With a constant onslaught of email, phone calls, and—"bing!"—text message alerts, you may find it hard to concentrate in these technology filled days. "Little" distractions can add up over the course of you day, week, and even career, raising anxiety levels and leaving you with little time to nurture your mind and body. Here, three experts explain how to keep stress in check and avoid mentally clocking out before your shift is over.
Make an "un-schedule."
Designating time for leisure activities can make work time more productive. Create an "un-schedule" by blocking out the times during each day or week you will spend playing; then get your work done in between. Balance your body. A blood sugar–stabilizing diet can improve brain function. Using alternative sweeteners like stevia or small amounts of honey is a start, but it’s best to stop eating sweetened food entirely. Choose healthy, balanced snacks that include a bit of protein, some healthy fats, and good carbohydrates, such as a small apple with ten almonds or a 6-ounce serving of carrot sticks with 2 ounces of lean
Feed your neurotransmitters.
Your body uses quality proteins in legumes, nuts, seeds, and lean animal sources to produce catecholamines—which function as hormones or neurotransmitters that help the body handle physical activity or stress. Studies show that deficiencies of catecholamines such as dopamine are associated with lack of focus. A diet rich in quality lean proteins helps ensure that you have enough nutrients to produce extra catecholamines when the going gets stressful.
Janine Fraser, ND, Langford, British Columbia
Mindfulness—a constant awareness of every thought, feeling, movement, and sensation as it is happening—enables you to focus on the task at hand. Practice mindfulness during a mundane task like putting away the dishes, and then eventually apply that skill at work.
A messy work space can be distracting. Taking a moment to straighten things up can pay big dividends later when you are hard at work. An organized schedule is equally important. The early morning is the best time to plan your day and create to-do lists, as people tend to have a calmer mind during these hours.
Sometimes the hardest part of a dreaded task is getting started, and the prospect of continuous hours in front of a computer monitor can be daunting. Set a timer for 20 or 30 minutes and commit to working on that task for the duration. Try installing break-reminder software like Dejal Time Out. At an appointed interval your computer screen will fade out, reminding you to take a well-deserved break and recharge your focus.
Greg Burdulis, Boulder, Colorado
Take brain-boosting supplements.
To enhance vital brain chemicals, take 250 mg of acetyl-L-carnitine before breakfast. Also try taking 250 mg of CDP-choline, which facilitates brain cell metabolism, especially in older people. Taking 100–200 grams of the natural brain chemical dimethylaminoethenol, or DMAE can boost mental alertness and clarity.
Start with small doses.
Too much of a "brain-boosting" supplement can cause trembling, anxiety, insomnia, and other focus-crushing side effects, so begin with a small dose and gradually add more. If the supplement comes in too large of a dose, bite off a quarter or half of a tablet, or open a capsule and take a fraction of the powder inside.
Use a combination remedy.
A combination of several brain boosters will often work better than a larger dose of just one. Look for combinations that use acetyl-L-carnitine, CDP-choline, and DMAE, along with B vitamins, ginkgo biloba, and ginseng.
Ray Sahelian, MD, Los Angeles