mobile menu link

5 Ways to Fight Brain Drain

Get your head in the game by managing cognitive load
author picture

Your brain is an incredibly complex organ. It’s responsible for what you think about, what you remember, and what you feel–both physically and emotionally. It’s the commander of what you see, hear and say, and it controls the countless other processes that take place in your body every day.

And it’s hungry.

Despite only accounting for around 2% of your body weight, it consumes approximately 20% of the energy your entire body uses each day, even while at rest. It’s powered by a constant but limited energy source. This means that you can be left feeling depleted and mentally overloaded if the energy it requires exceeds the energy it receives.

Master Instructors Rich Scrivener and Sascha Mueller focus on the details.

When everything is new, everything is demanding

Have you ever been driving your car and missed taking an exit because you were talking to someone? Or had to turn the music down while reverse parallel parking? These are great examples of the way that the high energy demand, or ‘cognitive load’, of a task forces us to select what we pay attention to.

Information processing, known as neuronal computation, is tiring work. With only a limited energy supply available, the amount of information processing that can be done is restricted. Your brain can’t simply turn up the dial on how much energy is produced so more work has to be done with the same amount of fuel.

Learning to manage the load

Extreme upheaval has been a constant theme through 2021. Some people have welcomed the change as a time to shift focus–they’ve read countless books, studied, taken up a new hobby, or launched a business (or three). For others, lofty goals have been set aside in favor of simply making it through the day-to-day uncertainty.

If you’re ready to get focused, learn a new skill or tackle a work project, here are five ways you can set your brain up for success.

1. Break things down into chunks

Rather than trying to master an entire skill or concept in one go, find and absorb the most fundamental component first. Once you can perform something efficiently, your brain doesn’t require as much energy for information processing so only add layers of complexity as you feel ready.

2. Turn decisions into habits

Reduce the number of decisions you need to make each day by creating habits and schedules. The less you have to think about what to eat for breakfast or what time of day you might exercise, the more energy you’ll have at your disposal for your goals.

3. Remove all unnecessary demands on your attention

Excessive sensory input can provide too much for your brain to focus on. Reduce noise such as people talking or loud music, visual distractions, or anything that pulls your attention away from your key point of focus.

4. Protect the duration and quality of your sleep

Sleep is crucial for managing cognitive load as it facilitates the removal of the waste product that builds up in your brain throughout the day. Naps don’t have the same positive effects on waste removal so aim to get 7–9 hours of sleep each night.

Master Instructor Andrew “Chaddy” Chadwick knows the importance of quality rest.

5. Create time for meditation, mindfulness or breathing exercises

Stress, anxiety and other negative emotional states are highly taxing on your working memory, which is a key area of the brain for learning and skill development. Regular mindfulness breaks can help clear your mind and prevent cognitive overload.

A fresh-feeling, clear-thinking brain is a valuable addition to your Animal Flow practice. By freeing it up from unnecessary stress and stimulus, you’ll be amazed at how ready you’ll feel to accelerate your skills.

If you’re ready to learn a new skill while training your body and your brain, become an Animal Flow On Demand subscriber. You’ll be guided through full length classes, movement tutorials and more by program creator, Mike Fitch, and Master Instructors from around the world–all while working out at home.