In our modern world, stress and fatigue have become so commonplace that, for many, both have become almost habitual. The pattern is all too familiar. We load our life plates up with jobs, life goals, family obligations, and top it off with the day-to-day tasks that come with being a responsible adult, and we end up with very little time to decompress.
Despite the fact that there are many who choose to wear busy-ness as a badge of honor, the fact is that our minds just aren’t built to take all the chaos our lives pile on day after day. One of the side effects of ongoing stress and fatigue is that they wear down our mental wellbeing, leaving us feeling depleted and exhausted.
Here are a few tips to help you stay sharp, focused and rejuvenated.
1. Get enough sleep.
Intentionally depriving your body of sleep and getting up incredibly early is not a life hack, or a productivity hack, or any other kind of hack. Over time, sleeping less than the recommended 7-9 hours of nightly is eroding your mental focus and clarity and can impact your short term and long term memory. But because everyone is different and your mileage may vary, it’s important to pay attention to your body. If you’ve been burning the candle at both ends for a while, it might be time to disconnect the devices for a night or two.
2. Take breaks.
No matter what our culture says, our minds weren’t designed to “power through” an entire day. Multi-tasking is not the most productive way to get work done. Focus is at its best when we focus on one task at a time and take regularly scheduled breaks during the day. Try the 60 minute sprint technique. Turn off your notifications, clear your computer screen of distractions, and work on ONE project for an hour. At the end of that hour, take a 20 minute break – go on a brisk walk, grab some water, do some stretching or breathing exercises. These activities will help take your mind off the task at hand and let you re-focus.
3. Drink plenty of water.
You have heard me say this before. Stay hydrated! Water can actually make you smarter. That’s because brain cells depend on water to function. Chronic dehydration results in a less efficient brain. When you hydrate regularly, it impacts focus, short-term memory, long-term memory, and your problem solving ability. The key to hydrating throughout the day is to make regular water intake as convenient as possible. Before you begin your work day, fill a glass or water bottle and place it on your desk. Or consider putting your car keys next to your water bottle, so you’ll remember to take it with you. For an added boost, add some Axio!
4. Break a sweat.
Exercising isn’t just good for your heart and muscles, it has an incredibly powerful effect on your brain. That’s because during a workout we deliver more oxygen while releasing tension and stress. In fact, some studies show that mental focus and IQ performance improve for a full two hours after a workout. If you can, try exercising in the morning, so you can carry those benefits throughout your day.
5. Train your brain.
Feel like you have trouble focusing? Welcome to the club. You’re one of approximately seven billion people who feels the same way. The idea here is to challenge your brain. Pick an activity – whether it’s reading a book, playing a strategy game, or writing. Then challenge yourself to stick with that activity for progressively longer periods of time, as if you were training for a marathon. Even if you’re only adding five additional minutes or writing one additional paragraph, you’ll eventually begin to see gradual improvements in your mental stamina. And the added bonus, you’ll feel increasingly proud of yourself.
6. Eat some brain food.
“You are what you eat” goes for both body and mind. Eating high-energy foods that burn slowly can help give your brain the nourishment it needs to process throughout the day. Consider adding foods like oatmeal, trail mix, and fruit. Consider whole foods like vegetables as premium high-octane brain fuel for your brain. On the other hand, refined sugars and simple carbs can do more harm than good. Plus, they can come with a crash, which derails any task.