ADVICE

Get your brain power back

Get your brain power back

Your brain is utterly amazing! It is the command centre for the central nervous system and the centre of regulating for all your bodily functions.  It enables thoughts, memory, movement and emotions. For an organ that only contributes to around 2.5 per cent of your body weight, that is good going, right?!

When your brain is functioning at its best, not only will it be more likely that you feel good, your ability to solve problems, think creatively and manage your behaviour will be optimised, allowing you to be at your best at both work and play!

The challenge, however, is that so many of us aren’t looking after our brains as well as we need to be, and the results speak for themselves – excessive tiredness, feeling agitated, being unable to be creative, brain overload, exhaustion and overwhelm… the list goes on.

What we eat and drink, how active we are, how good our sleep is and the amount of rest we get all play their part in optimising brain function. We also need to be very mindful of just how many things we are expecting our brains to be able to do at the same time.

In our modern living environment, with screens and devices at our finger tips 24/7, the amount of new data thrown at our brains every day is immense. Our attention is constantly pulled from place to place and having so much going on at the same time can feel overwhelming.

This information overload can also lead to decision fatigue, with so many things to think about and choices to make, our mental capacity to make decisions can get exhausted, just like a muscle. This can make life harder than it needs to be.

So what is the solution?

Alongside sorting your sleep out and including more of the nutrients your brain needs to work at its best, emerging research suggests taking small, intentional breaks during the day can really help give your brain a chance to recoup, reduce fatigue and improve your ability to focus.

YOUR CHALLENGE: At least once every hour, take a micro-break for a couple of minutes away from what you are doing.

To make this happen, you could put reminders in your calendar, set an alarm on your phone, add a note in your diary or maybe even start an hourly tick list.

These micro-breaks aren’t about taking five to have an extra coffee or biscuit, or stopping work to scroll for a few minutes. Instead, it’s a minute or so being more mindful of what is going on around you and how you are feeling.

How to make it happen!

At work

  • Leave your phone behind when you go to get a glass of water or make a cuppa, and notice your surroundings while you get your drink
  • When you get in a lift, leave your phone in your pocket
  • Heading to the loo?! You don’t need your phone
  • Going out to grab a coffee? Again, leave your phone on your desk or in your pocket. Avoid scrolling
  • Have a device-free lunch break
  • If you are feeling tired, head outside and walk around the building. The fresh air, natural daylight and activity will wake you up
  • Choose a quiet space and do 10 press-ups, 10 push-ups,,10 squats or just some simple stretches for two or three minutes to give your brain a break.

Out and about

  • Drive without the radio on and just learn to be ok with simply focusing on driving
  • If you are at the bus stop, just notice what’s around you rather than scrolling. It will be uncomfortable at first, but that actually proves the point of how addictive technology can be
  • Allow yourself to just ‘be’ in a shopping queue without logging into your emails or seeing what is happening on social media

At home

  • Do washing up or folding the laundry mindfully, without the TV or other data going into your brain at the same time
  • Cooking can be a great mindful activity. Shifting it from a chore to a mental health practice can help make it more appealing.
First published: Jul 2021

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