How is “the new normal” affecting you? With pressures coming at you from every angle, what do you do when you perceive that the demands placed on you exceed your ability to cope? Finding your way through these uncertain times calls for one thing above all: resilience.
By strengthening your brain’s capacity for resilience, you can effectively change your threshold of stress. Research has shown that by harnessing our executive function skills, we can down-regulate emotional responses to stress and sharpen our higher-order thinking. This makes us better problem solvers, decision-makers, and innovative thinkers.
By driving positive brain change, you won’t just bounce back from challenges – you can bounce FORWARD and UPWARD. Try these science-backed techniques to get your brain in the game.
Two – Identify two priority tasks each day that require deeper thinking, reasoning, and planning. Give them your attention when you are at your freshest. Limit distractions by turning off all digital notifications while you are concentrating. Allow no more than 45 minutes for each task, and then give your brain a break. Your brain and your work will thank you – as you experience being in the zone to think more efficiently and deeply.
Five – Take five minutes to rest your brain after a cognitively challenging task. Step away from technology, take a walk, observe your surroundings. Let your mind rest and wander just for a bit. Do this five times a day to recharge your brain, and you will come back refreshed, with reduced stress levels, and with a greater capacity to think deeply and creatively.
Seven – Be intentionally innovative seven times a day. Innovation is simply the flexibility of thinking. Explore perspectives that are different from your own. Approach a problem in an entirely new way. Practice two daily acts of kindness. Identify something that has gone stale from repetition and shake up the status quo. When you engage in innovative thinking, you are strengthening frontal networks and increasing neural efficiency.
Studies show that healthy lifestyle habits and resilience practices such as mindfulness and meditation have the potential to strengthen brain performance and increase overall well-being.
Our entire system – physical, physiological, and psychological – is impacted by stress. One simple way to override the negative stress response is by practicing deep, controlled breathing patterns. Belly breathing is an easy technique you can use anytime, anywhere.
First, sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Take a slow deep breath, inhaling through your nose for five seconds. Breathe out slowly through your mouth, pushing out all of the air. The key is to exhale longer than the inhale. Place a hand on your abdomen to notice the movement of your diaphragm.
Repeat this cycle five times, taking your time with each breath. Deep, slow breathing can help you take control of the natural stress response and reset your brain.
What is good for the body is also good for the brain. Exercise, nutrition, and sleep are three key lifestyle factors that influence brain health and brain performance.
Exercise – When you exercise, you not only become more fit but also may notice an improvement in your memory.
Nutrition – Healthy eating supports brain health. Find what is right for you, noting that good starting points can be the Mediterranean diet, the DASH diet (for heart health), or the MIND diet (a combination of the two).
Sleep – During our REM sleep cycles, the brain cleans and removes toxins that accumulate during the day. Aim to get sufficient sleep regularly to allow your deep, REM sleep cycles to do their janitorial work to keep your brain metabolism healthy.
Your magnificent, complex brain powers you through your day. By adopting brain-healthy habits for life, you can decrease the negative effects of stress. Learn more about these and other tips and techniques here.
The only constant about life is that it is constantly changing, bringing both challenges and opportunities. Harness your brainpower wisely to greet each new day with resilience.
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