Do you look after yourself as you look after your devices?
How our brains have similarities with computers, the wellbeing perspective
I am no scientist and this article is not about how our brain works – I’m sure you can find a lot of helpful resources online! These are a few thoughts that came to my mind when working from home and realising that I was hardly ever switching off - yes, even though we talk wellbeing all day, we are not always the fittest when it comes to our own expertise. ‘Do what we say, not what we do’, kind of thing. And this is normal, because we are all human, after all. We all have good and bad days, good and bad habits, and navigate between these.
The key word is here: awareness.
Being aware that one thing is unhealthy, is harmful or does not work for us, is the very start. It does not mean that we will never ever do it again – think about that hungover feeling one Saturday morning and your thought ‘I will never ever drink alcohol again’. Well, what happened the following week, exactly? Yep, we have all been there! Quite the opposite: it is important to understand the trigger, and slowly but surely try to replace unhealthy (yet appealing!) coping mechanisms by healthier ones for our wellbeing. Is stress the trigger for long night outs? How can these be replaced by healthier options (at least sometimes), to make sure you can spend some time awake and well over weekends? From heavily drinking to joining a running group on Saturday mornings, there is a big gap, indeed, so after awareness, it is all about finding out what works for your wellbeing and building incremental steps, one at a time.
Now, brain and computer. In this day and age during which we rely on technology a lot, technology might give us frustrations. A lot of frustrations. Do you recall a moment when you sat in front of your computer and got frustrated because it was slow and started going slower and slower? Well, please note that this effect does happen with our brain and body as well!
Here are 4 similarities between our brain and computer, which are good reminders that we need to look after ourselves and prioritise our own wellbeing.
Computers need power to work, they need to be plugged in occasionally to keep functioning. And so do we! We all need to eat food, drink water and breathe clean air in order to function. Breathing being subconscious and straightforward, we will leave it aside for now. What about water and food? Do you drink enough water and eat enough and healthily throughout your working day? Same as you plug your computer regularly, make sure that you feed yourself properly too!
Computers start getting slow after a long period of use. Brains too! As much as a computer needs a break, our brain and body do need breaks too. Sitting in front of a screen all day is not helpful for our wellbeing. Isn’t it interesting that there is a ‘sleep mode’ on computers, and that it is often automatically turned on when you leave your screen for a few minutes? My question to you here is: what is your ‘sleep mode’? What do you do to break your daily working patterns so that your brain and body can rest and relax before going back to work? If you find it hard to think about anything, here are a few options: standing up and doing some moves; making yourself a cup of tea and drinking it without any distractions before going back to your desk; going for a quick walk outside; … Make sure you take breaks, as much as your computer enters its ‘sleep mode’, it will help your focus, your productivity, and your wellbeing!
Computers need to be turned off occasionally, don’t they? What about ourselves? Taking proper longer breaks from work is indispensable for our own productivity and wellbeing too. This is true daily: if you turn off your computer at the end of your working day, why not doing the same with yourself? Spending some time away from screens helps our brain to digest the flow of information thrown at us during a specific day, so does sleep. Carefully dividing working life and private life might feel challenging but is key to thrive in both! And this is true for weekends as well. Weekends have been invented and implemented for a reason: because employers (Henri Ford, to start with) realised that employees were much more productive and focused after a couple of days off. To summarise, there are two elements for you here: switch off from work in the evening and don’t look at work over the weekend. You might think about work and it is fine but try not to act on it (no emails, no calls, etc.). You might realise that you get great work and business ideas when switching off, and you will be able to properly implement them the following day or the following week.
Computers need to restart once something major has happened. A computer would also stop working if not looked after properly, such as you would stop working if you do not look after yourself properly. This is called burnout. Burnout happens when your body suddenly stops because you have been pushing it too hard for too long (often subconsciously). And as a computer needs to restart, you would need a restart period, where you would probably be off work for a few weeks or months. The important part is to avoid going that far (going back to awareness)! You do not want to experience burnout, trust me. The good news is that if you follow our short guidelines mentioned above and look after yourself as you would look after your computer, you are more likely not to!
This is a non-exhaustive list, of course, and I am sure we can still find many similarities. We have not explore malware for instance... From a brain perspective, would we be our worst enemies fighting our own negative thoughts? Just some food for thoughts!