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Zein Al-Maha Oweis describes losing her ability to concentrate on reading after the effects of lockdown.

As the new semester begins and reading lists hit my university email with that dread-inducing ping, I begin to wonder if I will have time for leisure reading. The type of reading that has you on the edge of your seat, while sipping a cup of coffee on one of the benches at the Botanics. Maybe meet up with a friend and… Wait, what was I talking about?

As I stare at a stack of books, dust accumulating on top of limited edition signed hardcovers on my bedside table, I wonder when I will be able to jump into a book or, worse still, finish an entire book. When was the last time I did that? I remember those pre-Covid-19, halcyon days when I would gobble down five books in the span of 24 hours. Ah, what a time to be alive. Now, I can’t even flip through two pages without feeling the heavy weight of a book in my hands as I sit on a train from Glasgow to Edinburgh. It’s a one-hour train ride, Zee,  surely you can finish a book by then? Nope.

The reason? I have lost the will power to read. Me, who would yearn to go on another thrilling adventure through the pages of a fantasy novel. I was supposed to start reading the Outlander series, but instead they sit miserably on a shelf in my university accommodation waiting for me to eagerly flip through their pages.

Research states that losing your attention span due to anxiety and stress is understandable. We’ve all been undergoing our fair share of these feelings – thank you, year-long pandemic. But, if we love to read (which I certainly do) then now is the time to get back into it. I found that having a routine helped me with my PhD work ethic so, why not put it to the test once again. If you are feeling in a funk and want to get back to reading then why not start a routine to help energize your attention span. This could be starting off with just 10 minutes each morning. Or better yet, come up with something that you know will help motivate you. Maybe you favour the reward system where every time you read a book or finish a chapter you reward yourself with a cup of coffee. (Although not recommended for coffee addicts such as myself.)

One of the things I have been doing as an exercise to liven up my attention span (surprisingly, sometimes the piles of academic articles on content analysis don’t quite do that) is taking some “me time”. Every day after 5pm, I close my laptop and do something that makes me happy – this could be meeting up with a friend for a walk or going for a dance class on campus or at Kelvingrove Park. I find that doing this helps me gain a better focus when it comes to my thoughts, writing, and conversing with others. Trust me, taking time for yourself will help you regain your lost attention span.

Now if you will excuse me, I have my eyes set on a new book to devour but, first... coffee.


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