Getting back into routine can be a bit of a challenge this time of the year. After a more relaxed summer schedule, it’s time to shake off the cobwebs and demand the most from our noggins. As we begin to adjust our schedules and our sleep patterns after the summer, we can often find ourselves running on less sleep while simultaneously carrying a heavier workload due to school or career. Whether you are back to school, off to work, or juggling both, here are some tips that may help you focus and keep your cognitive powerhouse energized.1. Sleep
The first step to ensuring you have the focus and strength to meet the tasks of the day is rest. Like any other muscle, your brains needs rest to recover. You may have grown accustomed to late nights and late mornings in the summer months, but now that it is time to buckle down, that just isn’t an option any more. Getting back to a normal sleep schedule will help you focus.
Here are some tips to help you tuck in early:
- Avoid screen time for at least an hour before bed. Cellphone, tablets, laptops and computers keep your brain active and emit lighting that is not conducive to relaxation. Put the screens away and give your eyes and your brain a break.
- Avoid caffeine. Generally it is good policy to avoid caffeine in the afternoons and evenings to help you get a good night’s sleep.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are pretty important for healthy brain function and guess what?! Your body does not create them so they need to be ingested. EFAs are derived from a number of sources including fish oils (salmon, trout, sardines, mackerel, etc.) and vegetarian sources (like chia, flax seed, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, etc.), the omega oils your body gets include EPA and DHA. Many studies have shown DHA to help support brain development and function.3. Power up with protein
Having a donut for breakfast may seem like a good idea when you’re running to class or in a rush to get to the office and boy does that sugar ever feel good sometimes…. But the inevitable sugar crash an hour or so later may leave you fumbling over words or even reading the same sentence over and over again. You will get much more meaningful fuel for your day with a balanced breakfast including protein.
Speaking of protein… if you eat eggs, they are a great source of choline! Choline is a molecule essential for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine which helps with memory and muscle function. Don’t eat eggs? Don’t worry you can also get choline from foods like broccoli, collard greens, and asparagus.4. Take breaks from your screen!
Remember your brain is hyper sensitive to the environment around you and it can go into sensory overload. Too much screen time can leave you tired and make it hard to focus. Taking breaks from the light of your screen, phone or tablet, can give your brain a much needed break so that you can focus more when you get back to work. So take breaks and even take a walk or take in some nature to help your brain relax. A recent book called Your Brain on Nature by Dr. Eva Selhub talks about the great benefits our brains have from taking in some nature in our modern tech heavy landscape.
5. Snack throughout the day!
Don’t let yourself get hangry or go into a blood sugar low. Snacking on things like trail mix, seeds, nuts, or veggies throughout the day can help your body focus on its work rather than its hunger.
Remember everyone is different and before making any substantial changes to your lifestyle and/or diet, it is best to consult with your health care provider.