22nd September 2020

Self-care for top performance

Staying on top of your game and consistently performing at a high level requires self-care. Proper sleep and good nutrition will provide you with the energy to be fully present, the patience to listen and take in information, the ability to better manage your emotions, the frame of mind to make good decisions, and the stamina to allow you to keep going for weeks and months.

So, when work has you feeling too busy for anything else, ask yourself whether you can afford to not take care of yourself.

The NHS reports that one in three of us suffer from poor sleep, with stress, computers and taking work home often blamed. At the very least, sleep loss degrades your alertness and attention. Which is not useful for creative or divergent thinking, add this to fatigue, increased irritability, and shortened attention span; and before long you may find that you are not contributing as much whilst becoming increasingly demoralised. A study by the University of California found that just one night’s bad sleep can increase stress levels and anxiety by a third. Not what you need if work is already stressful. To help, target 8 hours sleep as often as possible. The good thing is, that you can make up for sleep within reason – meaning you can be a bit flexible with your hours throughout the week if necessary.

Along with sleep, nutrition including hydration plays a key role in keeping you fuelled to help maintain good energy and concentration levels. Foods rich in protein, fats and complex carbohydrates like fruit, vegetables, meats, legumes, nuts, and whole grains, are your friends. It is better to have a steady stream of glucose with which to keep you going at work. Be considerate if you are on a fitness diet and plan your meals accordingly. Especially in the lead up to a big pitch, meeting or project.

With the brain made up of around 80% water, dehydration can have a big impact. The fluid is required to transmit messages that let you process thoughts, recall information, and observe through your senses – imagine not being able to effectively perform even one of these at work. Furthermore, researchers from the University of East London and the University of Westminster speculate that the sensation of thirst may take attention away from any task at hand, causing our reactions and response times to slow.

There are quick fixes that can help if you need it – a coffee, short nap, glass of water, a walk, and fresh air – but remember these are only temporary. If you are resorting to these on a regular basis rather than properly addressing fatigue, concentration, and stress, you will likely struggle in the long-run.

You, your mind, and your body are ultimately what deliver the work. So why would you not look after them? And no doubt, you want to be performing your best for as long as possible.

Afterall, a career is not built overnight. It takes time.