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5 Ways Sugar Affects Your Mental Performance

5 Ways Sugar Affects Your Mental Performance

When we eat well, we feel better. Did you know that we also think and perform better?

A friend of mine would often give in to sugary snacks or processed foods to quiet her blood sugar dip – usually right after lunch. As a result, she went through a mid-afternoon slump – and it zapped her productivity. She couldn’t focus, she felt like her reaction time was delayed and she just wanted to take a nap. She would also feel more emotional and short-tempered when talking to other colleagues or her spouse. When she ate more healthfully, she felt more focus, less stress and was more in control of her emotions. She even had better memory!

It’s true – eating sugar can actually have a negative biological impact on your mind and emotions. Here are 5 ways sugar affects your focus, mood, memory, emotional and mental balance, and stress (and recommended foods to feel and perform better!).

1. Focus

According to a recent UCLA study, sugar “forms free radicals in the brain’s membrane, compromising our nerve cells’ ability to communicate”. This causes a “foggy” or “out of it” feeling. The study drew strong connections between sugar intake and a diminishment in how well we remember instructions and process ideas.

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Another way sugar affects focus is through its addictive qualities.When we taste sugar, the brain lights up in the same regions as it does an alcoholic tasting gin. Dopamine, our “reward chemical” spikes and reinforces the desire to have more. When you’re battling an addiction-fueled craving, your train of thought is disrupted, and you can’t put your full mental energy into tasks at hand.

More high protein and high fiber foods give us focus throughout the day and help curb sugar cravings. Here are some great options:

2. Mood

When we’re feeling low, it’s hard to get anything done. Studies have shown links to sugar starting cycles of binge eating, dopamine spikes, a physical and emotional crash and then more craving and withdrawal. As a result, we have shorter tempers, lower patience and even depressed feelings.

The best way to combat these mood dips is to have steady, regular meals with protein and fiber to keep our insulin levels constant and help us stay satisfied for longer. Try adding these mood-boosting foods instead of sugar:

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  • Complex carbs (whole grains, legumes)
  • Oily fish (trout, sardines, mackerel)
  • Fruits and Veggies (supply vitamins and minerals, ease digestion)

3. Memory

A high sugar diet affects our cognitive function and performance – and it can ALSO block our memory receptors. According to this study, there are clear links between high fructose (sugar) consumption and memory and learning impairment. We will actually have a harder time remembering what others say and making connections between concepts as a result of sugar. Even more unsettling is the research suggesting high sugar consumption has long-term and more severe repercussions, such as links between sugar and Alzheimer’s, where memory is grossly impaired.

Foods to boost your memory are:

– Sources of Vitamin E

  •  Minimally processed oils (olive, coconut)
  •  Sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts

-Sources of Omega 3s

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  •  Fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna)
  •  Avocados (both Omega 3s and vitamin E)

-Dark Leafy Greens due to folate (Kale, spinach, broccoli, collards,)

-Low Sugar Berries (blueberries, strawberries, acai berries)

4. Emotional and Mental Balance

Too much sugar leaves us prone to mood swings as it zaps up our stores of vitamin B and blocks chromium receptors, both of which are natural emotionally balancing chemicals. This can lead to irritability, anxiety, aggressive behavior and dramatic mental peaks and valleys.

There is more and more evidence for connections between our gut health and brain health. Gut health is contingent on eating more plant based, low-glycemic index foods and avoiding sugar. Sugar feeds bad bacteria in the gut, while veggies and fermented food feeds healthy bacteria. Striking this homeostasis balances us both physically and mentally.

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Healthy foods to help you achieve this inner harmony are:

  • Green, non-starchy vegetables
  • Oily fish
  • Probiotic foods like fermented sauerkraut, kimchi and other vegetables

5. Stress

Stress and food are closely linked. When we feel stressed, our body is flooded with chemicals related to our fight or flight responses. Stress is linked to overeating, weight gain and even obesity. We feel guilty for overeating or not knowing what to eat to help us stay healthy. This causes more underlying stress in our lives.

The best way to curtail this is to eat healthier foods to help us get ahead of our body’s stress cycle. Here are some foods to combat stress and release serotonin without spiking blood sugar levels:

  • Walnuts
  • Avocados
  • Berries

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Last Updated on September 16, 2019

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators

You have a deadline looming. However, instead of doing your work, you are fiddling with miscellaneous things like checking email, social media, watching videos, surfing blogs and forums. You know you should be working, but you just don’t feel like doing anything.

We are all familiar with the procrastination phenomenon. When we procrastinate, we squander away our free time and put off important tasks we should be doing them till it’s too late. And when it is indeed too late, we panic and wish we got started earlier.

The chronic procrastinators I know have spent years of their life looped in this cycle. Delaying, putting off things, slacking, hiding from work, facing work only when it’s unavoidable, then repeating this loop all over again. It’s a bad habit that eats us away and prevents us from achieving greater results in life.

Don’t let procrastination take over your life. Here, I will share my personal steps on how to stop procrastinating. These 11 steps will definitely apply to you too:

1. Break Your Work into Little Steps

Part of the reason why we procrastinate is because subconsciously, we find the work too overwhelming for us. Break it down into little parts, then focus on one part at the time. If you still procrastinate on the task after breaking it down, then break it down even further. Soon, your task will be so simple that you will be thinking “gee, this is so simple that I might as well just do it now!”.

