Our brains like certainty and this is why habits are formed as superfast energy efficient templates that can be applied to the world. Now if all our work habits have been thrown up in the air and allowed to land back down in our homes this is really, really hard on our brains. This is because even if you have good work habits and a lot of experience in your role it may be that the mere fact that you are now carrying them out in a different environment, is to your brain like having to ‘relearn’ them.
The area of the brain that involved in moving short term memory to long term memory, the hippocampus, uses details about the environment in which you originally learned something to encode it into your memory. So now it needs to work to encode your home environment into your habits and knowledge. This takes a lot of energy, happens unconsciously and so you will probably only experience the onslaught of this process as exhaustion or that flat lining afternoon slump. And worse still this will ultimately add to any stress you are already feeling!
Even if you have to work from your bedroom you can and should still create a ‘zone’ for your work. Try this;.
- One client of mine now, when she is finished her work simply puts her lap top on her chair in her bedroom and moves the chair under her small desk. This means she can no longer see the laptop when she is in bed (which was causing her to feel anxious due to her long to do list).- Always tidy away notebooks, mouse/cables and even pens so there is nothing visible from your working day when it’s done. This not only allows you to turn off but also helps your brain to encode your new, stable and predictable work environment.
We are now all on our devices more because we can’t see our colleagues or clients in real life. Try this;
- Get an eye test to ensure you don’t need glasses for screens for first time or an updated prescription if you already have glasses. Even if you don’t need glasses I recommend getting a pair of non-prescription glasses that ‘block blue light’ and you can get these for less than €10 online. Wear these for last two hours before bed with any screens - this includes TV or even just checking you phone.- The big advantage of living in Ireland is dawn is later in winter. I say this because ‘dawn’ light has a concentrated dose of natural blue light which when taken in by your eyes boosts focus and concentration. So make sure you get a min of 10mins of dawn light a day and combine it with a quick walk for a super boost.
Sleep is even more important now! You need sleep before during and after learning and whether you consciously realise it or not your brain is learning to work in your new ‘home’ environment. Without sleep, the memory networks in the brain, particularly a 'the hippocampus', get shut down and this means any incoming memory doesn’t make it from the short term to long term memory. You simply can’t learn! Try this;
- Make sure you dim the lights once you are finished work for the day and definitely no big harsh central ceiling lights late in evening. This is because dim light naturally triggers your body clock to release its sleep hormone melatonin, helping you fall asleep and stay asleep.- Even too much ‘good’ stress in the form of excitement will throw your melatonin production out. So try not to watch that horror or blockbusters action movie just before going to bed as it will release cortisol your stress hormone naturally which dampens the release of melatonin.
Our phones have become our life lines to the outside world. But like all good tools we need to be able to use them properly. We know that notification & alerts give us a hit of dopamine (our reward chemical) which give us a natural high but like all highs they can become addictive in the right circumstances like now when we are feeling lonely. Try this;
- Turn off ‘ALL’ notifications to your social media then manually check each once and hour. You won’t miss anything in that time and it gives you back the control which your brain loves because its predicable!- Also put both your work and personal phone out of sight when you aren’t on it. So I won’t miss calls - I put mine in a drawer that’s a bit hard to get at but it’s near my keyboard.
Another big change in our lives is the shift overnight to video calls/meetings. Great as they are to have in these times they are really hard on us. You will probably notice you are super tired after even a couple of zoom calls and this is normal. First of all, we can see ourselves as well as the other people on the call which is completely abnormal. So our brain is now distracted and straight away our brain has to work so much harder to focus and concentrate. You also have the disadvantage that your body and senses can’t pick up subtle and usually unconscious cues that you would get from others if you were with the physically that help our brains build up trust with others e.g. subtle eye movements. Try this;
- Only have video calls when absolutely necessary e.g. an introduction call to a new client or a relaxed social team call maybe. Voice calls are much easier on our brains as there isn’t the distraction and you can concentrate on the voice with its tone and pitch to build trust and connection much easier.- When you need to join a video call don’t keep your camera on all the time. If you need to talk or present, then make sure you put a post it with a 'smiley face' drawn on it slightly to the side of where your camera is on your screen and talk to it most of time. This helps because if you were physically with others you wouldn’t be looking directly at them for an hour nonstop and neither would you be look way off into the distance, so your brain doesn’t have to work so hard.
If this sparked an interest & you would like to find out a bit more about how you can build your resilience and perform at your best, then…I'd love to hear from you!
Give Frances a call on 085 862 3009