Neuroscientist, author and leadership coach Dr Tara Swart shares five brain health habits that will help you avoid stress at work…
1. A good night’s sleep
It’s no secret that you should prioritise your eight hours a night, but a proper sleep also often means the difference between mental clarity and a sluggish day at work.
“98-99% of brains need to sleep for 7-9 hours per night, as this allows the lymphatic system to be cleansed of neurotoxins,” Dr Swart explains.
“Sleep is a forcible flushing of neurotoxins, this is important as over time, a build-up can cause neurological disorders. Poor sleep can also result in fatigue and make it more difficult to manage one’s emotions.”
2. Proper nutrition
Dr Swart maintains that your brain can’t store glucose, so it’s a good idea to keep replenishing your supply by eating every two hours, if you’re under stress.
However, quality matters as much as quantity. You’ll only gain a good productivity boost if you focus on nutritious foods such as salmon, avocado, nuts, eggs, and healthy oils. Try to reduce your consumption of red meat, processed food, alcohol and coffee. And of course, stay hydrated!
You can also try intermittent fasting, suggests Dr Swart, as it will teach your brain to develop resilience. Your mind will begin to understand that it actually can handle stress.
3. Get moving!
If you’ve ever had that rush of endorphins after a sweat-drenched workout, you’ll know that exercise boosts both your energy levels and your mood.
“It’s important to engage in aerobic exercise as this assists in oxygenating the brain, which is vital for healthy functionality,” explains Dr Swart. “I recommend 10 000 steps a day and 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week.”
Of course, it’s important to switch up your exercise routine; activities that challenge your co-ordination skills, such as ping-pong, are just as important as aerobics.
4. Calm down
“Stress is a physical and psychological load that is too much for your body to bear,” says Dr Swart. “It results in high levels of cortisol and affects your quality of thinking and your ability to regulate emotions.”
If your cortisol starts climbing, your immunity is in danger, which can lead to ill health, sick leave from work, and even more stress! If you’re constantly under pressure, it’s also unlikely that you’ll have quality sleep, which in turn creates a neurotoxic build-up and demise of the brain’s nerve cells.
If you need to de-stress, try mindful practice, meditation, or yoga.
5. Learn something new
If you want to improve your neuroplasticity, Dr Swart recommends picking up a new skill or hobby.
“Learning another language or musical instrument improves your neuroplasticity which has been shown to prevent the onset of neurological disease and keep your brain sharp. This improves your focus and decision-making ability.”
So if you’ve always wanted to speak French, learn to cook, or flawlessly play the flute, your brain will thank you.