Worrying about things beyond your control creates unnecessary stress and can be counterproductive. For most of us, worrying is just part of leading a responsible life. However, it’s important to not let worry and other thoughts become a distraction, which can take away your focus and ultimately cause harm. Situational awareness is the opposite of being distracted. It’s being aware of what is going on around you in terms of where you are, where you should be, and what in your surroundings could potentially be a threat to your health or safety.
Situational awareness is only as good as your perception. If you’re lost in your own thoughts you can miss the cues of a potential threat. This loss of presence and focus can lead to harm ranging from minor things such as a stubbed toe to major things such as a car accident. Common scenarios of lost situational awareness involve routine tasks that we are no longer present while performing. An example is driving to work; have you ever arrived at work and not remembered parts of the journey? We can be thinking of other things so intently that we completely lose awareness of the present.
The good news is you can improve your situational awareness! Simply taking the time to pause before starting a task can bring focus to what you are doing. Take the time to take stock of what is going on in your environment and notice new conditions. Drills to practice and improve your situational awareness include counting things in your environment such as number of exits in a restaurant or store, or number of people sitting in their cars in a parking lot. Make a habit of studying the details of your situation and looking for new or out-of-place things.
Taking a moment to be aware of your surroundings and focusing on being present in the task at hand can tune out some of your internal noise and help you focus on where you are and what you’re currently doing.