are! Get into the flow of ink on paper and the line snaking around as your spiral grows larger.



Optional but helpful to some: While spiraling and focusing on keeping the line from touching, give a moment of attention to each part of your body. Check in from head to toes and then shoulders to hands to fingers holding the pen or pencil. Release any tension you might be holding along the way.



Once you’ve managed a page of nice sized spirals and feel more focused, turn to your work. (Or do another page!)

This is so simple, but try it and see how effective Spiral Draw is for you. After a page or two – 5 minutes or so in total – I find I’m usually able to concentrate on whatever needs my attention. Now, get back to grantwriting.


Did you find this helpful? Please take a moment to share your thoughts in the comments or on Facebook.