Let Your Body Feed Your MindDec 21, 2021
- By Sophie Pinkoski
Throughout the pandemic, we have become far more attentive toward mental health in our professional lives. But a crucial aspect of maintaining mental health often goes overlooked: taking care of your body to take care of your mind. While it’s incredibly difficult, working physical care into your busy day, as a leader, you can’t afford to let your physical health slide when prioritizing your work.
Often when your physical health suffers, other aspects of your life will suffer with it.
This is why it’s so important to listen to your body’s needs instead of powering through.
Maintaining your physical energy throughout your day will keep your momentum going and help you avoid a mid-day slump. Is there an ideal combination of things you can do to take care of your physical health throughout your work day? Consider these:
Regulate your sleep pattern – Productivity culture means we often take pride in sacrificing sleep in favour of getting more done in the day. Yet in doing so, you’re actually creating an unhealthy feedback loop: you don’t sleep because you’re stressed at work and you’re stressed at work because you aren’t sleeping.
No matter how productive we think we’re being, our lack of sleep actually has the opposite effect on our work.
Sleep deprivation decreases alertness, concentration, and memory retention, all crucial to maximizing productivity. It’s recommended that you get 6 - 8 hours of sleep every night. This will, in fact, increase your productivity, as you feel more alert and refreshed, get more done, and come home feeling like you’ve earned a good night’s sleep. Creating such a virtuous cycle for yourself can be made easier by regulating two other key aspects of your life…
Maintain a balanced diet – In the hectic day to day of your work, it’s difficult to find time to make deliberate choices for what you eat. It’s easy to skip meals, or otherwise let your hunger dictate your eating habits.
When you’re hungry, you’re more likely to make rash decisions on an empty stomach, thus instinctively reaching for junk food or overeating to feel fuller quicker.
A more healthy option is to prepare food for your day ahead of time. This way, you can be more intentional about picking foods that will burn your energy more consistently throughout your day, rather than junk food, which will initially give you a quick burst of energy, but will leave you crashing, or even groggy. Smaller meals or snacks every three hours full of fruits, vegetables, nuts, or granola will also give you that steady energy boost to maintain your momentum.
Take a break to stretch your legs – Walking has been proven to be an excellent way to get your ideas flowing. Unlike more vigorous exercise , walking allows the pace of your mind and body to adapt to your mood. Because walking is such a low-impact activity, your mind is able to drift elsewhere. With less pressing distractions in your way, you’re free to dwell on more creative ideas.
So if you’ve hit a wall on any given project and don’t know how to move forward, taking a walk break even for fifteen minutes may trigger some fresh ideas you would not have considered while sitting at your desk all day.
Your diet, sleep patterns, and exercise feed into one another, and when one falls by the wayside, often the others will too. By keeping all three balanced, you’re bound to find your physical energy at work will improve. After all, your productivity should not come at the expense of your physical health. It’s all about the quality of your work, not quantity, and your greatest work will come about when you’re taking the best care of yourself.
Manage Your Energy, Not Your Time, Harvard Business Review
Why Walking Helps Us Think, The New Yorker
“Research Report: Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effects of Walking on Creative Thinking,” Journal of Experimental Psychology, Stanford University
How much is Bad Sleep Hurting Your Career? Harvard Business Review
How Sleep Improves Work Productivity, Sleep.org
The Science of Sleep and Productivity, Zapier.com
What You Eat Affects Your Productivity, Harvard Business Review
Eat Better, Work Better? Three Nutrition Tips for Productivity, nifs for Fitness
13 Top Nutrition and Lifestyle Tips to Increase Your Productivity at Work, bigrock People Performance Solutions