In America, stress and fatigue have become so commonplace that, for many, both have become a sort of second language. The pattern is all too familiar. We load our life plates up with work tasks, life goals, family obligations, and throw in the day-to-day tasks that come with being a responsible human 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 remains 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 stress and fatigue is that they can both wear down our mental focus and energy, leaving us feeling depleted and exhausted before lunch.
To perform your best – and generally enjoy your life a little more – you need to stay sharp, focused and rejuvenated. Here are some ideas to help.
1. Get enough sleep.
Let’s clear the air. Purposely depriving your body of sleep and getting up incredibly early is not a life hack. Or a productivity happy. Or an anything hack. Over time, sleeping less than the recommended 7-9 hours of nightly shut eye is doing nothing but eroding your mental focus and clarity. It can impact your short term and long term memory, and it just doesn’t feel good.
Make sure you’re getting seven hours of sleep. But because everyone is different and your mileage may vary, it’s important to pay attention to your body. If you’ve been running on fumes for a while, it might be time to turn that alarm off for a night or two.
2. Take breaks.
No matter what our culture or the latest tech guru says, our minds weren’t designed to “power through” an entire day. Focus is at its best when we take regularly scheduled breaks during the day. If you’re struggling to focus, try the 60 minute sprint technique. Turn off your notifications, clear your computer screen of distractions, and work on a project for an hour. At the end of that hour, take a 20 minute break – go on a brisk walk, grab some water, do a little yoga, or even read a blog or book. Simple tasks will help take your mind off the task at hand and let you re-focus.
3. Drink plenty of water.
Water can actually make you smarter. That’s because brain cells depend on water to function. Chronic dehydration, in a very real way, 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 working, 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.
4. Break a sweat.
Exercising isn’t just good for your heart and muscles. Going to the yoga studio, the gym, or simply for a jog, has an incredibly powerful effect on your brain. That’s because during a workout we deliver more oxygen, increasing our mental energy and focus throughout the day – all 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 working out in the morning, so you can carry those benefits over to your daily work. It will make a huge difference in your mental clarity and focus.
5. Train your brain.
If you feel like you have trouble focusing, welcome to club humanity. You’re one of roughly seven billion people who feels the same way. While many of us have trouble staying on task, we can drastically improve our performance with a little practice. The idea here is to make it a challenge. 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, just like 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 as you focus for longer periods of time. Plus, you’ll feel increasingly proud of yourself.
6. Eat some brain food.
You are what you eat. And the same is true for your brain. Eating high-energy foods that burn slowly, and your body and mind 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. The added bonus is that good brain food is also good body food. Fruits, vegetables, and nuts also happen to be great for your heart and blood vessels.
7. Make time to unwind.
Far too often, our days resemble sprints. We go, go go with a set of tasks that we absolutely need to accomplish. Then we burn out, get frustrated, and add those tasks to tomorrow’s list, meaning we have to sprint even harder to keep up. One of the best things you can do to improve your mental clarity and focus is to do nothing. Simply give your brain the chance to relax. Meditate, take a bath, do a craft, or shoot some hoops. Sit at a coffee shop without bringing your computer. Have a conversation with a friend. Maybe even take a nap. When it comes to mental health, sometimes less truly is more.
Life can be chaotic. Tasks can pile up. Work and family life can become stressful. We get it. But remember, your mind isn’t a machine you can force into submission. It’s a living, breathing organism that needs the right amount of nutrition, oxygen, and time to recalibrate and rejuvenate. Taking a step back and treating your mind right will, in turn, help you get even more out of your day.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author
s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of LifeVantage or any other agency, organization, employer or company