Brain Power: How to Work Smarter & De-Stress
Posted on Sep 12, 2013 | 3 comments
Your brain weighs about 3 pounds and comprises 2 percent of your body weight. Despite its relatively small size, it uses up to 25 percent of your daily oxygen and glucose stores – high energy demands compared to the rest of your body. The most energy-hungry part of your brain is the prefrontal cortex, the region just behind your forehead that helps you plan, organize and execute.
If you think of energy as a battery, many of us drain our brain power, in particular the prefrontal cortex, before half our day is over. When your rational prefrontal cortex is tapped out and your primitive brain structures take over, you become emotional, irritable and less able to deal with problems.
Fortunately, you can optimize your brain function so you’re more creative and productive at work and more patient and understanding at home. You just need to identify which of your daily activities drain more brain battery power and then plan your day accordingly. Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s internal medicine specialist Ronesh Sinha, M.D., offers five sure ways to recharge your brain.
Prioritize. Organizing your day and setting priorities is the key thing you need to do to manage your day better. Instead of diving into your texts and e-mails immediately after waking up, sit down with your calendar and make a list of tasks. Be realistic. Don’t put 20 things on your list that you can’t realistically accomplish. Otherwise you’ll add stress to your day.
Reduce Distractions. You may think you’re being highly productive when you’re multitasking, but really you are draining brain power. This is a key point for teenagers who do their schoolwork while their phone’s going off every few seconds. This means poor quality work and impending brain burnout.
Focus on Important vs Rote Work. Work that is new to you, creative or involves other people requires more brain power. Plan to do it during a part of your day when you feel alert and aren’t distracted. If you must multi-task, perform rote work at the same time – something you can practically do in your sleep. Rote work doesn’t drain your brain.
Recharge. If only our brain had a battery indicator that told us how much power we had left. Until someone invents that, you need to be completely aware of when your brain power is running on low. Don’t fill every minute of your day with meetings. If you’re working on a draining piece of work, set your timer for 45 minutes to remind you to get up, stretch or take a walk. After work, schedule time to exercise, play with your kids or even do 5 minutes of deep breathing. Don’t forget, sleep is your body’s ultimate time to recharge. Be sure to get enough.
De-stress. Stress exhausts the brain. Exercise, sleep, socialization and outdoor activities are ways to help you manage stress. If you want to improve your brain power, it’s critical to learn key stress reduction techniques that work for you. Check out my blog post on meditation for some advice and apps to help you de-stress.
This blog post is contributed by Ronesh (Ron) Sinha, M.D., Palo Alto Medical Foundation Internal Medicine. Dr. Sinha works closely with the South Asian community to help reduce heart disease and diabetes risk, and provides corporate health lectures to promote wellness in the workplace. You can follow him on Twitter at @roneshsinha