Updated: Jul 18
In our fast-paced world, where productivity and success are highly valued, it is crucial to recognise the interplay between our well-being and our performance at work. Achieving positive results in the office goes beyond just talent and hard work; it requires a holistic approach that supports your performance and function.
In this article, we will explore the relationship between exercise, sleep, hydration and cognitive function. We will identify how prioritising these factors can pave the way to increased performance in the workplace. Of course there are other tactics that can be used too, but these areas are the foundation upon which other habits or tactics can be layered.
Regular physical exercise is often hailed as a potent elixir for the mind and body. When it comes to cognitive performance, exercise offers numerous benefits:
a) Enhanced Brain Function: Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, neurotransmitters that elevate mood and promote a sense of well-being. This, in turn, enhances focus, memory, and concentration, leading to improved problem-solving abilities and creativity.
b) Increased Energy Levels: Engaging in physical activity boosts overall energy levels, making you more alert and resilient to fatigue. This sustained energy allows for greater productivity and sustained performance throughout the workday.
c) Stress Reduction: Exercise acts as a powerful stress-buster, reducing anxiety and combating the negative effects of chronic stress. By managing stress levels effectively, you will be better equipped to handle challenging situations, adapt to change, and maintain composure in high-pressure environments.
Short bouts of regular exercise are effective. If your fitness is sufficient, greater benefits are achieved from more intense levels of aerobic exercise. It takes time to get fit, for the body to handle the demands of running. If you are exercising intensively try to leave a few hours before going to sleep.
Cycling, swimming, dancing, circuit training - these all count too. If not, try a walk surrounded by greenery. This can also help with cognitive function.
Remember that you need to hydrate properly to make up for any losses from sweating, especially if you are based – like us – in tropical Singapore.
Proper hydration is often underestimated but plays a crucial role in cognitive performance:
a) Improved Brain Function: Water is essential for optimal brain function. Even mild dehydration (starting at 2%) can lead to cognitive impairments, such as reduced attention span, slower information processing, and impaired memory. Staying hydrated ensures optimal brain function, leading to sharper focus, quicker thinking, and better decision-making abilities.
b) Enhanced Energy and Alertness: Dehydration can cause fatigue, lethargy, and decreased alertness, hampering workplace performance. On the contrary, sufficient hydration keeps energy levels up, allowing individuals to stay engaged, proactive, and mentally sharp throughout the day.
c) Mood Stability: Dehydration can negatively impact mood, leading to irritability, decreased motivation, and diminished overall well-being. By maintaining proper hydration, you can experience improved mood stability, leading to a positive work environment and better relationships.
Are you aware of your hydration status? While it can be enjoyable to have a post 'work' or 'workout' beer, a couple of drinks or more (while helping us to fall asleep) negatively affect sleep quality.
Quality sleep is the cornerstone of optimal cognitive function. Here's how sufficient sleep positively impacts workplace performance:
a) Cognitive Restoration: During sleep, the brain processes and consolidates information gathered throughout the day, enhancing memory retention and learning. This restoration process leads to improved problem-solving abilities, creativity, and decision-making skills.
b) Mental Clarity and Focus: Adequate sleep fosters mental clarity, allowing you to stay focused and attentive during work hours. It enhances cognitive flexibility, enabling individuals to switch between tasks effortlessly and maintain a high level of productivity. Sleep deprivation (being awake for 17 hours or more) results in reduced performance, similar to having enough alcohol to be over the limit for driving in many countries.
c) Emotional Regulation: Sleep deprivation can lead to emotional instability, irritability, and reduced resilience. On the other hand, well-rested individuals are better equipped to manage emotions effectively, maintain positive relationships and navigate conflicts gracefully.
Do you wake up feeling refreshed or exhausted? Creating a consistent bedtime routine is one tactic that works for many people to improve their sleep.
Sometimes, no matter what you do to stay healthy, stress can get in the way of being productive. We have used breathing and short meditations to good effect. Box breathing is one tool that is effective under any circumstances.
To optimise workplace performance, the powerful synergistic influence of exercise, sleep, and proper hydration on cognitive performance cannot be underestimated. Other practices relating to diet and nutrition, risk avoidance, even social health, all have roles to play too. Self-care not only benefits professional success but improves your Life!
Your health is complex. Use the document below to help you reflect on the issues that affect the different elements of your well-being: physical, mental and social.
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