As music teachers, it can be easy to think that there is not enough coffee on the planet to get us through some of our craziest days! It seems like a normal thing to have sudden fatigue, an afternoon energy slump, or an inability to focus or concentrate throughout the day. This is called “brain fog” or “brain fatigue.”
It’s from our lifestyle, isn’t it? We just have so much going on that of course it’s going to sap our energy, focus, and concentration, right?
Well, not exactly.
You see, our bodies have a natural ability to heal from added stress and anxiety. We have the “medicine” already available in our bodies to be able to help us deal with stress…but only when it’s not being poisoned by certain foods and toxins in our atmosphere.
This starts with our gut health…our second brain. Which is directly connected to our actual brain in SO many ways.
To heal the brain, one must start healing the gut.
Sometimes we can feel like we’re eating as healthy as possible, exercising daily, getting 8 hours of sleep a night, but we’re still exhausted and have that mental fatigue or brain fog. If this is you, chances are you have what is called “leaky gut.” (Click here to learn more about that from the experts.)
When we do finally get our gut and brain health in check, we’re able to make better executive decisions. Like choosing a healthy meal over fast food after a stressful day. We are less apt to be cranky and irritable to our students and loved ones. And our lives are just overall better because of it!
Below are a few ways you can improve your gut/brain health and start getting rid of that ugly brain fog!
**Disclaimer: I’m not an expert. I’m simply here to give you some ideas and resources to start combating your daily mental fatigue/brain fog.
Inflammation can wreak havoc on your body in ways that you probably don’t even realize. Even if you have been eating what you might think as “healthy”, certain foods might cause an inflammatory response in your body that wouldn’t necessarily in others.
Try reducing or eliminating the following foods for 2-3 weeks and see how it makes you feel. If you don’t already eat a lot of these foods, this should be easy for you. If you do eat a lot, try slowly taking out one item at a time.
Contrary to inflammatory foods, there are foods that will help REDUCE inflammation by eating more of them. Notice that they are mostly healthy fats. This can be difficult for a lot of people to wrap their mind around because we have been told for decades now that eating low fat is healthy…it’s not and that has NEVER been proven scientifically!
Our brains are made up of 50% fat which mostly comes from the fat that we eat. If we are eating processed junk fats (like vegetable oils or fried foods), we block our brains ability to do what it needs to do. By adding more of these healthy fats in your diet, you’ll notice you have more energy, you’ll feel fuller longer, you’ll have less cravings, and that brain fog will go away!
For some people, it will be unusual to be eating this much fat so start by slowly adding little bits to each meal. Maybe a spoon full of coconut oil blended in your coffee instead of creamer. Add some grass fed butter or ghee to your steamed vegetables. Make some fat bombs to have a quick pick-me-up in between lessons or classes or an avocado in your smoothie instead of a banana.
Experiment a little bit to see what works for you and to test how you feel. Check the ingredients in all of your foods and see where some of the inflammatory foods are sneaking in. You’ll be amazed at how you feel!
3. Get more QUALITY sleep.
Do you ever feel like no matter how much sleep you get, you still wake up tired??
This is most likely because the QUALITY of your sleep is poor. You may have no trouble falling asleep (or maybe you do) but your brain and body may not be able to get the rest they need in order to recover from your long crazy days.
Experiment with some of these steps to improve the quality of sleep. It’s also really important that you find out what your chronotype is by going to ThePowerOfWhenQuiz.com. This 45 second quiz will give you insight into your sleeping (and wake) habits that might just change your life. (I also recommend that you read the book “The Power Of When” by Dr. Michael Breus.)
- No caffeine after noon! Most music teachers drink the nectar of the gods all day… You’ll find that when you change your eating habits, you may not need quite as much caffeine. However coffee and caffeine have some great brain benefits to them. Just be sure to stop drinking at noon time or at least 8 hours before bed time. You may not have trouble FALLING asleep but your sleep quality will not be great as your body won’t be able to truly rest and recover.
