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Brain breaking

A challenge for most CEOs is in knowing when to slow down and recover from all of the hard work.

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The key to high performance is hard work multiplied by recovery. Even though these things may seem at odds, they reinforce each other. However, as most CEOs know, the hard work comes easy and the real challenge is in your ability to slow down and recover.

In order to maximise your health and avoid burnout, organise a ‘brain break’ every three months. It doesn’t have to be a big lavish getaway; a short road trip to a new destination could be exactly what the doctor ordered. Too often I see people who are either too worried about their business not being able to cope without them, or they are waiting for the perfect time to get away. The reality is there is never a good time to go, you just need to do it.

I have often struggled to take time away from my own business. However, now I get excited to go away, not only for the holiday but also because it helps me to identify holes in my business and allows me to do some of the best thinking once I remove myself from the office.

The common concern of any business leader is that they can’t disconnect, but as Jim Moffat, CEO and Chair of Deloitte Consulting, identifies: “A true leader steps back, trusts his or her people, and allows them to succeed.

Often people return from holidays feeling like they need a holiday. The key is to set some structure to completely recharge.

By taking a break from the day-to-day operations, not only was I spending some much-needed time with my family, but also I was able to focus on the bigger picture of where we were and where our business was heading”.

Often people return from holidays feeling like they need a holiday.  

The key is to set some structure to completely recharge.

  1. Walk and explore every morning for 60 minutes

    Want to be revitalised? Get outdoors. Nothing beats exercising in the great outdoors with the fresh air, open spaces, and warm sunshine. Studies have shown individuals who train outdoors when compared to training indoors report greater feelings of revitalisation, increased energy and positive engagement, along with decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression. I also use this as time to journal my thoughts and plan out upcoming strategies.

  2. Organise a massage

    Everyone carries stress in different ways, and studies have found that a single 45-minute massage can lead to a reduction in the level of cortisol, a stress hormone in the blood, a decrease in cytokine proteins related to inflammation and allergic reactions, and a boost in white blood cells that fight infection. Another study found that even a 10-minute massage reduced proteins associated with inflammation in muscles that had been exercised to exhaustion, speeding up the recovery of athletes. Everyone has different needs, so find a masseur whose style suits you. You want to feel loose, refreshed and relaxed after your massage, not like you have just gone ten rounds with Mike Tyson. I prefer a deep tissue style of massage, whereas my wife prefers the Swedish aromatherapy type of massage.

  3. Get some water therapy

    For centuries, water has been used as a therapy for improving psychological and physical disorders. According to Hippocrates, water therapy ‘allays lassitude’ (releases physical or mental weakness). When humans take a cold swim, once over the initial shock of the cold, it is usually very invigorating. This is because wet and cold causes our surface vessels to vasoconstrict (tighten up) making blood move from the surface of your body to the core, as a means to conserve heat. Not only does it conserve heat, it also reflexively bathes the brain and vital organs in fresh blood. This movement will bring nutrition, oxygen, and also help gently detoxify the area. Warm water will make the vessels vasodilate (relax), and that will bring blood up to the surface. This helps blood move back, away from the core, cleaning out the core. Medical research also supports the use of hot and cold baths. Decreases in stress hormones (like cortisol) have been reported with bathing. It has also been shown that bathing may also help the balance of levels of the feel-good neurotransmitter, serotonin.

As American high performance coach and author Mark Verstegen says, “For you, every day is game day!”

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