Published: Mar. 28, 2007
Updated: Aug. 22, 2011
Many people in situations like yours find it hard to concentrate. Sometimes, it seems like the harder a person tries, the harder it gets.
Doctors and nurses are trying to better understand all the factors that cause this problem. In the meantime, there are some things you can do to help your ability to focus. A good night’s sleep can help restore ability to concentrate. If you are not sleeping well, talk to your doctor and nurse about ways to improve your rest at night.
When a person is in a demanding situation, even a good night’s rest will not be enough to restore focus and attention. There are certain things you can do during the day that have been proven to help restore the ability to concentrate. We call these restorative activities. The instructions below will help you plan your own restorative experiences.
An activity needs to have some special qualities to be effective in restoring your focus. It needs to:
Research has shown that activities that involve nature -- including plants, animals, water, or weather -- are especially restorative. For some, creating or collecting may be helpful. Some people are restored by exploring and learning about things of interest.
Look at the list below. Print this page and check off the activities that appeal to you. Add the specifics for your situation.
Make sure you consider what is easy for you now. You can always expand your activities later, as your energy or physical abilities improve.
Sitting or walking in a natural environment
Observing a natural view (trees, clouds, sunset)
Sitting by water
Observing wildlife, birds, animals
Caring for / playing with pets*
Exploring / taking a trip or excursion
Learning about something new
Collecting things of special interest
* Check with your health care team to make sure these activities are safe for you.
These activities are likely to help you if you do them several times a week, for a total of at least two hours. Planning ahead will make it more likely that you will make the time to take care of yourself with restorative activities. Think about your schedule and draft your plan below.
You may want to keep a log of your restorative activities, including date, time, activity, and how you felt afterward. This may help you see progress and make changes to your plan over time.
Adapted, with permission, from Restorative Intervention: standard protocol. (page 87) Cimprich, B. (1993) Development of an intervention to restore attention in cancer patients. Cancer Nursing 16(2): 83-92.
This article is intended as a resource for patients receiving their cancer care at Duke University Hospital or Duke Clinic. It is not intended to substitute for medical advice from your health care team. If your doctor’s instructions differ from the information in this article, please talk with your doctor before making any changes.
Source: Duke Cancer Patient Education Program / approved Patient & Family Education Committee 9/05