10 ways to stay focused for study and work in extreme weather

how to stay focused
People cool off at a fountain in Berlin’s Mitte district on July 25, 2022 as temperatures were forecast to reach 36 degrees Celsius in the German capital. Source: David Gannon/AFP

It’s getting too hot or too cold everywhere.

As the planet’s weather is on the fritz, this has certainly affected students and workers all over the world

Many of you are probably wondering how to stay focused in such uncomfortable weather, especially when trying to study or meet an important deadline. 

News of how these extreme temperatures are affecting large groups of people, including vulnerable populations,  makes it that much harder to concentrate still.

If you’re wondering which is worse, The Washington Post reports that for every death linked to heat, nine are tied to cold.

This statistic, however, does nothing to ease our worry, especially when you consider other numbers.

For instance, in January this year, the extreme cold killed one person in Japan and more than 100 in Afghanistan. This deadly cold snap hit China and Korea badly as well.

In the US, extreme heat is found to be the number one killer. CNN recently reported that after three people died in a tornado, millions of Texans braced themselves for an extreme heatwave. 

Over in northern India, an unusually intense heat wave last week pushed temperatures to around 43 degrees Celsius (above 109 degrees Fahrenheit), nine degrees hotter than usual.

Elderly patients with comorbidities like hypertension and diabetes are expiring because of heat,” Dr. S.K. Yadav, chief medical superintendent of Ballia District, told The New York Times.

“The death numbers are more than normal.”

 Whether it’s sweltering heat or freezing cold, these conditions can pose a big challenge to our focus and productivity. 

how to stay focused

Indian commuters wrapped in cloth to protect them from the scorching heat. Source: Diptendu Dutta/AFP

How to stay focused in the heat

It’s hard to think when you’re always sticky and sweating. And it can feel like there’s nothing you can do to make things better.

Fortunately, figuring out how to stay focused is entirely possible even when the world is literally burning.

Stay hydrated

Our bodies are mostly made of water, 78% of it, to be exact. If you look at each of our vital organs, it becomes even clearer how important water is:

The brain and heart are 73% water, while bones are 31%. Even our kidneys and muscles are 79% water, and our lungs are 83%.

With this in mind, it only makes sense that drinking plenty of water is essential to keep your body hydrated. 

How to stay focused? Drink more water. Add ice cubes to them if you can. And when it’s fritzing, start spritzing your skin with cool or room-temperature water.

Ignore this at your peril. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, so make sure to have a water bottle handy and take regular sips throughout the day.

Stocking up on snacks that have a high water content, like watermelon and cucumber, is another great way to ensure you are hydrated on the go.

How to stay focused

To stay cool, stay hydrated. Source: Sanjay Kanojia / AFP

Dress appropriately

Choose lightweight, breathable clothing that lets the air around your skin move. Loose and flowy is the way to go.

Wearing light-coloured clothes can also help reflect sunlight and keep you comfortable.

Check out brands like Uniqlo, which have Airism and UV protection technology in their clothes designed to keep you cool in warm temperatures. 

In offices, save the wool and oxford shirts and slacks for cooler days. Now’s the time to make full use of your linen and rayon clothes.

how to stay focused

When the sun is high, find shelter immediately. Source: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP

Seek shade

If possible, find a shaded area to study or take breaks. Move away from the windows in your library or office. If you can, block out windows, especially those that get direct sunlight, completely.

Direct or indirect exposure to sunlight can make the heat feel more intense and drain your energy.

Carrying an umbrella or wearing a hat is helpful on the go. If you want to take a walk or jog, look for parks with lots of trees, this will help you stay protected from the sun.

It goes without saying but use plenty of sunblock and reapply frequently. Don’t forget your ears, neck, chest, scalp, eyelids, lips and feet too.

how to stay focused

Confused about how to stay focused? Start by not standing in the sun for too long. Source: Piero Cruciatti/AFP

Use more fans or air conditioning

Using more fans or air conditioning units is often the answer to how to stay focused. 

To create a comfortable study environment, airflow is necessary to regulate the temperature and prevent excessive heat from affecting your focus.

Not everyone can afford a new AC unit, but fans cost a fraction of them and can be easily added to your room or office. Consider portable fans that are hand-held and/or wrap around your neck too.

Air conditioning units can be a pricey investment, which is not very accessible for many students, but you can get creative. 

For example, a university student in Malaysia created a DIY air conditioner for only 30 Malaysian ringgit (US$6.42).

For an even cheaper alternative, wet a cloth and put it on your forehead.

how to stay focused

Portable fans are a great way to keep cool on the go. Source: Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP

Take regular breaks

Schedule short breaks during study sessions to give yourself a chance to cool down and recharge. 

Use this time to enter a cooler area or indulge in refreshing activities like splashing your face with cold water.

