How does your brain function help or hinder you?
In the world of business, there is a lot of everyday stress that can limit our abilities: deadlines, demanding clients, market changes, office politics. It all adds up. And it doesn’t just make us feel worse at work; it limits our mental abilities in all areas of life.
In the field of cognitive performance, we aim to help individuals to understand better how their brain works, and how reactions to stress and traumatic situations can impact their optimal brain function.
What is Cognitive Performance?
High cognitive performance or ‘peak brain performance’ is when you are using your brainpower to its full potential. Understanding how you think and process information, emotions, and memories enables you to have enhanced memory, processing speed, and better-quality decision-making.
This area of your brain that is responsible for our cognition is sometimes referred to as the ‘executive brain’ or ‘executive function’, and it enables higher-level thinking abilities such as:
- reasoning or problem solving
- mental manipulation of ideas
- thinking before acting
- managing novel information
- dealing with an unanticipated challenge
- inhibiting and resisting temptations
- staying focused during difficult tasks
On the flip side, when we are stressed or overloaded, our ability to call upon our working memory be hindered.
The good news is that the practice of cognitive performance allows you to stop negative rumination, meaning you can overcome worries, feelings of fear, anger, frustration, or overwhelm.
Expert research work performed in the field of neuroscience points to the tight relationship between working memory, our executive brain processes, and our thinking abilities.
One way to improve these abilities is by training people in brain-based coaching strategies and practicing mindfulness to reduce mental fatigue so they are more alert, creative and present.
Understanding the Executive Brain
Executive brain function is a set of mental skills that most people take for granted. It includes working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control.
These cognitive behaviors develop quickly in early childhood and continue into the teen years. Our prefrontal cortex – which is the reported center of our executive brain keeps developing into the mid-20s.
Most of us use these critical skills every day to learn, work, and manage our daily lives. However, when trauma or too much stress overwhelms us, we can have problems with executive brain function.
If you have ever had a very stressful day and noticed how hard it is to focus or make clear decisions, that is because your executive functions in your brain are becoming limited.
Those who suffer physical or mental trauma can sometimes have prolonged issues with their cognitive performance, which can make it hard for them to focus, follow directions, and handle emotions.
What Limits Our Cognitive Performance?
Not knowing how your brain works, the different parts, and the ways that the brain functions will impair your ability to improve your cognitive performance.
Although no two brains are the same, there are essential functions that can be better managed when we understand the brain.
Of course, the personal experiences of each person will affect how we address the demands of our surroundings. A better understanding of the brain’s systems can help us to adapt to situations and the changes we experience.
If we don’t understand how the brain works, and how to use it, this can lead to a lack of self-management skills. This can show up in several ways, including:
- Trouble starting or completing tasks
- Difficulty prioritizing tasks
- Forgetting what was just heard or read
- Have trouble following directions or a sequence of steps
- Panicking when rules or routines change
- Having trouble switching focus from one task to another
- Getting overly emotional or fixating on things
- Having trouble organizing their thoughts
- Having trouble keeping track of their belongings
- Having trouble managing their time
Typically, these kinds of behaviors due to habits reinforce our brain’s response of flight or fright mechanism, which activates our amygdala to triggering the release of chemical reaction, which makes you more easily stressed. Over time, we are not aware of our responses, and we become stuck, stressed, and overwhelmed.
How Can You Improve Cognitive Performance?
There are many brain tools and activities that can help to enhance your cognitive performance, both at work and in your personal life. Some common cognitive performance enhancers include:
- Physical Activity
- Being Open to New Experiences
- Creativity and Being Curious
- Strong Social Connections
- Mindfulness and Meditation
- Brain Training Games
- High-Quality Sleep
These types of practices will lead to more brain balance and enable better recovery from traumatic situations.
Working with a cognitive performance coach (sometimes called a NeuroCoach) can also be a great way to customize your approach and to enhance your abilities.
If you have experienced a trauma of any kind, it may be that your cognitive function is limited as a result. A cognitive performance coach can help you identify and move past these issues and gain better brain function.