Why does the mind always seem incompetent just when you need it? As a meeting or a deadline approaches the body recoils in horror, failing to establish contact with the cerebral cortex. Often the times you need your brain to function properly you have already suffered through a long day, or a late night.
When it’s too late to catch up on sleep, a 10 minute power nap is best. Any longer and the body takes time to switch on again, defeating the purpose. While just a quick fix, anything up to ten minutes is better than nothing. Even for the well rested, a midday siesta improves and maintains memory and brainpower throughout the day.
With a cold sweat coming on I tried to review the course material in my head. I purchased an energy drink at the Uni-mart, popped it open, and set about invigorating my mind. This common quick fix gives a surge of energy from sugar and caffeine which sharpens the mind, but it also dehydrates the body.
Good cognitive performance needs hydration. Along with water, you need food to fuel the mind. Natural produce like fruit digests quicker than processed foods to aid brain function. Attempting an important presentation on an empty stomach isn’t recommended. But too much in your digestive tract draws extra blood away from the brain.
Eating four or five small meals a day combats this and keeps up energy and concentration levels, though finding time to do this may be hard. Simply adding protein to breakfast through nuts and eggs helps sustain your brain through the day as it provides the right amino acid to replace depleted chemicals dopamine and epinephrine.
Upping my pace I strode up the stairs of the main path toward the exam rooms. With my heart racing I reached the door. I was followed in by five other late-comers. We were flushed and puffing but in time to sit through the examiner’s instruction spiel. Rushing may have helped.
The best way to increase cognitive performance is with hard work. Exercise increases blood circulation in the body and brain, and over time this nurtures the brain. While any exercise will have a greater effect on your cognitive abilities than most nutritional fixes, weightlifting is thought to be one of the best mind enhancing activities.
I sat and read the difficult questions. The girl beside me groaned as she read her sheet. I closed my eyes and rested my head on my hands. Blood thudded in my ears and, through the mist, answers eventually emerged.
When all is lost there are still a few ways to help your brain out. Yawning encourages blood circulation in your head, along with neck stretches. Breathing through your nose cools this blood and the brain functions better at cooler temperatures. Cutting down mental distractions by staring at a natural setting outside or even in a picture allows your mind to focus.
In preparation for my exam, I could have practiced meditating for a short time each day as it helps improve concentration. Ordering everything in life, from emails to the clothes on the floor, cuts down on over-stimulation and fatigue on the brain. These things take a lot of time and effort though. I only left one answer blank by the end of the three hour exam, but walking into that room with a clear mind would have been priceless.