Written by Dr. Christine
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is essential to our brain, mental, and physical health.
During sleep, our body “resets its systems” and the brain “washes and cleans” itself as well as consolidates memories and knowledge from the day before.
The average adult needs about 7-8 hours of sleep daily.
Too little sleep – over time – can lead to bad decisions, brain fog, memory issues, hormonal changes, weight gain, and more.
But on the other hand, too much sleep can be a sign of a mental illness, a side-effect of medications, or just a habit and can lead to excessive fatigue during the following day.
We need to be scheduling the time for sleep.
If you have issues falling or staying asleep, here are a few tips to sleep better and wake up more refreshed:
- Use your bed for sleep (and sex) only.
- Do not watch TV, read or (worst) work while in bed.
- Your bedroom should be dark and quiet.
- Do not leave the TV or radio on all night.
- Do NOT try hard to fall asleep. The opposite will happen.
- Download the “10 Sleep hacks for Busy Professionals”
We all know that we should eat better to keep healthy. But what does this mean? Generally, more fruits and (especially) vegetables.
But did you know that most Americans eat only a few different vegetables, namely corn, soy, tomato, potatoes, carrots (and maybe even turnips), lettuce (iceberg or at best romaine), and tomatoes…
Our body really needs a wide variety of vegetables to stay sharp and well.
And did you know that our happiness and mood is directly correlated to the number of servings (up to 8) of vegetables and fruits you eat daily – that means, that if you eat none or one, you are this happy (mostly not very), if you eat two, you are twice as happy, four, four times as happy and so on – and the effect even starts after only 24 hours!
If you have problems finding a practical and fast way to find out what to eat – and what better to avoid, have a look at my little book: “Eating for Vibrant Health and Explosive Energy”.
Set Priorities And Stop Procrastinating
Many people can’t prioritize what is important to them. This often leads to procrastination, just put up things to do “later”. Often that “later” is “never”.
I used to do this myself. Put all on a big task list, that I felt overwhelmed just looking at.
Eventually, I created a paper stack with tasks to do, ideas, and half-done projects higher than the Eiffel Tower (well, not really).
And you know what eventually happened?
I did the same things again because I just couldn’t find the notes where I started on it…
So what can you do?
Don’t waste your time!
It all starts – again – with knowing yourself, your goals, your ability to handle tasks, the difficulty of the task, and your time. We all only have 24 hours in a day, and 8 of these we need to allocate to eat and another 2 or 3 to food preparation and eating. (see points 1 and 2 above).
Have a family, too? Scratch off another 1 or 2 hours off your daily time.
So that leaves you a maximum of 12 hours for work and time for yourself. It is very important to structure this time properly.
Have your calendar color-coded and block off time during your waking hours – for sleep, food/eating, family, fun/creativity/, exercise, and – yes – concentrated work.
You probably heard of the Pareto principle.
Just do it for one week, then re-evaluate and adjust for the next week. In the beginning, you will be off a lot, but that’s okay.
I personally do not like blocks of work longer than 50 min. 25 often works for minor tasks. Longer tasks, like writing this blog post, need to be broken up into segments to do properly.
Do One Thing At A Time – Avoid Distractions
This is a major issue nowadays. We live with our cell phones. When you are with another person, either your or their cellphones start beeping, dinging, or playing some melody to interrupt your thoughts and entice you to urgently check your phone.
Here is a fun experiment for you. It may be eye-opening:
Take at least one hour (or a few if you can) and a piece of paper and a pen. Every time your phone dings and you are checking it, make a note and also put down whether it could have waited until a break between tasks- or if it really was so urgent (like life-threatening, e.g. a tornado is approaching your house) that it couldn’t have waited.
I bet, all (or mostly all) of your interruptions were of the first category.
Here is what I did. Consider doing the same (and no, it doesn’t work if your main job depends on immediately messaging a customer if you are waiting for an important call):
- Turn off all notification sounds from apps like Facebook, LinkedIn, SMS texts and so on. You can find this in the settings menu of your phone. If you need help, ask a friend or family member.
