The weekend of a Brain Coach. Practices to recover for a full-on week ahead.
If you are a high performer or aspire to be one you need to learn how to work hard and recover hard. Otherwise, you’ll always be kind of in the middle of not here, not there! Or you’ll go hard and then burn out for quite a while, losing interest in life, work, adventures, questioning the meaning of all of this.
I learned it the hard way.
I thought I was a tough cookie, rest and sleep could wait till another lifetime. Till I noticed a pattern of on-and-off burnout - losing interest in work, life, not enjoying much of anything and not making progress consistently. Now I’m a huge proponent (experience plus all the emerging data) - of brain-body recovery. And from my experience, most people need to learn how to recover the brain and our nervous system from overstimulation and overuse, not so much the physical bodies (that honestly could use a bit more work)
Here are my weekend non-negotiables to recover the brain and nervous system, that believe me guys, need recovery more than your body does.
1. A LAZY DAY
A lazy day for me means - no to-dos.
No planning. No organizing of anything. No workouts except for gentle yoga. Nada.
All the to-dos spend some of your dopamine reserves, you can call it willpower, and we need to save it for the week ahead, for the important, for the long run. Do, do, do mode will not allow you to recover those resources. And eventually, you will lose interest in work and life, get cranky and clinical, like you don’t want to see anyone's face for a while. Have you ever felt that way?
Not letting yourself have quiet, lazy days might be the reason.
Especially if you work intensely during the week, a lot of interactions, a lot of work with other people - it’s draining those precious mental resources.
Take a lazy day once a week to recover to show up fully the next week.
The most important part - don’t make it another adventure full of stimulating stuff and social gatherings - it isn’t resting, it’s still depleting your dopamine and willpower, and other cognitive resources.
2. COLD PLUNGE AND SAUNA
For recovery of your body and nervous system, these two are magical!
They restore the levels of you "go" brain chemicals like dopamine. They are great for sleep and serotonin recovery, great for physical recovery, great for lowering stress and anxiety, great for regulating the immune system - just amazing practice with a ton of data about their effectiveness!
These days I do, a 20-minute 10C cold plunge and a 40-minute 80C sauna (today was an exception with high temperatures!!! 120C!).
I recommend a cold bath for 20 minutes at a temperature that’s challenging for you but you can tolerate it. It seems that full immersion in cold water works much better than cold showers.
Sauna - again, start where you are and build it up.
3. LOW STIMULATION AND LEARNING
I feel like the brain is more like a muscle, not a computer. When we learn a lot, for example, I often feel like a day off is needed to integrate the information (if you are into a lot of learning), just like muscles need time to recover to grow, get stronger, make progress.
That one is HUGE! Processed food, loud parties, too much TV and social media, too much gaming and sex - all of that will deplete your dopamine resources, the same that’s used for the goal-oriented pursuit of anything. So please, be very careful where you spend your dopamine - processed food, social media and Netflix - or deep meaningful work?
You must know by now that people who produce extraordinary work results don’t spend much time on social media, watching TV or eating a lot of processed food - it exhausts your resources, your dopamine, your drive and motivation, your energy - it’s no rest for the brain and nervous system. Nor is loud music, loud parties or alcohol - that’s how people end up feeling exhausted after the weekend.
Spend time in quiet nature - that’s what is truly restorative.
So what do I do?
Beach or other types of nature, gentle music, light reading, light conversations with friends and family, simple food, early night. And I’m ready to go full-on for the rest of the week!
I hope this gives you a better guideline on how to restore yourself to accomplish more each week and keep going for the pursuit of meaningful goals non-stop, till the end of time.