The world’s a racetrack today. Everyone is running to the best of their abilities. The ever-demanding world really provides no gap to relax and rest. The race only gets more intense every single day. The usual result of this rat-race are the long work hours, which I’m sure all of you must have faced. The discomfort, and the consequences thereof.
Long working hours, without the required breaks, have serious negative impact on physical and psychological health, which can potentially damage cognitive functioning.
What is Cognitive Function?
Cognitive function is how a person understands things and acts upon it. Cognitive brain function is the ability to work with information in a significant way, apply information that has already been gained, change opinions about that information, and perform privileged changes.
Cognitive abilities are brain-based skills that take care of any task – from the simplest to the most complex. These abilities are based on how we learn things, and by remembering things, solving problems, and paying attention, rather than with any actual quantifiable knowledge.
How do long working hours affect the cognitive function?
Long working hours bring psychological stress and poor recovery from work, as indicated by sleeping problems and reduced sleep. Psychological stress has been shown to affect the brain via the neuro-endocrine systems. Researches, however, are unanimous in stating that continuous exposure to stress after work leads to decline in the performance of the individual. Let us look at the pathways in which stress operates on our systems:
In the beginning, work stimulates the brain cells. However, the stress associated with work physically and psychologically comes in at a later point, and it affects the gains you get from working.
- Memory (acquiring, retaining and retrieving): Long working hours leads to stress, sleep deprivation and depression. These factors make it difficult to pay attention, which can affect memory in terms of acquiring, retaining and retrieving information.
- Attention and Concentration: If our brain is tired and not working properly, it won’t be ready to pay 100% attention and the person cannot concentrate on his/her work anymore.
- Information processing: It’s part of our cognitive function and is related to the brain abilities. Long working hours affect the information processing system of our memory.
- Planning and priortizing: Long working hours with added psychological stress affects our ability to plan and prioritize in general life.
- Verbal Fluency: As per the studies and tests performed, which compare people who work for long hours with those who work for normal hours, the former had less verbal fluency compared to the latter.
How can you break this vicious cycle?
What we need to know is how we can improve our cognitive functions and live a healthy lifestyle, so that we can achieve our targets without compromising our brain abilities. We can improve the brain’s capacity by normalizing our working hours, which is a must to give some rest to our brain and to reduce psychological stress.
Some daily activities to include in your schedule to provide a well needed rest and recuperation period for your brain:
- Fitness : Performing any exercise, be it strength training, dancing, jogging, or any sport of your choice on a daily basis will help keep your brain fresh.
- Sleep: A good night’s sleep and power naps in between really helps in getting organized and sharpening the senses.
- Relaxation: Including activities such as yoga and meditation in your daily routine will help your mind, body, and soul to relax.
- Optimize your diet for healthy brain functioning: Keeping yourself hydrated, including green leafy veggies and proportionate macronutrients in your diet will keep up the optimal functioning of your brain.
Well, long working hours do affect the mind and our cognitive functions, and may lead to many chronic diseases. But if we take proper measures, all these can be avoided and we can lead a happy and stress-free life!