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7 Actionable Tips To Help Your Brain Function At It’s Highest Level

7 Actionable Tips To Help Your Brain Function At It’s Highest Level

The mind is an incredible and powerful thing, and half of the reason why it’s so amazing is it’s elasticity for performance. Someone one day can be ON, and the next day they might feel like they’re in a fog from not having their morning coffee. It’s a wonder we have all of these amazing tools at our disposal to help us think sharply, but unfortunately, many people never use them. The following aren’t just ‘healthy’ options to help your brain– they truly help you think more clearly, and give you energy.

1. Proper nutrition, particularly healthy fats like fish oil

This is something many people will skip, they will go right into the energy drinks when they feel tired, without ever having to consider that maybe it’s their diet that is off. But not only does nutrition have a crazy amount to do with fitness and fat-loss – healthy foods, particularly fish and supplements like fish oil, are used to help treat depression and cognitive decline according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Take 3 fish oil capsules in the morning with your coffee to get these essential fatty acids. 

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2. B6, B12 and Folic Acid (B9)

Vitamins aren’t the easiest, quickest fix – but according to Mercola, Health Company B-vitamins are so integral to brain function that they can slow brain shrinkage and even help treat dementia. If you’ve been experiencing fatigue or mental fog, then you may have deficiencies in some key nutrients.

Take all three of these vitamins with the fish oil to keep your energy and cognitive abilities at their peak throughout the day. 

3. Exercise daily for at least 20 minutes

This is a particularly underrated opportunity for people even during their lunch hour, according to Search Services, who say that they communally do exercises in the office and take walks to loosen up the mind and keep them sharp. Sometimes taking 20 minutes away from your work space to get your blood flowing is exactly what is needed.

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As part of your routine you should include: A 20 minute run/walk every morning, as long as your heart is pumping you don’t need to be running the entire time. Try intervals, which include running and walking intermittently. 

4. Volunteer & socialize

Getting out in the world and mingling with people is very good for your brain, particularly when you’re all doing something constructive to help the community. According to the site Prevention – “Essentially, it’s a drug-free way to keep you feeling young.” and 65.4 million Americans are volunteering every year.

Take, when possible, one trip to the local soup kitchen or homeless shelter. Volunteer an afternoon with your coworkers, or with 2 or 3 of your friends.  

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5. Read on a regular basis

The Open Education Database touts a surprising amount of cognitive benefits. They say, ‘Story structure encourages our brains to think in sequence, expanding our attention spans.’ Neuroscientists also encourage parents to have their kids read or read to them, as it helps encourage story structure and counter issues regarding short attention spans.

Take a moment out of your busy week to read something that excites you, like a well-written novel or a book on a new topic you’re interested in.

6. Try new hobbies and interests that challenge you

Beyond fitness – many hobbies that challenge you like sudoku, puzzles, cooking, playing music, or meditating can allow your cognitive function to be working at peak capacity. According to Goals.com, these types of hobbies and interests can help with things like multi-tasking, creativity, and allow us to consider new perspectives, as well as stimulate visual and tactical responses.

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Take up a new hobby every couple of months, and do your best to mix the enjoyment of a new experience with the aspect of having a good challenge.

7. Get the appropriate amount of sleep

Don’t balk at the basics. The amount and rhythm of your sleep are integrally linked to mental health, according to a Ted Talk by Russell Foster. We’ve all had one of those days where we’ve only gotten 4 hours of sleep, made our way into a room, before completely forgetting what we initially intended on doing. We are not superheroes, most of us need to get 6 to 9 hours of sleep. Increments of 1.5 hours of sleep are considered a general rule of thumb for a sleep cycle according to Psych Digest. Therefore, waking up after 7.5 hours or 9 hours of sleep will help you keep feeling refreshed. This is due to the fact that these times are in between the points of your deepest sleep. This routine would be much better for you than say, waking up after 8 hours or 9.5 hours of sleep, only interrupting yourself in the midst of a sleep cycle.

Take some time at night to wind down, set your phone away from your bed and/or find out what works for you – your best sleep will come when you find and stick to a pattern, rather than changing your routine all the time.

Best of luck finding the tips that work for you. The process of finding ways to increase brain function and cognitive ability is very fun, and whether you do all of the things above, or just some, I hope that it’s effective and that it yields you interesting results!

Featured photo credit: Pic Jumbo via picjumbo.com

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Last Updated on July 13, 2020

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed and exhausted.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm; leaving you calmer, in control and a lot less stressed.

1. Write Everything down to Offload Your Mind

The first thing you can do when you begin to feel overwhelmed is to write everything down that is on your mind.

Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s on your mind.

For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind”.

The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will begin the process of removing your feeling of overwhelm. Writing things down can really change your life.

2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

Once you have ‘emptied your head,’ go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. Here’s How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List.

3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

Now here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and us humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take:((Odhable: Genesis of Parkinson’s Law))

    This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad but they stick to the belief it will only take thirty minutes. It’s more wishful thinking than good judgment.

    We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. If you have estimated that to write five emails that desperately need a reply to be ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

    Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is you put yourself under a little time pressure and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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    When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time and so it plays tricks on us and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our colleagues to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

    Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening and we get more focused and more work done.

    4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

    Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos. Go through your to-dos and schedule time on your calendar for doing those tasks. Group tasks up into similar tasks.

    For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

    Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

    5. Make Decisions

    For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

    If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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    If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss, a colleague and get advice.

    Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You need to make a decision to deal with it and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved. (You can take a look at this guide on How To Make Good Decisions All The Time.)

    I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend of mine of the problem. He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I paid a smaller amount for a couple of months.

    This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

    The first, don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second, there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

    6. Take Some Form of Action

    Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we feel overwhelmed (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

    The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

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    It also means rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible and you can make decisions easier about what to do about them. Often it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be you see you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

    Overwhelm is not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work, it can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

    The Bottom Line

    Make a decision, even if it is to just talk to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something on its own will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution one way or another.

    When you follow these strategies to can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

    More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

    Featured photo credit: Andrei Lazarev via unsplash.com

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