- Set a bedtime: This can be difficult as a music teacher…there are some days we get home right after school and some days we don’t get home until 11. Just do your best and figure out what time you will need to go to bed to get the adequate sleep for your chronotype and wake up at the right time in the morning. (Use a reminder on your phone or the “bedtime” setting on your iPhone!)
- Have a power down hour. Once your bedtime is set, have at least one hour before you go to bed to power down. This means no TV, Phone, Computer, iPad etc… The blue lights (and any lights really) from those screens tell your brain it’s time to wake up. This inhibits your body’s ability to produce melatonin…the sleep hormone. Instead of noodling on your phone, get a book (or a kindle that doesn’t have back light) and settle down for a while.
- Limit light exposure. There are specific light bulbs you can use that will help you get to sleep OR you can just use old fashioned candle light. This is a natural light source that will help your body know that it’s time to sleep.
- Take a hot shower/bath. During your power down hour, use the time to settle down and take a hot bath or shower. This rise in body temperature helps your body know it’s time to sleep.
- Put your phone on airplane mode. This will not only keep the radio frequencies from affecting your body while you sleep, but you’ll be less temped by notifications on your phone while you’re trying to get to sleep.
- Turn off your wireless router. This also affects your body while you’re sleeping!
- Do some relaxing yoga/sleep meditation. I love the “Calm” app to use for sleep meditations or sleep stories. Check it out! Certain yoga poses also induce sleep in the body.
- Tea with raw honey. Having some peppermint, chamomile, or sleepytime tea (my favorite is Get Some Zzz’s) will help your body relax. The honey helps improve the quality of your sleep. Even better, try a Sleepy Time Brain Tea Latte! Blend some honey and brain octane (or MCT) oil with your favorite sleepy tea to combat nighttime cravings and sweet tooth and help you sleep!
4. Reduce Stress.
You’re probably laughing at me now because, well… music teachers are usually pretty stressed! Stress doesn’t always have to be bad though. Stress can be when you get excited/anxious/nervous for anything. Most of us don’t really mind our busy schedule, regardless of the stress. We wouldn’t have chosen this life if we did mind!
Amazingly enough, our bodies have a natural ability to relieve stress, though. Following the first 3 steps on this post will definitely help your body deal but here are a few more things you can do to reduce stress.
- Exercise. Listen to your body though..sometimes this can just mean adding a little more movement to your day. Try taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking far away, or going for walks during your prep/plan time at school
- Say no. This one is tough for some people–especially music teachers! We want to please everyone and do everything we can to make our music programs better. But sometimes you simply have to say no. Give up something. Take away those things that are not filling you up. The world won’t end if you do this. You have to take care of you first!
- Meditate. Meditation has AMAZING brain health benefits. Google it! (Use the “Calm” or “Headspace” apps)
- Get a massage. Okay, I haven’t even tried this yet but I know it’s a worthy investment.
- Be present, slow down. Our lives can be crazy and hectic. Set reminders on your phone to remind you to stop, breathe, be present, and be grateful! You have SO MUCH to be grateful for!
- Breathe. Simple breathing exercises can help your body deal with stress and anxiety. Again…google it.
5. Be resourceful. Do your research!
If you’re stressed and your life seems like it’s just flying by around you and you don’t even know what to do with yourself. LOOK IT UP!
Seriously people we live in the 21st century. There’s an app, website, blog post for everything.
Do your research. Find the science behind WHY you are the way you are. How you can get to where you want to go. Read or listen to books and podcasts. Look up scientific articles.
Figure out what works best for you!!
Here are some resources I’ve used to put this post together:
- The Chalene Show (podcast)
- BulletProof Radio (podcast)
- The Bulletproof Diet & Head Strong books by Dave Asprey
- Fat For Fuel by Dr. Mercola
If you find any more great resources on any of these topics, message me on facebook! m.me/MandaHowland
Thanks so much for checking out my blog post! If there is any topic you’d like me to post about, send me a message or an email [email protected]
If you’d like me to personally mentor you in your health and fitness journey in one of our 30 day #MusicTeacherStrong challenges, be sure to go to MandaHowland.com/challenge-group-sign-up or send me a message/email and let me know about your biggest struggle when it comes to health and fitness!