10 Surprising Reasons You’re Unable to Focus

10 Surprising Reasons You’re Unable to Focus

Presented by BetterHelp

We’ve all been there. You’re trying to complete an important task but can’t stay focused long enough to finish. Sometimes, the reason you can’t focus is because there are tons of distractions. For instance, your dog is barking incessantly, your phone is chirping alerts at you, or your children are calling for your attention.

But what about when there aren’t any distractions, and you still can’t focus? What causes difficulty focusing when there aren’t any obvious causes?

In this article, we’re taking a closer look at some surprising reasons you may be finding it difficult to stay focused and share some tips for overcoming them. In the end, you should have a better idea of some possible reasons you’re struggling to stay on task.

10 Things Making It Hard to Focus

So, if obvious distractions aren’t to blame for your difficulty concentrating, here are 10 other things that could be.

Lack of Sleep

We all know that having a healthy sleep routine is important for overall health. But, many people are surprised to learn that not sleeping enough can also affect your cognition and focus. So, be sure to try to get around eight hours of sleep each night to improve focus.

Eating Certain Foods

Certain things like caffeine, alcohol, energy drinks, and sugar can impact how you think and process information. If you find that you struggle to focus after you drink a cup of coffee or eat certain foods, they could be the culprit. Try to eliminate any foods that you think are causing your issues and see how that affects your ability to concentrate.

Nutritional Deficiencies

On the other hand, not getting enough other foods and nutrients can also cause a lack of focus. For instance, if you have nutritional deficiencies, like an iron deficiency, you may struggle to stay focused. Consider getting a blood test done to make sure you aren’t running low on any key nutrients. If you are, you can take supplements or medications to remedy them and see if it helps!

Excess Stress

Stress can negatively impact several areas of your life, including your ability to focus. If you’re under a lot of stress, it could be the reason you can’t stay on track. Try removing any unnecessary stress in your life and work on developing healthy coping strategies, like meditation or exercise. The more stress you can reduce, the better.

Certain Medications

Certain medications, like statins, antidepressants, corticosteroids, and others, can impact memory and focus. Be sure to check the side effects of any medications you’re using – especially if you’re just starting them. However, don’t stop taking any medications before consulting with your healthcare provider.

Mental Health Conditions

Mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, PTSD, and more can make it difficult to keep your mind on your life and current activities. If you believe an underlying mental health condition is making it hard for you to focus, it’s important to reach out to your doctor or mental health professional for support.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

ADHD, including inattentive ADHD, can often make it difficult to focus. If you have other symptoms of ADHD, it could be beneficial to speak to your doctor. They will be able to provide a proper treatment plan.

Certain Medical Conditions

Just like mental health conditions, certain medical conditions and chronic pain can also make it challenging to stay focused. For example, conditions like hypothyroidism, diabetes, and epilepsy can impact a person’s cognitive abilities and reduce their ability to concentrate. If you believe you have a medical condition that could be causing your problems, speak to your medical provider.

Uncomfortable Conditions

Things like room temperature, a nonergonomic chair, a lack of adequate light, hunger, illness, and more can make it nearly impossible to stay on task and focused. If you’re uncomfortable, your body may be unable to focus on anything else. Try to address anything that’s making you uncomfortable. For example, if it’s too cold in your office, wear a sweater, or if you’re hungry, eat a snack. Do everything you can to improve your comfort.


Everyone thinks that doing a bunch of tasks at once is the key to getting more done faster. However, multitasking can also make it incredibly difficult to get in the zone and complete tasks. Instead, try staying focused on one task at a time and see if it makes it easier to concentrate.

How to Improve Your Focus

The biggest key to tackling your focus issues is to understand what’s causing them in the first place. Once you understand what could be causing your issues, develop a plan to address it.

Additionally, be sure to do everything you can to eliminate distractions. You may not realize how often you’re accidentally getting distracted. If you’re trying to work or focus in a chaotic place, try to make it more peaceful. For example, put your phone on silent, ask those around you to give you some time, and do some mindfulness exercises to stay focused on the present.

If your attempts to get focused don’t help, it’s important to reach out to a professional for guidance because you don’t want to unintentionally ignore a deeper issue.


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