- Tell your important family members to call you on your phone (with a voice call) only if it is really important to do so right now. Otherwise ask them to text you.
- Set a time every morning and evening (or more often, if your work requires it) to check those emails and notifications – and only do so during these times.
- Use an alarm app to remind you of important breaks and events that need your attention.
- Otherwise, do not use your phone during work hour (and also when you are talking – in person – to loved ones or good friends). It is distracting, robs you from spending quality time at work, with yourself and with your loved ones – and can completely destroy your time.
As humans, we are social “animals”. We thrive on connections with others, on relationships. Relationships are the source of our greatest joy, but also our greatest pain.
We have relationships with people, animals, things like money or “stuff”, imagined beings, thoughts…
Boundaries are the stuff that defines relationships, whether this is the relationship with ourselves, close friends, a life partner, or others.
It is important to have boundaries to protect your own time and have limits to what you agree to do for others.
A common question is: Isn’t helping others the right thing to do? My answer: it depends.
There are 11 tips for healthier boundaries, which involve mainly knowing what is acceptable and what’s important to you, know your own limits of time and energy, your own goals and priorities, and serve others from your own overflowing cup only.
I explored the whole boundary issue in a recent blog post. You also can get a free download of the 11 Tips for healthy boundaries.
Appreciate The Little Things
You may have been told to appreciate the little things in life. But why should the little things matter? Aren’t the big things more important?
People spend their days worrying and thinking about the big things: acing that big test, getting that big paying job, going on that big date. They fail to notice the sweet little things that make life so special:
The bird that is warbling in the tree branch outside of your office window is a call to enjoy the prettiness of nature rather than the stress of work, yet you probably do not take the time to notice it because you just must get your proposal done for your demanding boss.
The smell of baked bread can awaken pleasant memories of your childhood visiting grandma, yet you are too busy thinking about what you will make for dinner instead of enjoying the nostalgic loveliness.”
Life is full of small, beautiful things, but we often fail to notice them because we are so focused on the future. As a result, we feel worried and anxious. The world seems dark. Where did all the beauty go that we remember from our childhood?
The world is not completely dark and the beauty that you saw as a kid did not go anywhere. You have simply stopped seeing the world’s subtle beauty.
Noticing a million little things that make you feel joyful can sum up to one big joyful mood in your heart.
The little things really do matter.
Once you begin to develop the habit of appreciation or gratitude, it becomes easier and easier. It is really a better way to look at the world. Much better than ignoring the beauty in life to focus on the bad and the worries swirling your head.
All you need to do is making the conscious choice to appreciate the little things that you encounter throughout your journey on Earth.
Your appreciation will make you feel happier, contented, and more fulfilled.
You will feel better, much more peaceful and calmer, and so will the people around you who have the privilege of experiencing your joy and serenity.
It becomes easier and easier over time to appreciate life, once you start getting out of the habit of negativity and dwelling on the bad.
And bad habits can be changed.
Don’t take things for granted.
Here are 4 steps on how to get started with appreciation and gratitude:
- Notice the little things around you.
- Appreciate the things that come easily to you.
- Appreciate even those things that are more difficult.
- Appreciate and be grateful for everything.
Take Time For Exercise
Exercise not only helps you to build muscle, look and feel better, but it also helps you to produce BDNF (Brain-derived neurotrophic factor), a substance that actually grows new brain cells and connections. You may know this as neuroplasticity. We are never too old to start growing our brains.
The best and most efficient way to exercise to grow your brain is HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training).
This can be as simple as – instead of going just for a 20 min walk – to walk 5 min, then run as fast as you can for 1 min, walk 5 min and so on.
Additionally – or as a quick alternative that everyone can do in a break at work, school, or even in a bathroom is the 4-minute exercise created by Dr. Zach Bush MD.
Unleash Your Creativity
We all are creative beings, especially as children. Remember how happy you were showing off a picture you drew, a building you made of building bricks, or some playdoh creation.
So why do so many of us “forget” about it as adults and find only time for routine, TV, consumerism, and work?