Perhaps a cold shower or hot bath can help you regulate your temperature in between studying. 

How to stay focused in the cold

Layer clothing

Dress in layers to trap heat and regulate your body temperature effectively. This way, you can add or remove layers based on your comfort level as the temperature fluctuates.

The type of clothing you wear can greatly improve your insulation. An inner layer of thermals is best, and you should pick fabrics like wool and silk, which hold more body heat than cotton. 

How to stay focused is to layer on a warm sweater, scarf and cosy blanket to ensure you are warm enough. 

Stay active

Engaging in physical activity can help increase blood circulation and generate body heat. 

Take short breaks to stretch, do some jumping jacks, or even go for a brisk walk to keep yourself warm and energised.

Warm nourishments

Sipping on warm drinks like herbal tea or hot water with lemon can provide a comforting feeling and help maintain your body temperature.

This is the same for the food you consume. Opt for hot soups and warm meals that are hearty and filling. 

While sandwiches and chips are more convenient meals while you’re studying, making an effort to choose hot lunches and dinners is the answer to how to stay focused. 

how to stay focused

In arctic-like temperatures, how to stay focused is to bundle up in layers. Source: Mladen Antonov / AFP

Get warm with heating sources

If available, make use of heating sources such as space heaters or heating pads to create a cosy study environment. Hot water bottles also do the trick. 

Just remember to follow safety guidelines and never leave heating devices unattended.

As a student, often, being able to save money is a priority. 

So if paying for heating is becoming too much, spend time in shared university spaces like libraries, lecture halls and union halls.

These spaces are often readily available for students to make use of and are heated in colder climes. 

Stay mentally engaged 

In cold environments, it’s crucial to keep your mind active to combat the tendency to feel lethargic. 

How to stay focused would be to engage in mentally stimulating activities like solving puzzles, reading challenging material, or discussing course topics with classmates.

In general, if you look for more creative ways to learn, it is easier to stay on task. 

how to stay focused

A woman takes a selfie with a snowman in a park during an unusual spring snowfall in Belgrade on April 4, 2023. Source: Oliver Bunic/AFP

General tips on how to stay focused

Maintain a comfortable workspace

Ensure your study area is well-organised, clean, and free from distractions. 

A tidy and inviting environment can help you stay focused and minimise the impact of extreme temperatures.

Optimise lighting

Proper lighting is crucial for concentration. 

How to stay focused would be to use natural light whenever possible, but consider using artificial light sources like desk lamps to create a well-lit workspace.

Check out second-hand stores and charity shops for an affordable light source, or look to websites like Gumtree. 

Practise time management

Plan your study schedule effectively, considering the temperature fluctuations during the day. 

Try to tackle demanding tasks during periods when you feel most alert and energised. This is different for everybody. 

Take care of your health

Prioritise your overall well-being by getting enough sleep, eating nutritious meals, and exercising regularly. 

A healthy body is better equipped to handle extreme temperatures and maintain focus.

Take the necessary supplements and make sure your meals are nutritious. 

Adapt to the conditions

Finally, remember that everyone has different preferences and tolerance levels for temperature. 

Experiment with different strategies to find what works best for you and adapt accordingly.

For instance, some find that regular exercise helps regulate their body temperature in cold climes, and others go swimming regularly to deal with the heat.

How to stay focused on ways to reverse the effects of global warming

If you want to make an effort to save the planet, perhaps a degree can set you on the right path. 

There are many options to explore, each dealing with a different facet, from sustainable practices to exploring alternative energy sources. 

These degrees can give you the necessary knowledge to tackle the climate crisis effectively and create a better world for future generations. You can be part of the solution tackling extreme weather.

Here are a few degree options to consider: 

Environmental engineering

For this BSc course, students explore numerous STEM subjects to give them a great foundation. 

From recycling to public health and waste disposal, this qualification can allow you to work on actionable solutions.

Sustainable agriculture/agriculture and environmental education

This degree option is horticulture, and students can focus on food cultivation. You also learn about rearing animals and sustainable practices for the land.

You can then go on to work on packaging and transporting food or even further your studies with crucial research for developing better systems.

Meteorology / Ecological management

Unpredictable weather is a big part of climate change. Studying this area will give you the skill to track and understand weather patterns so you can warn others if a disaster is on the way.

Graduates go on to work in the weather service or as natural resource conservationists, park botanists and restoration ecologists.

Environmental policy/politics

Big decisions are made in politics. The world needs more people advocating for the environment and sustainable practices. 

Students become environmental lawyers, city planners, environmental consultants, and policymakers.

Marine biology

Oceans and the life it holds have been drastically affected by global warming, which has damaged many of its delicate ecosystems. 

In this field, you can go into a research pathway to combat such problems and find ways to reverse the harm done. 

Other degree options to look out for include urban planning, political science, environmental law, wildlife management and more.