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Tunnel Vision

Psychological Flexibility | Problem Solving | Anxiety | Workaholic | Psychological | Goals | Therapy

You know you have tunnel vision when there is nothing else you can think of but this one thing that is on your mind. It might be a problem that you're tying to solve, a future event that you can't stop thinking of, or something that has happened in the past that you just cant seem to let go. You think about it when you wake up in the morning, during breakfast, at work, after work, in the evenings and even on weekends.

Having tunnel vision is not all bad, as it can create an intense amount of focus towards a future outcome. If that is some kind of project or result you need to achieve then you can experience an enormous amount of drive or concentration that can help you get you there. However, sometimes you can get lost in your vision and fail to notice everything around you, which may make you feel like you’re stuck in a void. This creates problems within relationships as the people around you start to notice that you're paying less attention to them, and you have started to feel distant from everyone else around you. You may be getting closer and closer to that “vision” but then you also realise you’re starting to forget things such as important dates, deadlines and decisions that needs to be actioned on other projects and areas of your life.

When you experience tunnel vision, there is almost always something that you are neglecting. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a useful tool that helps people to develop Psychological Flexibility. ACT teaches you strategies to open up, be mindful and set meaningful goals without losing focus on other areas of your life. The focus of ACT is to clarify your values and to move forward towards meaningful goals in life while learning to skills strategies to manage different domains in life.

Think about these four domains in your life:

1. Work/education

2. Leisure

3. Personal growth/health

4. Relationships

Ask yourself how well you are doing out of ten in each domain (1= Not doing well at all, 10= Doing extremely well). Remember that it's not always possible to achieve 10/10 in all areas of your life and that's okay.

Let's say you rate:

1. Work/education 8/10

2. Leisure 3/10

3. Personal growth/health 4/10

4. Relationships 5/10

If these were your results, then you know that leisure and personal growth/health are areas that you need to focus on to feel balanced.

There may be reasons why you are focusing so heavily in certain areas of your life while neglecting others. You may be "caught up" in certain thoughts about your future which might sound a little like this:

"I need to perform well all the time in order to get ahead in life"

"If it's not perfect it's not worth it"

"My future is dependant upon how hard I work now"

Some of these thoughts, in fact may be true, but let's say if these are the only thoughts that are playing in your mind, there is no room for thoughts such as:

"I need to make my mental health/ health a priority"

"Is there anyone in my life that I am neglecting?"

"Am I leaving enough room to participate in my hobbies?"

Defusion is a technique used in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy where you learn to identify regimented thoughts that are difficult to untangle from.

To use Defusion as a technique follow these steps:

Step 1. Write down "I am having thoughts about..." and fill in the sentence: let's say you're having thoughts about needing to perform well at all times in order to get ahead in life. You would complete the sentence like this:

"I am having thoughts that i need to perform well all the time in order to get ahead in life"

Step 2. Identify the feeling associated with that thought i.e if your having thoughts about having to perform well all the time to get ahead in life, then you're most probably experiencing emotions associated with fear and your actions are stemming from a place of anxiety.

Step 3. Although anxiety can be helpful in assisting you to "get things done", it's important to remember that not all fear based actions are productive and at times we can be "doing for the sake of doing" instead of basing our actions on reason and purpose. It is important to recognise whether your actions are truly productive. There is only so much energy you can expend, and most times when you are overly productive and you are using fear/anxiety as a motivator you will burn out!

Step 4. Recognise fear when it shows up and instead of reacting to it, stop, think and breath before you start moving. Recognise the thought behind the action, identify the feeling and then re-evaluate what truly is the most productive thing to do.

Step 5. Know your purpose, before you start being "productive" identify the value behind your action and work from a place of reason, instead of emotions based on fear.

Remember there is more to life than just "doing" and sometimes it's important to stop, reflect and contemplate what is truly important to you. Only then does true productivity start.

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