Strategies to help keep your brain engaged and active when working from home
Coronavirus or not, working from home has its challenges. From technology hiccups and distractions to unplanned interruptions and feelings of isolation, it can be hard to stay focused and on task. Tack on the stress of these uncertain times and the burden of childcare and homeschooling, and even top performers find themselves struggling to stay positive and work productively at home. With so many competing priorities it can be difficult to put yourself first, but working from home also presents the opportunity to kickstart new healthy habits! Try out these brain-healthy tips to help boost your productivity and your spirits when working from home.
Believe it or not, there is value in those conversations around the watercooler. Social interactions and intellectual stimulation will help keep you – and your brain – healthier and happier. In our virtual working environment, keep up with coworkers by planning a virtual coffee chat or happy hour. Utilize technology for video calls and check-ins throughout the day to avoid feelings of isolation and help keep up morale and productivity.
Stress can impact areas of the brain associated with the regulation of emotions and memory, which can take quite the toll on how well you can work effectively. De-stress with activities you find enjoyable and find support in your loved ones and colleagues, but don’t get stuck in a rut. Tackling a new skill – anything from baking to origami or jigsaw puzzles – can be an effective and exciting way to keep your brain sharp, while serving as a distraction from current events.
Make time throughout the day to take a deep breath and center your thoughts. Not everyone may be comfortable with meditation but the practice of reflecting on your thoughts and feelings can have a real impact on your brain.
Make an effort to select more specific brain-healthy foods, like blueberries and broccoli that are rich in antioxidants or healthy fats in the form of avocados and nuts. Supplements are also an option to help complement your diet and benefit your body and brain. And while you’re eating those healthy snacks, try stepping away from your space to help promote a more mindful approach to eating.
Just because you’re working from home, doesn’t mean you’re stuck at your desk. Exercise has been shown to increase levels of brain derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), which helps support overall cognitive function, including memory and learning. And since numerous studies suggest the positive effects of nature on health, spend time social distancing outside every day if possible!
While you sleep your brain is hard at work restoring information and memories and preparing you for another day. Sleep deprivation has been found to disrupt the brain cells' ability to communicate with each other, leading to mental lapses and perception and memory problems. While daytime routines have been disrupted, you can still control your bedtime regimen. Be sure to limit exercise, caffeine, alcohol and screen time too close to bedtime to help ensure a good night’s sleep.
 Schmolesky MT, Webb DL, Hansen RA. The effects of aerobic exercise intensity and duration on levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor in healthy men. J Sports Sci Med. 2013;12(3):502–511. Published 2013 Sep 1.
 Pearson, D. G., & Craig, T. (2014). The great outdoors? Exploring the mental health benefits of natural environments. Frontiers in psychology, 5, 1178. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01178
These times of uncertainty are requiring us all to think and act differently than ever before. Fortunately, your brain is more powerful than you know with the ability to adapt to new experiences and challenges! By building brain-healthier habits, you can help put yourself on the path to productivity.