10 ways to love your brain when you are always tired provides a researched based step in the right direction when you are overloaded and simply can’t continue at the pace you are on. In today’s world, with seemingly endless demands on our attention, poor nutrition, a constant bombardment of information and the need to keep doing ‘more’ will wear out the most enthusiastic before long. Our brains were simply not meant for the onslaught of texts, tweets, bad news, and nutritionally lacking cardboard called foods. Take back some of the control you do have and give your brain a break.
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I’ve experienced my share of fatigue, tiredness and mental exhaustion over the years. While some of this was related to being chronically over-committed in my personal and professional life, poor nutrition and poor self-care, all of it was happening simply because I did not understand my brain or what it needed to flourish.
I’ve learned a lot since then, and while some factors can be out of our immediate control (such as a demanding job requiring constant task shifting) when we structure our lives in a way that gives the brain what it needs, I have found that I have more energy for my priorities and as a result get more accomplished in a way that feels meaningful and rewarding.
I learned a great deal in reading Cal Newport’s Deep Work, and highly recommend the book both for it being well-written and an easy read but also for the well-researched commentary about how to get the most out of our brain. I pull from this book as well as other research findings related to behaviors promoting optimal brain health.
While this list is certainly not exhaustive, here are 10 ways lot love your brain and some of my favorite ways to have more cognitive power and that are relatively easy to employ with a little forethought. These love your brain tip will help you know how to keep your brain sharp at the same time as you take care of your mental health.
I’d love to hear which of the 10 ways to love your brain you implement in the comments below!
What are 10 Ways to Love Your Brain?
There are so many ways to love your brain and mentioning just 10 ways to love your brain may seem like the tip of the iceberg.
The first type of strategies revolve around behaviors you can try and implement in your life and have to do with where you place your focus and attention and how you rest your brain
Strategies and Behaviors to Love Your Brain
1) Utilize time blocking to set your day’s schedule
You may ask why is this important for helping your brain if you are already overloaded and tired? For those of you unfamiliar with time blocking (insert link to post here) it is a process whereby you write out your schedule for the day by filling in activities for each block of time. Research has shown that we derive meaning from time set aside for deep, uninterrupted thinking, even if our attention tries to wander. Plus, when we accomplish tasks that propel our lives in a good direction, and get into a state of low, it just feels good.
By utilizing time blocking, we are more likely to accomplish something meaningful instead of the multitude of shallow tasks that end up consuming many of our days.
Shallow tasks are considered to be activities such as checking email, reading and responding to texts, using the internet for entertainment, scrolling online or using social media. While shallow tasks may be imperative to the organization of our personal or professional lives, how often do we derive real meaning from them?
Tip: Utilize time blocking and make sure you get your important tasks in. Encourage your state of flow.
2) Stop working after work
Research has found that having a ritual for ending our work day and then taking a break from doing any work related tasks until the next day can help the brain rest and ‘stop working.’ Consider it akin to turning your car off when you get home as opposed to leaving it running on idle all night. In both cases you’ll be out of gas the next day.
Even if you do other cognitive activities such as reading or do a hobby, the brain is able to differentiate between that and constantly checking work emails or project statuses. (3)
Tip: If you can, try and completely turn your attention off work during your off-work hours.
3) Set specific times for shallow tasks
We all know how the tyranny of the urgent can trump the important. It is easy to get into a habit of constantly checking email and responding quickly without thinking, until your entire day is spent with this constant disruption of your attention.
This exhausts the brains resources and cognitive power. Too much of this is not one of the 10 ways to love your brain.
Tip: Set specific time blocks for checking email, responding to email, checking your phone and using the internet. Depending upon your job and how weak your attention span is these days, this is a skill you will have to develop to give your brain a rest.
4) Ritualize what is reoccurring
This is another technique that can help your brain transition out of one task and into another. This is especially important when you are about to utilize your focus as it can help your brain gear up for an important task.
For example, before writing, I like to get my water or hot tea set up on my desk and look at my to do list. This helps me transition into a new head space and leave the old head space behind.
Tip: Set aside time to transition between tasks or activities. Do what you need to do to get comfortable and focused.
5) Reduce stimuli
Another type of mental clutter that can overwhelm and fatigue our brain’s resources is too much stimuli. This is an argument that many who have decluttered and/or opted for a minimalist lifestyle would agree with. When there is less to look at, our brain has the time and energy to do the thing in front of us. It also promotes better decision making.
