Why Do I Zone Out So Much? 12 STOP Strategies (2024)

Do you ever ask yourself “why do I zone out so much?”.

Below, you’ll discover why people tend to lose focus in various situations, as well as 12 strategies to help you stop.

In my role as a life coach, I am often helping people improve their lives and better themselves in a number of ways.

That’s why I’m keen to explain this sensation of zoning out to you. 

Let’s roll!

What Is Zoning Out A Symptom Of?

Zoning out is when the brain disassociates from the sensations of the outside world. Instead, your focus drifts to thoughts unrelated to what’s happening around you.

This happens when the brain decides there’s nothing important or dangerous happening around you, so it rests to save energy. 

Is Zoning Out A Symptom Of Anxiety?

Regularly zoning out can be a symptom of extreme stress or anxiety. If you’re feeling worried about something that could happen in the future, the present becomes less important to you. 

Zoning out can also be used as a coping mechanism when something unpleasant is happening in the present.   

Is Zoning Out A Symptom Of Depression?

Zoning out can be a symptom of depression too, mostly because this condition can cause a lack of interest in just about everything. As such, a depressed person might conclude there’s nothing going on worth taking their focus away from the things they worry about. 

What’s more, it takes mental energy to stay engaged with your surroundings, while being depressed tends to suck your energy like nothing else. 

Is Zoning Out Good Or Bad?

It depends on the scenario. If you’re walking in the park with nothing to do, it can help to give your brain a rest. Zoning out in moments like this can leave you feeling recharged and help you come up with ideas. It’s great for your creative side, even if you realize you don’t remember anything you walked past. 

However, if you’re zoning at times when you need to be paying attention, this can be unhelpful or even dangerous.

Do you zone out in class when you should be learning? Do you zone out when you’re driving 70 miles per hour on the motorway?

If so, the following list of ideas to stop zoning out should be of great interest. 

How To Stop Zoning Out

The more of these ideas you follow, the easier you should find it to stop zoning out and start paying attention to your surroundings. 

1. Grounding Exercises

Here are some examples of quick grounding exercises that can bring you back to the present moment.

  • Holding an ice cube;
  • Smelling peppermint oil;
  • Snapping a rubber band on your wrist;
  • Taking note of the world around you, perhaps by counting all the blue things you see.

Related Content: Where Focus Goes Energy Flows  

2. Meditate

Meditation is the practice of deliberately keeping your attention in the present moment. There are many types of meditation, but a popular one is sitting still and paying attention to your breath for 10-20 minutes. When your thoughts inevitably wander, calmly direct your attention back to your breathing.

Related Content: Strategies To Develop Absolute Focus

3. Dopamine Detox 

When we overload on dopamine over a prolonged period of time, we begin to require more stimulation to keep our attention. Indeed, some people can’t pay attention to any task for even a few minutes once the dopamine receptor reaches overload. It’s a worry to be dealing with this, for sure. 

Some of the tech masterminds in Silicone Valley managed to realize this and began engaging in a self-care exercise called a “dopamine detox”. This meant depriving themselves of sugary foods, alcohol, music or any of their personal gadgets, for example. So, they weren’t surfing the web, watching TV or playing video games for a day or maybe two.  

This self-care trend is growing and rightly so. Audience insights suggest it’s a great way to reset your dopamine receptors, increase your attention span and have your feeling more at one with the world.  

4. Active Listening

Active listening is not just a way to build rapport by showing the other person you’re listening to them. It can also help you encourage yourself to keep listening to that person. You can learn more about how active listening works in this guide on the eight levels of listening.

5. Get Enough Sleep  

Sleep gives our body and our brain time to recharge. When our brain is fully recharged from a good night’s sleep, it sees less need to save energy by zoning out throughout the day

Meanwhile, if you’re suffering from sleep deprivation, your body produces cortisol which can cause brain fog, reducing your memory and focus.  

Why Do I Zone Out So Much
Photo By cookie_studio On freepik

6. Eat Healthy

When you eat meals that are high in sugars (including carbohydrates), your body will inevitably experience an energy crash shortly after it processes this meal. If you eat a balanced diet, you can expect more consistent spurts of energy and focus. 

