Why Can’t I Concentrate On Reading?

We ask an expert why we can't start concentrating and get through our to-read pile.

Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

by Rhiannon Evans |

As with everything during this pandemic, there seems to be a great divide. Those who have been feverishly reading away and posting great big shelfies... and those who feel like they've lost all concentration and have read the same page 376 times in the last three months. Many of us just cannot concentrate on a book.

Many of us, during the coronavirus crisis, have found inspiration hard to come by, but also found inspiration hard to take on board, struggling to get to the end of books - and TV shows, films and articles (not this one though, I know you're hooked).

We asked Counselling Directory member Jane Fellowes about why we're struggling to read at the moment, and what we can do about it.

Why are some people struggling to read at the moment?

Jane says it's unsurprising some of us aren't finding reading easy. 'This is a combination of the current uncertainty coupled with the trauma of the experience we have all been going through,' she says. 'Uncertainty can be so difficult for us to sit in, reading a novel or similar is a commitment in time and with uncertainty comes upheaval and an inability to concentrate and commit to longer term projects.

'In addition trauma leads to hyper-vigilance and a struggle to settle, we may feel the need to stay in this current awareness for fear of missing the news, an update. We may experience an inability to concentrate on an alternate world, such as that of a novel.'

'A general feeling of unsettlement has been common - fear, anxiety and a wondering of what will happen next. This has been prevalent on Instagram and Twitter. A strong sense of fear.'

Is struggling to read something that happens in times of crisis?

There may also be other times in your life, when reading can be tough - or concentrating on anything, says Jane. 'It can be [hard to focus in times of crisis], the anxiety, fear and struggle to commit or switch off from our current state are common in times of trauma. We become hyper-vigilant and aware. We may also lose interest in a cycle of low mood and depression. Helplessness can lead us to abandon our hobbies as we focus all our energy on getting through each day.'

Are people struggling with creative things during the pandemic in general?

'Anything creative can be a great source of therapy,' says Jane. 'People may be struggling though at these times with creative or abstract thinking, and commitment to any long term creative project. Anything that involves a step from the survival mode we have been living in can be daunting in times of uncertainty.'

What can you do to combat loss of concentration?

'Approach creativity as self care, an investment, a reminder of who you are,' says Jane. 'Create a card for a friend who is struggling, choose a small task with less commitment, choose an exciting new hobby - maybe you've always wanted to try crochet or cross stitch? See a creative activity as a temporary escape, a place to nurture your soul.'

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Books To Read Before They Come To Screen - Grazia

Books To Read Before They Come To Screen - Grazia
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Depicting modern British life from the perspective of 12 different individuals - most of whom are black women - this Booker Prize winner was one of the highest-selling releases of 2019. Gail Egan and Andrea Calderwood's UK production company Potboiler Television won the rights the this best-seller and are said to be 'delighted to be working with Bernardine on bringing this vibrant and joyous novel to the screen.'It is a vivid and authentic as well as important story of our times,' they said. Details about when the adaption will air are yet to be known, but you'll definitely want to read the critically-acclaimed novel for yourself first.

Books To Read Before They Come To Screen - Grazia
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CREDIT: Amazon

Rooney has had huge success with her novel Normal People. The TV adaption of this book is set to have 12 episodes and air on BBC Three and Hulu at some point in 2020. Set in Ireland during the economic downturn on the noughties, the story follows the complicated relationship of Connell and Marianne throughout their schooling and university education.

Books To Read Before They Come To Screen - Grazia
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CREDIT: Amazon

The man who adapted Les Miserables for the small screen - Andrew Davies - is now bringing us the epic A Suitable Boy, condensed into six episodes for a new BBC1 period drama. This classic novel is set in India in the 1950s and follows the lives of four families as the country prepares for a political election during its new found independence. Expect it in June 2020.

Books To Read Before They Come To Screen - Grazia
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CREDIT: Amazon

The book is being adapted by Hulu for a TV series starring Jeff Bridges later this year. The premise of this thriller novel is that a former CIA officer (Bridges), who now lives off the grid, is forced to confront his past when an assassin tries to murder him.

Books To Read Before They Come To Screen - Grazia
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CREDIT: Amazon

Don't miss Colin Farrell playing Henry Drax in BBC Two's four-part mini-series adaptation of McGuire's novel this year. Drax, an amoral, murderous whale harpooner, sets sail with Patrick Summer (Jack O'Connell) on an ill-fated journey to the Arctic. Read the book before the series comes out to find out what happens on the water!

Books To Read Before They Come To Screen - Grazia
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CREDIT: Amazon

The adaption of Malorie Blackman's Noughts and Crosses premieres on 5 March 2020 on BBC One. The novel is set in an alternative history where black people (crosses) rule over white people (noughts). The TV adaptation focuses on the core themes of the book: prejudice, racism and forbidden romance.

Books To Read Before They Come To Screen - Grazia
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CREDIT: Amazon

Conversations with Friends by Rooney has also been picked up by the BBC and will be made into a 12-part series. This story humorously comments on the bitter reality of relationships and friendships, told through the perspective of four main characters.

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CREDIT: Amazon

This arresting novel is poised to set your screens alight in March. The show is based on the novel by Celest Ng that delves into the life of a free-spirited single mother who moves to Ohio with her daughter. The story revolves around the challenges they encounter when their lives entwine with a middle-class family in the neighbourhood.

Books To Read Before They Come To Screen - Grazia
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CREDIT: Amazon

An adaptation of Eleanor Catton's novel The Luminaries is set to air later this year on BBC Two. The story is set in the nineteeth century gold rush in New Zealand and focuses on the character Anna Wetherell, who sails to New Zealand to begin a new life and is quickly drawn into a tale of love, murder and revenge. It will star Eva Green and Himesh Patel.

Books To Read Before They Come To Screen - Grazia
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CREDIT: Amazon

Little Birds is a collection of short, erotic stories from Anais Nin. The stories have been adapted by Sky Atlantic into a dramatic television series that stars Juno Temple. The infamous tales confront a selection of topics and themes and weave together stories of love, desire and politics.

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CREDIT: Amazon

Ridley Road will air as a four-part thriller on BBC One, but the release date is still TBC. The series is based on Bloom's novel of the same name and is set in 1960s London. The story focuses on the life of Vivien Epstein who is forced into undercover espionage when she follows her lover into danger.

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