For example, I’m currently writing a new book (on How to achieve anything in life). Book writing at its full scale is an enormous project and can be overwhelming. However, when I break it down into phases such as –

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  • (1) Research
  • (2) Deciding the topic
  • (3) Creating the outline
  • (4) Drafting the content
  • (5) Writing Chapters #1 to #10,
  • (6) Revision
  • (7) etc.

Suddenly it seems very manageable. What I do then is to focus on the immediate phase and get it done to my best ability, without thinking about the other phases. When it’s done, I move on to the next.

2. Change Your Environment

Different environments have different impact on our productivity. Look at your work desk and your room. Do they make you want to work or do they make you want to snuggle and sleep? If it’s the latter, you should look into changing your workspace.

One thing to note is that an environment that makes us feel inspired before may lose its effect after a period of time. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things around. Refer to Steps #2 and #3 of 13 Strategies To Jumpstart Your Productivity, which talks about revamping your environment and workspace.

3. Create a Detailed Timeline with Specific Deadlines

Having just 1 deadline for your work is like an invitation to procrastinate. That’s because we get the impression that we have time and keep pushing everything back, until it’s too late.

Break down your project (see tip #1), then create an overall timeline with specific deadlines for each small task. This way, you know you have to finish each task by a certain date. Your timelines must be robust, too – i.e. if you don’t finish this by today, it’s going to jeopardize everything else you have planned after that. This way it creates the urgency to act.

My goals are broken down into monthly, weekly, right down to the daily task lists, and the list is a call to action that I must accomplish this by the specified date, else my goals will be put off.

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Here’re more tips on setting deadlines: 22 Tips for Effective Deadlines

4. Eliminate Your Procrastination Pit-Stops

If you are procrastinating a little too much, maybe that’s because you make it easy to procrastinate.

Identify your browser bookmarks that take up a lot of your time and shift them into a separate folder that is less accessible. Disable the automatic notification option in your email client. Get rid of the distractions around you.

I know some people will out of the way and delete or deactivate their facebook accounts. I think it’s a little drastic and extreme as addressing procrastination is more about being conscious of our actions than counteracting via self-binding methods, but if you feel that’s what’s needed, go for it.

5. Hang out with People Who Inspire You to Take Action

I’m pretty sure if you spend just 10 minutes talking to Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, you’ll be more inspired to act than if you spent the 10 minutes doing nothing. The people we are with influence our behaviors. Of course spending time with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates every day is probably not a feasible method, but the principle applies — The Hidden Power of Every Single Person Around You

Identify the people, friends or colleagues who trigger you – most likely the go-getters and hard workers – and hang out with them more often. Soon you will inculcate their drive and spirit too.

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As a personal development blogger, I “hang out” with inspiring personal development experts by reading their blogs and corresponding with them regularly via email and social media. It’s communication via new media and it works all the same.

6. Get a Buddy

Having a companion makes the whole process much more fun. Ideally, your buddy should be someone who has his/her own set of goals. Both of you will hold each other accountable to your goals and plans. While it’s not necessary for both of you to have the same goals, it’ll be even better if that’s the case, so you can learn from each other.

I have a good friend whom I talk to regularly, and we always ask each other about our goals and progress in achieving those goals. Needless to say, it spurs us to keep taking action.

7. Tell Others About Your Goals

This serves the same function as #6, on a larger scale. Tell all your friends, colleagues, acquaintances and family about your projects. Now whenever you see them, they are bound to ask you about your status on those projects.

For example, sometimes I announce my projects on The Personal Excellence Blog, Twitter and Facebook, and my readers will ask me about them on an ongoing basis. It’s a great way to keep myself accountable to my plans.

8. Seek out Someone Who Has Already Achieved the Outcome

What is it you want to accomplish here, and who are the people who have accomplished this already? Go seek them out and connect with them. Seeing living proof that your goals are very well achievable if you take action is one of the best triggers for action.

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9. Re-Clarify Your Goals

If you have been procrastinating for an extended period of time, it might reflect a misalignment between what you want and what you are currently doing. Often times, we outgrow our goals as we discover more about ourselves, but we don’t change our goals to reflect that.

Get away from your work (a short vacation will be good, else just a weekend break or staycation will do too) and take some time to regroup yourself. What exactly do you want to achieve? What should you do to get there? What are the steps to take? Does your current work align with that? If not, what can you do about it?

10. Stop Over-Complicating Things

Are you waiting for a perfect time to do this? That maybe now is not the best time because of X, Y, Z reasons? Ditch that thought because there’s never a perfect time. If you keep waiting for one, you are never going to accomplish anything.

Perfectionism is one of the biggest reasons for procrastination. Read more about why perfectionist tendencies can be a bane than a boon: Why Being A Perfectionist May Not Be So Perfect.

11. Get a Grip and Just Do It

At the end, it boils down to taking action. You can do all the strategizing, planning and hypothesizing, but if you don’t take action, nothing’s going to happen. Occasionally, I get readers and clients who keep complaining about their situations but they still refuse to take action at the end of the day.

Reality check:

I have never heard anyone procrastinate their way to success before and I doubt it’s going to change in the near future.  Whatever it is you are procrastinating on, if you want to get it done, you need to get a grip on yourself and do it.

More About Procrastination

Featured photo credit: Malvestida Magazine via unsplash.com

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