7. Exercise Regularly 

Peer-reviewed studies suggest a short burst of exercise can improve your focus in the following hours. Meanwhile, remaining sedentary for several hours leaves most people feeling more sluggish and unfocused.

8. Calm Your Stress And Anxiety  

We already explored why zoning out is among the most common anxiety symptoms. Indeed, our body tends to flood with cortisol during anxious moments, causing brain fog. My list of breathing exercises and other drills for emptying your mind can help you to relieve stress and calm down.

9. Change The Direction Of Your Entire Life

If you’re regularly zoning out during your daily tasks, that’s a clear sign that you’re not following a purpose that excites you. Why not?

Is it possible for you to change your daily life so that you’re doing something more exciting? You might not be able to make this shift today, but I’m sure you can take the first step. Life is too short to waste time doing what doesn’t excite you.

10. Find Your Why  

If you are spending time doing things you don’t want to do, take a second to remind yourself why it’s important to stay focused. When you have your ‘why’, the ‘how’ becomes easier.

11. Value Your Time Better!

When you’re easily distracted, all of your daily tasks take longer to complete. This means you have less time to do the things you really want to do in your life.

Can you relate to this? If so, remind yourself that your time is the most valuable currency you have – and it’s the only currency you know will eventually run out. Stop wasting it. 

12. See A Doctor

If you’re doing all the exercises mentioned above and you still have trouble concentrating, it might be time to seek medical attention.

There’s a chance you could be suffering from hypotension, hypoglycemia or short-term memory loss. 

Related: 7 Best Focus Coaches & Ultimate Guide

Frequently Asked Questions About Zoning Out 

Let’s round off this guide with a quick note on some of the frequently asked questions about why people zone out so much.

Why Do I Zone Out So Much While Driving?

When your brain figures out you’re able to complete an activity without really thinking about it, it will tend to zone out, leaving you to complete the task on ‘autopilot’.

This can happen when you’re navigating a familiar route on a safe road, even if driving at a speed where a crash would surely kill you.

Once again, if you’re suffering from anxiety, fatigue or some of the other physical conditions mentioned in this guide, it’s more likely to happen. 

Related: Is Talking To Yourself Bad? 16 Scientific Reasons Why It Isn’t

Why Do I Zone Out So Much At Work?

It could be sleep deprivation, a bad diet or one of the other physical problems mentioned in this guide. These certainly don’t aid your concentration.

More likely though, you’re losing focus either because you’re not passionate about your job, or because the difficulty of the task is too low to require your sustained attention.     

Why Do I Zone Out So Much In Class?

Again, it could be a physical problem. 

However, it’s more likely you feel disconnected from particular topics because you don’t see the value in learning them.  

Why Do I Zone Out When Someone Is Talking To Me?

If you don’t see the value in a conversation topic, it’s common that you’ll notice your thoughts wander towards things deemed more important to you.

In such situations, it’s recommended to remind yourself why it’s important to listen (if you’re talking to your boss about that big project, for example). In some situations though, it might be best to politely steer the conversation so the other person gets to the point. 

Why Do I Zone Out And Stare?  

This is one of the other symptoms of your brain resting. It’s not just your thoughts that stop responding to your immediate environment; your pupils do too. That’s what makes you give off a vacant stare when you’re not concentrating. 

Zoning Out Vs Dissociation

These two words essentially describe the same behavior, although dissociation is used more often to describe a deliberate zoning out when facing an unpleasant situation. 

When people experience dissociation, it’s often a physiological response to helplessness, when one is experiencing trauma, suffering from too much stress or even physical pain.

Any Questions?

Thanks for reading my guide on zoning out. I hope it now makes sense why this happens to you or those around you.

If you have a question or would like to make a point on something else surrounding this topic, take a few seconds to leave a comment below.

I’ll try to reply to every person who responds. It will be great to hear from you.

About The Author

Bijan Kholghi is a certified life coach with the Milton Erickson Institute Heidelberg (Germany). He helps clients and couples reach breakthroughs in their lives by changing subconscious patterns. His solution-oriented approach is based on Systemic- and Hypnotherapy.