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Archive for April 2018

How sharp is your brain and are you giving it the respect it deserves?  After all, without your brain you have nothing!  Just like you need a wellness program for your heart so you don’t have a heart attack, you also need a wellness program for your brain so you can keep working on all cylinders.

Just think about what your brain does for you every day:  paying attention, receiving and recognizing information, learning and remembering, communicating, solving problems, making decisions, supporting mobility and regulating emotions.  Are these not essential functions you can’t do without?

Here is something to consider.  The brain needs adequate blood flow to function optimally, and when blood flow is slowed or blocked—because the heart isn’t pumping properly or the arteries are filled with plaque—brain tissue can become damaged. Elevated blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar can all impair blood vessels leading to the brain and can cause strokes or mini-strokes that can lead to subsequent cognitive decline, called vascular dementia. 1

A well-fed, rested, and oxygenated brain is necessary for mental resilience and peak performance amid stress and uncertainty. When all other things are equal, mental resilience is the factor that really distinguishes top leaders. 2

What this means is in order to keep your brain in top shape, you need to pay special attention to issues like nutrition and exercise to prevent high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugars which can also lead you down the path to obesity and Diabetes.  In other words, you need a wellness plan for your brain, not just for your body. Here are two important first steps.

FOOD and your Brain. 

Our food system is killing us. In the U.S., more than 2/3 of the population is now overweight or obese, and heart disease and stroke are killing more than 700,000 people every year. The food you eat not only has a direct impact on your physical health but your brain health as well.

Here are some tips:

  1. Plan ahead for what you will eat each day so you don’t get caught eating foods that cause you to be sluggish.
  2. Keep healthy “low glycemic” snacks in your desk and car when you get busy and are hungry.
  3. Consider a Food Diary to keep track of how different foods affect your mood and mental sharpness.
  4. Create a list of healthy brain foods that work for you and keep them in stock.
  5. Reduce sugar intake as too much is harmful to the brain, inducing inflammation, oxidative stress and poor insulin regulation.
  6. Nourish your brain with a plant-based high antioxidant diet with lots of fresh vegetables and fruits which can improve memory, learning and overall cognitive performance.

EXERCISE and your brain.

Research shows that physical exercise enhances cognitive function. One reason might be because it increases of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that improves learning, memory and higher thinking by stimulating growth of new neurons and helping existing neurons stay alive. 3

People who exercise regularly and are physically fit have a much bigger hippocampus, which is your memory center. The more you walk, the bigger your hippocampus will get and the less you will be at risk for brain decline. One study showed that walking one mile a day lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 48%. 4, 5

If you are need a boost to get going, here is a simple plan to get yourself up and “walking” and building a new healthy brain habit.

Week 1:  Walk 3x/week for 10 mins

Week 2-7:  Increase the length of time you walk by 15 minutes each week until you reach 40 minutes

Maintenance:  Stay at 40 mins 3x/week

Surely you have a little time each day to walk, especially if it is a drug-free opportunity to sharpen your thinking.  Take charge of your brain health today, start making simple lifestyle choices related to food and exercise, and you can remain at the top of your game for as long as you desire.

  1. http://time.com/4931877/keep-brain-sharp-prevent-alzheimers/
  2. https://www.inc.com/leigh-buchanan/4-brain-superpowers-you-need-to-be-a-successful-leader.html
  3. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-21099/7-natural-ways-to-boost-your-brain-power-sharpen-your-mind.html
  4. https://sharpbrains.com/blog/2015/11/04/can-you-grow-your-hippocampus-yes-heres-how-and-why-it-matters/
  5. http://www.pcrm.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/infographics/infographic-alzheimers-prevention.pdf

 

Self Care BIZ Tips for BIZ-Y People: A = Awareness

Are you WELL  AWARE about what is going on with your health?  Sure I know you are ultra busy doing your daily to-do list, running from meeting to meeting, dealing with interruptions, putting out fires, eating out alot at lunch meetings, not always able to make healthy food choices, managing all your emails and social media, working longer hours than is humanly possible, missing out on family time, exhausted, never getting enough sleep, super stressed out – WHEW!  How do you keep it all in perspective so you don’t overdo?  Or have you already overdone?  And yes – your health and your career could be in jeopardy!

It’s time for some perspective on how you are living your life.  It’s time for some AWARENESS so you don’t crash and burn.  Here are some tips:

A – Allow time for yourself

Put ME TIME on your calendar every day.  If it’s not on the calendar it won’t happen. Before I fill up my week I schedule time for Jazzercise 3-4 times per week and that makes it more likely it will happen.  You may have to block out time for breaks and a “lunch hour” – yes, we used to give ourselves an hour for lunch, not 10 minutes to gulp down some fast food! You can also schedule an appointment on your calendar with yourself to do whatever helps you regroup and relax for a bit.

