In order to maintain high performance in whichever area of life you excel at, it’s important to be able to sustain a high level of mental performance. But unless your chosen area is sport, it’s all too easy to forget that one of the keys to sustained mental performance is the physical state of your body.
The Romans had a phrase for it: Mens sana in corpore sano which translates as only a healthy body can sustain a healthy mind. Lifestyle, diet and fitness regimen all contribute to how good we feel and how well we are able to resist the stresses and strains of every days life so we can bring our best selves to our most important tasks.
The will to win is not nearly as important as the will to prepare to win. So what can we do to make sure that we operate on top form the majority of the time.
The first place to start is by staying fit. Being overweight, flabby and carrying excess pounds saps our energy, so it becomes harder to concentrate for long periods. Unless it’s something you really enjoy it can be difficult to fit in long sessions of cardio or visits to the gym, so it’s important to find a fitness program or workout plan which you feel can fit seamlessly into your life.
Diet is hugely important. Too much sugar, coffee and other stimulants give you that artificial high which can only be sustained by topping up the stimulant levels, the alternative crash leaves us feeling tired, sluggish and performing below par. A diet high in fresh meat, vegetables and fruit, low in simple carbohydrates (pasta, rice and products made of flour) and moderate dairy consumption seems to be the optimum for enhancing vitality.
Alcohol is an controversial question; for decades we’ve been warned about it, but in some countries it’s “prescribed” in moderation by doctors as both a preventative measure and a cure. And as one of the other keys to success is appropriate relaxation, a glass or two of wine with dinner probably enhances rather than depresses performance. However, beware the beer, it contains the sugar maltose which the body treats like pure glucose, so leads to fat deposits and a sugar high. A problem that wine and spirits avoid.
So many of life’s stresses contribute to increasing the tension stored in our muscles and as the tension increases we often don’t notice until something causes us actual pain – often a headache or pain in the jaw.
Active relaxation helps disperse the tension and is also one of they keys to optimum mental sharpness. It’s an antidote to stress and helps boost our immune systems and stay healthy. Active relaxation doesn’t mean slumping in front of the TV, it’s process where you intentionally relax the mind and body. Meditation, yoga and stretching are good examples of active relaxation, or for a really enjoyable experience you could try a massage!
Some people find it easier to relax after muscle activity, so one of the best known and most widely practiced active relaxation techniques is Progressive Muscular Relaxation (PMR). This is easy to learn and practice almost anywhere. It involves the systematic tensing and then relaxing of each of the different muscle groups in the body. As an example shrug your shoulders up towards your ears, really squeeze as tight as you can. Hold for 5 seconds then relax and notice the difference. Some people notice straight away, others require practice, but it is worth giving it a go. More details about how to do PMR here.
Having a fit and healthy body, good diet and adequate relaxation should help improve the quality of your sleep. And they during your waking hours you will be ready to face every challenge you want to set yourself with enthusiasm, persistence and laser like focus.