How Food Impacts Your Focus And Productivity At Home
By now you are probably used to working from home, right? At least sort of? Do you struggle with getting in regular movement (check out last week’s blog) or with eating well? If so, do not worry, it’s a challenge I can relate to personally as well as through my clients.
Today I have three easy ways for you to use what and how you eat to pimp your focus and productivity at home. Yes, it does make a difference! Try these tips and see for yourself.
1. Balance That Bloody Sugar
We all know the scenario: when you’re working from home the fridge is never more than a 1-minute walk away. You’ve probably stocked up on snacks, because, well, you’re spending 110% of your time at home.
While I always advocate the 80:20 ratio of eating healthily for 80% of the time and enjoying the occasional treats 20% of the time, it might make life easier for you to keep those “cheat days” to the weekend. If, on a work-from-home weekday you’re constantly snacking on high-sugar processed snacks you’ll be sent straight on a blood sugar rollercoaster.
The reason is that those kinds of snacks are very easily broken down raising your blood sugar levels rapidly. The hormone insulin is then very busy trying to get the sugar out of your blood into your cells for energy production. If your blood sugar is very high, a lot of insulin will be released leading to a crash in your blood sugar. That’s the signal for you brain to send you back to the kitchen for another pick-me-up.
For a couple of days this might work ok for you. But over the long run blood sugar imbalance can make you feel tired all the time, unable to concentrate and also affect the quality of your work.
The solution? Eating regular main meals that keep you fuller for longer. And if you still feel like snacking in between go for snacks that contain enough protein and fibre to slow down the sugar release, keeping your blood sugar levels balanced. How about a handful of nuts or olives, a full-fat yogurt with some berries, a piece of cheese or herring on an oat cake or a sliced apple dipped in nut butter? Yummy and focus supporting.
2. Control The Secret Gut-To-Brain Messages
You have a little party of an astonishing 100 trillion bacteria going on in your gut. But don’t panic, that’s absolutely normal, and you actually need them all. Your gut bugs protect your immune system (which is mostly located in your gut), absorb nutrients from the food you can’t digest and actually produce vitamins and short-chain fatty acids as a sort of rent for taking up space inside you. Aren’t they collaborative!
Unfortunately, not all of them are all that super friendly. Like in any real-life family there are a couple of black sheep around. They usually don’t cause any issues, unless their numbers get out of hand.
This can be problematic for your focus because your gut bugs have their private VIP messenger up to your brain - a direct connection between your gut and brain called the vagus nerve. It’s through this channel (plus free-flowing hormones and neurotransmitters) that they can influence your appetite, mood and ability to focus.
In order to keep balance and order amongst your many microbic friends it’s important that you send in regular recruits to crowd out the black sheep - this is best done through eating PRObiotic foods that contain beneficial bacteria. Anything fermented will do - yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut or kombucha.
As a second step it’s then important to keep those recruits alive with PREbiotic foods like raw, or lightly cooked onion, garlic, asparagus or Jerusalem artichoke. This way you keep the good guys well fed and active so that they can support your brain function and focus while working from home.
3. Use Meals As Anchor Points For Your Workday
We covered why regular meals are important to balance your blood sugar. What if you also used them as anchor points to structure your entire workday around?
Way back, when we all still commuted into offices that weren’t located in our bedrooms, we would probably have had breakfast at home or on the way to work, break for lunch and have dinner when back at home in the evening.
Now that that routine is completely out of the window, you might be opening and closing your laptop together with your eyelids in the morning and evening, making breakfast and dinner outside of work hours unlikely. Endless zoom meetings in between might have turned regular lunch breaks into a distant memory.
But it doesn’t have to be this way! If you value your mental and physical wellbeing, it’s important to set boundaries between your private and work time at home. One easy way to do that is to use mealtimes to frame your workday. Don’t open your laptop until you’ve had a screen free breakfast and use dinner preparations as a cut-off point for any work. (Please don’t let that be at midnight).
As for lunch, you obviously have to coordinate it with your work schedule. However, one of my clients recently proudly proclaimed that she’d blocked an hour every day in her calendar for a lunch break to go for a walk and eat in peace. Her colleagues not only respected this move, but one after another copied it leading to an overall happier and more productive team. This makes me so happy.
There you have it, three very effective ways to improve your focus and productivity at home by adjusting what, when and how you eat. And you might even inspire your entire team into work-lunch balance at home.