IN MY VIEW: Give your Brain a Break
Published: 20 Aug 2014
First Published on SPORTING EDGE
As the holiday period approaches, we are all looking to take time out to recharge our batteries.
But in the constant buzz of the modern world, many workaholics find it hard to wind down. At Sporting Edge we interviewed three of the best brains in sport and neuroscience to give you some guilt- busting tips to help you unwind.
Their tips will help you to:
- Boost your resilience
- Be more creative
- Make better decisions
One of the key themes we have worked with executives on in recent months is developing resilience and the fascinating thing is the parallel between the way we build resilience in our muscles and in our mindset. By overloading the muscle in the gym, we are stressing the fibres to the point of damage and it’s the physical recovery which repairs the muscle to return stronger with increased strength.
The same can be said for emotional stress, short bursts of stress followed by periods of recovery are a great way to boost emotional resilience. Sadly, for many of us this recovery happens too infrequently so protect this period of recovery and you will return even stronger than before.
The second insight comes from neuroscientist Dr Tara Swart guest lecturer at MIT and Stanford.
Tara’s insight sets the scene for you not just to be on holiday but how you really unplug.
“Something I’m a big proponent of is a digital detox, so I do it at least once a year for a week, literally no e-mails, text, not using the Wi-Fi, not using any screens – it’s amazing how much more time and space you have in your days when you do that, it really makes you think about how much of your day you spend just looking at screens and responding to electronic messages of all different types.”
So set yourself up for uninterrupted downtime as scary as that may seem. Change your voicemail message to manage expectations of clients and peers or put an out of office reply on your email but this trip is as much a test of your personal discipline as your foreign languages.
Ok, you still need some persuading? Well as Vin Walsh, Professor of Human Brain Research at UCL outlines, relentless hard work doesn’t always help you find the right answer.
“The Eureka moment always comes when you’re not thinking about the problem. It always comes when you are either relaxing, or your or just taken time out to make a cup of coffee or sometimes even when you’re taking a nap.
“It’s called offline processing. The brain desperately needs that in order to make new connections between all the information you’ve been putting into it. Often, it’s not the workaholic that finds the solution, it might be the person who takes a month’s holiday in August but, what they’re doing during that holiday one of the things they are doing during the holiday is to allow their brains to make new connections and associations between all the things they’ve been sweating over for the rest of the year. And its downtime is really underestimated. You have to have the courage for people have downtime.”
Jeremy contacted Vin Walsh on twitter this week and Vin’s reply shows that he lives out his research “I’m relaxing by the water in Stockholm. Walking the walk! :)”
As ever, turning the theory into behaviour is the key to high performance and the final insight from England Rugby Head Coach Stuart Lancaster shows that the best leaders measure themselves by their impact and not by their busyness.
“Sometimes you need to find your own space to recharge your emotionally battery as opposed to your physical one. Clearly, physically you need to not burn the candle at both ends because you’ll burn yourself out.”
“Its different ways for different people, but whatever your way is you need to find it. And if you don’t find it, and you continue to burn the candle at both ends and your emotional energy burns out, your decision making becomes poor, you make poor decisions on relationships, like conversations and as a consequence you make a bad job get progressively worse.”
“There’s been times when I’ve known I’ve been tired. Emotionally and empty if you like. And I can recognise it and I’ll find my space that I’ll need.”
So, hopefully these insights give you the permission to wind down, unplug and reconnect with your friends, hobbies and loved ones, safe in the knowledge that you will be more creative, more resilient and make better decisions on your return.
Our next blog could either be on the perils of holiday selfies or how to detox after over-indulging, so let us know how you get on!