W –Weigh your priorities

What exactly is your goal for the day and how much time do you actually need to accomplish it?  Write it down and block out your calendar at the beginning of the day so when all the other distractions occur, you can better manage them by saying NO or delegating or making time on your calendar.  There is nothing more stressful than not getting something done you need to do before you go home, and then you either go home late to get it done, or you take it home and work on it in the evening during your family time. Not a great idea.

A – Act “AS IF” your life is manageable

The great thing about your brain is it responds to what you are thinking.  That can be bad if you are thinking everything is out of control, you’re frustrated all the time, you constantly use negative language –  your body then decides to open the flood gates to release stress hormones into your system and set you up for headaches, gut aches, all kinds of aches.  On the other hand if you think life is good, business is manageable, work is joyful, and only positive words come out of your mouth all day,  your brain can also be tricked into opening the flood gates to release “feel good” hormones and then you feel good and don’t have stress-related ailments.  So if you act “AS IF” all is well, then you will be well.

R – Reconnect with your true self

Who are you really, and are you fully expressing your true self in your work and home life?  If you are not being true to yourself, your body isn’t happy and you are setting  yourself up for stress once more.  If you are managing your own business, you must have started out believing that this is what you were meant to be doing – it was your destiny.  If it hasn’t worked out that way, then either it wasn’t your destiny, or you need to do some tweeking so the business reflects positively on you and your efforts and you don’t collapse and burn in the process. Take a day off to do some reflective work on whether this business is right – and HEALTHY – for you.

E – Engage with relaxation

When you are relaxed, there is no room in your body for a busy mind, stress, anxiety or sleeplessness.  Your body is calm and at peace and in a free and healthy state.  It is what your body wants and your mind can help you achieve this.  Do 10 slow deep breaths whenever you feel the stress building to activate your parasympathetic nervous system which is designed to calm you down. You can do this anywhere! Schedule relaxation breaks throughout the day and use techniques like tapping, progressive muscle relaxation, visualization of a calming place, or get some fresh air while taking a relaxing walk outside. Relaxation helps you create true awareness of how you are doing at any given time.  And it feels great too!

N – Notice how you feel in the present moment

The present moment is all we have and yet we often don’t stop and do a quick check on how you are doing.  You can set the timer on your computer, phone or watch to ping you as a reminder that it’s time to check in with YOURSELF.  Then do a quick body scan from head to toe to see if you are experiencing any stress, muscle tension, or pain and do some slow deep breathing to release the angst.   Also note your mental state.  Are you feeling negative or positive?  If you are feeling negative, say positive things like – today is a great day, I love being here, my colleagues are so fun to be with – or write positive words like, joy, peace, happiness, love.  These techniques will shift your mental state from negativity to positivity, and once again, your body will respond with less stress hormones and more relaxation.

E – Enjoy your life

Life – Balance should be your mantra.  If stress is the order of the day at work, then relaxation should be the balancing factor when you go home at night.    We don’t always make a transition from work to home and often carry the stress home with us.  Instead, use the drive-time going home to play enjoyable music or no radio at all. Look for great sights to appreciate like nature, a cool car you admire, kids playing – notice things that bring you joy.  Get out of your work clothes when you get home and put on comfy stuff that helps you complete the process of letting go of work.  Try not to bring work home if at all possible.

S – Sleep more

Most of us are exhausted!  Too much work and not enough rest will do that every time.  Getting enough sleep is crucial for what you need the most in your business –  cognitive functioning, good decision making, managing stress hormones, preventing weight gain and gut health problems and preventing mistakes.  Placing a value on 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep is a challenge, but can be life-threatening if it doesn’t happen.  Add sleep to your priority list and schedule your bedtime and wake time so it has a place on your calendar.  After all, if it isn’t on the calendar it won’t happen.

S – Stay focused

A major challenge for any executive with multiple responsibilities and interruptions is to stay focused to accomplish what needs to be done. Keep as much structure in your day to stay on track.  When distractions occur, use triage thinking to minimize the impact.  Is it life threatening? Deal with it.  Can it wait? Schedule it into your calendar at your convenience.  Is it not appropriate for your attention?  Delegate it.

Hope these tips will create more awareness about how you can take back your life at work and at home.

Be Well on Your Journey

Carol