Three Ways to Help the Brain at Work
Taking care of our bodies and minds can be difficult under the best of circumstances. However, the busier and more hectic our lives become, the harder it can be to make time for ourselves. With busy schedules, work challenges, and a changing landscape of public rules and pandemic regulations, figuring out how to balance everything might feel trickier than ever. But there’s a mountain of evidence that shows when we take time to take care of our brain, the less overall stress we experience and the healthier we become.
The good news is that taking time to self-care doesn’t have to add to our already busy lives. In fact, by making time for three brief but focused activities every day, we can strengthen our brains and calm our minds.
It may seem like generic advice, but there is magic in deep breathing. When we are stressed, our breathing often becomes shallow which limits the amount of oxygen we are bringing into our bodies. Shallow breathing increases anxiety and tension, but it also decreases the oxygen throughout our body and brain.
By taking a few minutes out of our day to practice focused deep breathing, we give our brain a flood of extra oxygen. But deep breathing is more than a few quick breaths. In order to reap these oxygen boosts, we need to ensure we inhale all the way through to the bottom of our lungs, expanding our ribs and abdomen. Release air through a slow and steady exhale.
As we practice deep breathing, it works to sync our natural heart rate with our breathing. With every deep inhalation, our heart rate increases, and with every exhalation, our heart rate decreases. This up and down helps the brain release endorphins, neurochemicals that help balance our mood, reduce our stress, and manage pain.
PLAN BRAIN SMART SNACKS
When many of us take breaks throughout our day, we tend to take only enough time to use the washroom and grab something to eat and drink. If we don’t have our meals and snacks pre-prepared, or at the very least, pre-planned, healthy options may not always be available.
Planning ahead can eliminate the stress of trying to find reasonable snack options and ensure we have time to relax while we eat and hydrate. Trail mixes filled with brain-healthy nuts and dried fruits are easy to snack on throughout the day. Whole fruits, yogurts, hummus, salads, and vegetables can be simple meals filled with brain energy nutrients. And always make sure we have a container full of water so we can stay hydrated.
Not only will eating throughout our day ensure we don’t suffer from crashes or brain fog, but we’ll get more done. This will give us more time where we can laugh with a co-worker or take a walk and get some fresh air. Keeping our brain fed reduces stress, helps hone our focus, and increases our attention span.
CARVE OUT TIME FOR OURSELVES
Even when we stop working, many of us still find ourselves busy with countless other tasks. We clean our houses, take our kids to various activities, make dinner, help with homework, and those are just the few more common chores filling up our time.
Ensuring we carve out time for ourselves helps our brain recover from the stress of our home and work lives. By taking a long walk, meditating, taking a warm Epsom bath we are able to unwind and relax. When we relax, our brain waves slow down, allowing our brain to release oxytocin and GABA. These neurochemicals restore concentration and cognitive thinking processes.
Our working and home lives change throughout our lives, but taking care of our brains will always be important. Practicing deep breathing, always carrying healthy snacks with a full canister of water, and making sure we relax ensures we restore our brain to its highest function. It only takes small habits throughout the day to nurture our brain so we can keep going and accomplish everything we need to.