What is holding you back? Is it perfectionism? Do you consider it an “unproductive waste of time”?
Science shows that we need play, fun, and creativity for stress relief and to improve brain health.
Discover more here.
Be Mindful – Be In The Now
Mindfulness is a big topic nowadays, but really, it is not new. Even the ancient philosophers and religious leaders preached being in the present, in the “now”.
Whether you are calling it mindfulness, meditation, prayer, being present, isn’t it really all the same?
The essence is not getting distracted by everyday activities like social media browsing, TV, video games, casino games, and similar things, but instead focusing on doing the things at this moment that are important to you and your purpose in life right now.
Not living in regret, guilt, and shame from events in the past, and also not living in worries and fear of the future.
The only time we have is right now, and our life is finite. We need to use our time the best.
Our brain is not designed for multitasking, and more often than not, the harder we try it, the more time we lose.
Are you longing for inner peace in these scary times? Read more HERE.
Declutter Your Space – And Your Brain
Physical, emotional, and mental clutter holds you back and weighs you down from achieving your true potential, especially if you are one of the many of us suffering from ADHD.
We often feel powerless, frustrated, and overwhelmed if our desks and space are cluttered. This is a major energy “zapper”, even if you think you are the one who can oversee the chaos (like I used to do).
Many of us ended up to say” I just can’t take this anymore”.
Here are 3 action steps how to end this struggle with the ONE method, one I learned myself from Kitti McKay, a decluttering coach in Halifax, on our recent webinar.
- Pick ONE small room or area to start with (or just part of it) to avoid overwhelm.
- Agree with yourself to only work for 10 min at decluttering at a time, once a day
- Make one decision at a time per item, whether to throw out, donate/give away or keep – and stick to it. Don’t go back and forth or question your decision later.
Reaffirm Yourself With This Powerful Activity
And last, but not least, here is a very important activity for all those who (like I was myself) are self-conscious when looking at themselves in the mirror and suffer from low self-esteem. I call it “The Mirror-Exercise”. This Exercise helps to train your brain to increase self-esteem and confidence.
Here is how to do it:
Do this exercise every time you go by a mirror, in the morning in the bathroom, every time you use the bathroom, and every time you pass by a mirror in the hallway and other areas.
- Look yourself deeply in the eyes, like your most admired and valued lover.
- Then take a deep breath and
- SMILE at yourself (even if you need to fake it)
- Say aloud (if possible): “[Substitute this for your first name] I LOVE YOU!!!”. With emphasis and passion (even if you need to fake it)
- Pat yourself on your back and think of your latest achievement(s) and say to yourself: “I am so proud of you!”
Seems silly? Maybe, but neuroscience research has proven it to work.
It works by repetition, and only if you DO IT.
All the exercises and tips I gave here are part of what we do at DocChristine.com
Dr. Christine is a retired German-trained and board-certified physician and naturopath, currently
working as a Brain and Mental Health Professional, Coach, Educator, and Consultant as well as a member of Dr. Daniel Amen’s Teaching Team.
After major struggles with her own physical and mental health (including stays in a mental
hospital), over 20 years ago, she made the decision for change. She applied all she knew to
herself and became healthy again. She then furthered her education in nutrition, gastrointestinal
health, orthomolecular medicine (supplements), neuroscience, coaching arts, and more and
became, among others, a Certified Brain and Mental Health Professional (Dr. Daniel Amen MD)
and Licensed Brain Trainer as well as a Certified Havening Techniques® Practitioner (Drs. Ron
Ruden MD and Steven Ruden DDS).
As “The Doctor Who KNOWS How You Feel” her clients value the deep personal connection
she forms with them as well the practical strategies, vast knowledge, and her sense of humor.
She is the founder of “Power Up Your Brain – Strategies for a Better Brain and a Better Business”
Bestselling author of: “Eating for Vibrant Health and Explosive Energy” (Amazon) and “The F-Word Diet” (Amazon).Co-Author of: “Raising the Bar” (Amazon), “BLU Talks Vol. 04” (Business, Life, Universe), and is active on Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn.