Jane leads a team of 30 software programmers for a large insurance company. After months of slavishly working on a new sales tool to promote to car dealerships, the head...
According to the recent global Pulse of Talent report, by the HR tech firm Ceridian, 9 in 10 middle managers have experienced burnout over the past year.
With interest rate rises, the cost of living crisis and the pressure to do more with less, managers are being squeezed from all sides. They are dealing with employees who are uncertain and senior leaders with high expectations.
All of these stressors are taking their toll on leaders. And it's going to be some time before things get better. Now is the time to look after yourself.
Staying in what I term the Achievement Zone requires practising techniques that improve our cognitive function.
Keeping ourselves in peak physical condition strengthens our executive brain functioning. This is the prefrontal cortex that sits at the front of our brain that is responsible for complex decision-making, regulating our emotions, problem-solving, time management, envisioning the future and planning. All of the things that leaders need to do daily.
Often, when I coach leaders I find they treat maintaining their body as an after thought. Not realising how it is negatively impacting their moods, their ability to make good decisions and avoid illness.
So let's take a look at some important areas that you can tweak to ensure you keep yourself functioning at an optimal level - making it easier to perform at your best in demanding situations.
1. Eat three regular Meals
2. Prioritise Sleep
Another common practice is to 'gain time' by working late at night and reducing time in bed. Again, this might sound reasonable but not getting enough sleep takes a big toll on your brain.
Lack of sleep hinders the formation and maintenance of brain pathways essential for learning and memory creation, making it more challenging to concentrate and respond promptly. Adequate sleep plays a crucial role in various brain functions, including the communication between nerve cells (neurons).
Commit to 7-9 hours of sleep and practice good sleep hygiene. Create a nightly ritual to get yourself ready for bed an hour before. This includes switching off your devices, listening to soothing music, keeping lights dim and taking a warm shower or bath.
3. Take a Nap
One of the benefits of working from home is that you can more easily schedule in a nap.
Of course, we live in a western culture that doesn't value naps - but a short nap (20 minutes or less) increases alertness and cognitive performance for up to three hours afterwards. No wonder that creative geniuses like Thomas Edison and Salvador Dali used naps to spark their creativity.
To avoid feeling groggy, make sure you nap before 3pm and sleep for less than 20 minutes. Napping is also advantageous if you're not getting enough sleep at night, you are feeling irritable or having trouble concentrating after lunch.
4. Drink Enough Water for your Body Weight
5. Oxygenate your Cells
Schedule at least three workouts for 30 minutes doing something you enjoy that increases your heart rate. This can include a brisk walk, taking a run, kick boxing or doing a high intensity workout.
6. Meditate Regularly
The benefits of meditation to your wellbeing and brain health are numerous.
7. Get out in Nature
Studies have indicated that spending time in natural environments can have a positive impact on working memory, cognitive flexibility, and attentional control. On the other hand, exposure to urban environments has been linked to attention deficits.
Engaging in a leisurely stroll through a park or along the shoreline can provide a much-needed respite from stress. If you find yourself lacking the time to spend outdoors, simply gazing at lush greenery or listening to the soothing sounds of nature can also bring relief.
Australian researchers conducted an experiment where students were asked to perform a monotonous task that required them to press a computer key when specific numbers appeared on the screen. Interestingly, students who looked out at a blooming green rooftop for 40 seconds during the task made significantly fewer errors compared to those who took the same 40-second break but gazed at a concrete rooftop instead.
The sounds of nature can also contribute to recuperation. Berman and colleagues discovered that study participants who listened to nature sounds like chirping crickets and crashing waves performed better on demanding cognitive tests than those who listened to urban sounds like traffic and the bustling noise of a busy café.
8. Tidy up your Space
The Body-Brain Connection
Our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and attitudes have a significant impact on our biological functioning. Put simply, our minds play a crucial role in determining our overall health.
The scientific community increasingly agrees that a strong connection between the brain and body is essential for executive function.
It all starts with prioritising the well-being of both your body and mind. Taking proper care of yourself is of utmost importance.