‘Why Do I Zone Out So Much?’ | How To Stop Zoning Out
Do you ever feel like you’ve been reading the same lines for over ten minutes or more? Or do you ever think about something mundane when you’re supposed to be listening to the meeting?
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Don’t worry, you’re not the only one this happens to. Sometimes, when I’m reading, I keep zoning out or when I’m watching TV. Spacing out for some time is not an issue but zoning out while driving or spacing out when you’re cooking – now that can be dangerous.
Almost everyone zones out from time to time but the frequency of zoning out can increase when you’re too stressed out. Zoning out can also occur when you’re coping with grief, breakup, or other traumatic life experiences.
Some people even use zoning out as a coping mechanism which might or might not be a bad thing. In this article, I’ll explain what happens when you zone out, why do people zone out, and how to stop zoning out.
What Does ‘Zoning Out’ Means?
When you zone out or space out, you experience dissociation. While on the same spectrum as dissociation, zoning out lands on the mild side of the spectrum.
When our mind is overwhelmed and we’re stressed, our body responds to that stress with the flight-fight-freeze response. In the case of spacing out, our body generally bypasses the flight or fight part of the stress response and freezes.
When our body responds by freezing, our mind responds by zoning out. Minds are complicated. They think that our survival depends on not fighting or fleeing but on shutting down. When we space out, it becomes harder for us to move or even speak. We experience a temporary numbness with our emotions when our body and mind prepare for any kind of shock.
Please remember that zoning out may look a lot different depending on person to person. While in some, zoning out might include daydreaming, for others, it may rob them of movement.
The symptoms, too, may vary. Children, specifically, use zoning out or spacing out as a defense mechanism when they feel the threat is near to protect themselves. It may be an instinctive reaction in some situations.
What Does Zoning Out Feel Like?
Let me use a simple example. When our computer is overloaded, it might hang or shut down to reboot. Zoning out is a little like that. When we are too stressed and our mind is overloaded, it might decide to shut itself down to reboot.
Zoning out might feel a little like experiencing brain fog.
Do you ever walk by the ship you were supposed to stop at without realizing it? Or have you ever eaten your food without realizing what you’re eating?
This is what zoning out can feel like.
While occasionally spacing out is common and even refreshing, zoning out frequently can be a matter of concern.
Causes Of Zoning Out
Zoning out means our minds are running on default. You do an activity without realizing you’re doing it. Many factors can contribute to us experiencing dissociation:
Sleep Deprivation: Whether you know it or not, sleep deprivation can take a heavy toll on your functioning. Sleep deprivation can be very dangerous especially when you’re driving.
Feeling Overwhelmed: Feeling overwhelming emotions can also lead you to experience dissociation. Too much overload on your mind can cause it to shut down.
Experiencing Trauma: If you’ve gone through a traumatic event, it is often possible for your brain to shut down until you can properly deal with the experience.
Is Zoning Out A Bad Thing?
Zoning out or daydreaming can be wonderful for boosting your creative muscles and brainstorm solutions. When you’re doing something that needs full concentration such as baking or playing video games, zoning out your surroundings can be useful too.
However, while zoning out can have some positive points, it can have some equally negative points. Spacing out when you’re dealing with something such as an argument or during an important meeting, can become an issue in the future.
Similarly, zoning out while driving can have fatal outcomes. Even if you’re familiar with the roads, zoning out when driving can lead you to have an accident. People also zone out when they want to escape something traumatic and while it can be a defense or a coping mechanism, it can be an unhealthy one.
How To Stop Zoning Out: 5 Ways To Do When You Zone Out So Much
If you frequently find yourself zoning out, you can try the following strategies:
1. Grounding Techniques
- Breathing exercises
- 5,4,3,2,1 exercise
- Washing your face with cold water
- Savoring your favorite beverage or food
- Breathing in the fragrance of your favorite scent
2. Keeping Track Of When You Zone Out
If you catch yourself zoning out, take a quick note of it. If you don’t realize you zoned out, ask someone (a friend, a coworker). Taking a note of your zoning out episodes can provide you insight into your behavior. Once you know when you zone out, you can try to change the pattern.
3. Practicing Mindfulness
Practicing mindfulness can help you increase awareness of your surroundings and keep you in the present moment. In situations where your mind prefers to wander away, try to stay focused on what you’re doing. Many a time, I zone out when I’m doing the dishes, so instead of letting my thoughts wander, I focus on the task by feeling the way I’m holding a plate or on the temperature of the water.
You can also try breathing exercises and focus on each breath as you inhale and exhale. This is something that can help when you’re driving.
4. Practicing Active Listening
If you’re someone who zones out when others are talking, then you can learn some active listening techniques to help you prevent zoning out. You can try:
- Nodding or offering non-verbal cues
- Summarizing or repeating what others have said
- Asking questions if you feel confused
5. Practicing Self-Care
Practicing self-care can help you manage your dissociation while also helping you release pent-up stress. Self-care can include:
- Eating healthy
- Getting enough sleep
- Exercising regularly
- Spending quality time with family and friends
- Engaging in hobbies
Remember, too much stress can be one of the reasons that can contribute to your frequent spacing out.
Ask For Help
If you zone out occasionally, then there is no need to worry about but if zoning out is interfering with your ability to carry out your daily tasks, then you need to ask for help.
Frequent zoning out or daydreaming can be a sign of ADHD or depression. If your zoning out is followed or preceded by these symptoms, then it is recommended you speak to a professional:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling restless or irritable
- Experiencing low mood
- Trouble managing emotions
- Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
A therapist or a counselor will guide you and support you while helping you explore why you’re experiencing dissociation frequently. A therapist can also help you come up with effective and healthy coping techniques.
I hope this article helped you understand why you zone out, its causes, and how to stop zoning out. For more, you can visit our website or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Take care and stay safe!