From Newport’s book, in a study where two groups of people were asked to think about a certain situation and then make a good decision about it, one group was told to walk in a crowded city beforehand and the other walked in a forest. The group that walked through the forest ended up making better decisions time and time again. The study concluded that the overstimulation taxed the brain and led to less optimal processing.
Tip: Reduce clutter in your home, office, and anywhere you want to be able to think better.
6) Go out into nature
Number 5 is a great segway into the argument for being in nature. Not only does research support better decision making after spending time in nature, our brains actually become energized after being in a forest.
The Japanese coined the term green bathing after the government saw the important of having green spaces around for citizens’ optimal well-being. (In the post, I mention telomeres and how to do things to help support the lifespan).
Tip: Rejuvenate your brain by spending time outside, especially in a forest or park.
7) Feed it brain food
While you may already know that processed foods are not optimal for our bodies and can cause weight gain, poor digestion and inflammation, the brain actually craves certain foods.
For example, the brain runs on fat and glucose because that’s primarily what it’s made from.
Here are some examples of healthy fats that are considered optimal brain foods (2):
- Essential fatty acids such as wild caught salmon, chia seeds, walnuts and olive oil
- Low glycemic fruits such as blueberries
- Foods high in vitamin B12
- Foods high in vitamin C
Tip: Ensure your diet contains adequate sources of foods that the brain craves.
8) Oxygen and Circulation
Our brains require oxygen to function optimally. How does oxygen get transported to the brain? Red blood cells. How is your red blood cell health? Chances are, if you are dealing with endometriosis, your red blood cells may be too high in number and too small to adequately transport oxygen to the brain.
One way to notice if you may fall into this category is if your hands and feet are always cold.
Exercise may or may not be your solution if you are dealing with a lot of fatigue, but not doing an exercise may be contributing to your fatigue.
Exercise helps oxygenate our blood and pump it through our bodies. This in turn can help the brain with the extra oxygen transport.
At the very least, a practice of deep and slow breathing may also help. Do you forget to breathe deeply throughout the day because you’re doing other things? Being in a state of relaxation also helps with blood flow and getting oxygen to the brain.
Tip: Practice daily deep breathing, gentle exercise and movement and relaxation techniques.
This is an obvious one, but how often in our fatigue a result of staying up too late, being around blue light emitted from technology too late or feeling too stressed to sleep restfully?
Our brains repair at night, but under certain conditions we won’t likely get a good opportunity to rest properly.
If you have some of those habits I mentioned, try focusing instead on your sleep hygiene.
If you have a baby or small children, it will be more difficult and you may just be in for a period of the sleepies until they are of a certain age. But sneak in naps when they are napping.
It may take some good habit setting for the rest of us to go to bed at a certain time day and day out but our brains actually crave this type of predictability.
Tip: Try to be asleep by 10:30 each night. Read if you need to get more relaxed.
10) Manage other stresses
As mentioned, we live in a stress filled world and it can be hard to differentiate which news topic pushed us to our limit. Therefore, be careful with how much you associate your time with stressful people and information. (4)
Ask yourself, how willing are you to detach from the stressors in your life? What would it take to minimize your exposure?
In Dr. Jeffrey Rediger’s book “Cured” he examined the conditions that people created in order to heal from disease. Many of the commonalities in radical remission involve people making changes in their environment, who they associate with, what they ingest, what they believe about themselves and their relationship with living.
Tip: Plan activities that help you recharge. Take your recreation time seriously.
Hopefully if you weren’t focusing on these areas before you will now look at these 10 ways to keep your brain healthy. If you were asking how to keep your brain healthy as you age or how to protect your brain from damage, utilize these ideas as a step in the right direction.
(1) Newport, Cal. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. Grand Central Publishing. 2016.
(2) Rd, K. J. M. (2021, June 18). 11 Best Foods to Boost Your Brain and Memory. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/11-brain-foods
(3) Gavelin, H. M., Neely, A. S., Dunås, T., Eskilsson, T., Järvholm, L. S., & Boraxbekk, C. (2020, July 3). Mental fatigue in stress-related exhaustion disorder: Structural brain correlates, clinical characteristics and relations with cognitive functioning. NeuroImage: Clinical; Elsevier BV. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nicl.2020.102337
(4) Chatterjee, R. (2021, May 7). If Your Brain Feels Foggy And You’re Tired All The Time, You’re Not Alone. NPR. https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/05/06/992401123/if-your-brain-feels-foggy-and-youre-tired-all-the-time-youre-not-alone