• Advice

Biohacks to help your brain do its best work

The 2020 crisis we all know as COVID-19 has split the world into before and after. Sudden and uncertain, it has messed up the contract for freelancers, especially those working with content creation; stresses and worries about what will happen to their business in the next few months discourage freelancers’ creativity, active brain work, and overall health.

And while most mental and physical health specialists advise taking it easy in times of crisis, freelancers understand that they need to work harder than ever to stay afloat.

Plus, as a freelancer, you know that your productivity and ability to deal with stresses and black swans like COVID-19 is a great chance to build a brand reputation for your freelance business, right?

The question is, how?

What freelancers need in a crisis is not simple hacks like "manage your time," "use more tools," or "organize your workplace better," but biohacks: practices you regularly apply to increase concentration, creativity, and organization, decreasing mood swings and procrastination at the same time. They fuel your brain’s productivity while keeping you healthy and sane.

So, here goes the list of biohacks (tried and tested) for freelancers willing to flourish their productivity and overall well-being.

1) Improve your attitude

Numerous studies have shown the positive influence of mental exercises on your brain's performance. These practices become true saviors for freelance writers who need to stay creative when choosing topics, innovative formats, language tricks, and relevant visual elements in their works.

First and foremost, try practicing gratitude, savoring (aka "living in a moment"), forgiveness, kindness, and social connection. According to studies, not only do exercises focused on these practices positively influence your health, they also make you more productive and improve your sense of well-being by 10%.

Try these practices for each:

  • Gratitude: Write thank-you letters to friends and relatives, keep a gratitude journal, visualize forgiveness, publish corresponding posts on your social media.
  • Savoring: Take part in a positive experience, realize why it makes you happy, and work on keeping it in your memory to remember later and experience those positive emotions again. (Savoring is an act of stepping out of your experience to review it and appreciate it while it's happening.)
  • Kindness: Practice doing something nice daily (donating, volunteering, giving a compliment, etc.).
  • Social connection: Communicate with friends online, greet the people you may see on the street (from a safe distance, of course!), and host or attend virtual events like happy hours, trivia nights, and workshops.

Then, try listening to music while writing. Though it doesn't work for all freelancers — some work best in complete silence — music has been proven to boost attention span and brainpower.

But the trick here is to listen to music with no lyrics, as lyrics reduce our mental performance at work. Instrumental music is what you need to boost your writing productivity.

There’s also the positive impact of meditation on self-control, productivity, and memory. Just five minutes of meditation daily can decrease stress but boost focus and attention.

2) Keep your body energetic and healthy

The everyday pressure of finding and keeping clients while delivering top-notch work can make freelancers stressed and immune-weak in the best of times. This state of being doubles the negative consequences on health during a crisis.

Physical activity not only benefits your health, it influences brain performance as well.

What works best are aerobic exercises, which are proven to positively influence creativity, concentration, memory, and stress tolerance.

Make it a habit to spend at least half an hour a day on activities such as:

  • Dancing
  • Stair climbing
  • Jogging
  • Walking (your creative output will increase by an average of 60%)

For the post-quarantine future, also consider swimming, squash, or tennis. These activities work well for brain performance too.

And try creating a standing desk for yourself as you work from home. More and more specialists, including the top companies like Google and Facebook, choose standing desks for their workspaces because they are good for health and can increase your writing productivity. (Say no to back pain and poor blood circulation!) At home, try setting up your laptop on a kitchen counter to find the right height.

3) Change your nutrition habits

This one’s challenging, especially in a crisis, when your brain is experiencing anxiety and uncertainty. In fact, many people give up healthy nutrition habits while on quarantine, eating more food to satisfy a physiological need for "happy hormones" that briefly counter bad moods and stress.

Don't allow yourself to fall into this trap! Optimizing your grocery list and nutrition habits can help to boost your immunity and productivity long-term, vs. the short-term boost you get from a potato chip binge.

Try the following:

  • Exclude sugar, saturated fats, refined flour, and fried food from your diet.
  • Include products that are tried and tested to improve your cognitive function. Try dark chocolate (a powerful antioxidant that enhances focus and helps produce endorphins), salmon (rich in omega-3 fatty acids for better brain function), or blueberries (protects brains from stress and improves our learning capacity).
  • Try a perfect morning coffee: It enhances cognitive function, boosts energy, and increases memory. Plus, healthy fats from the butter and oil in the recipe give you a mental boost. For those who don't like coffee, tea is excellent, too: it affects your focus, mental clarity, and brain activity.

4) Take care of your sleep hygiene

As a freelancer, you often struggle with the temptation to give up some sleep hours for more projects to complete. This is an even more significant problem during this crisis, when you want to work harder than ever to stay afloat.

On the other side of the coin, you may be suffering from sleep disorders due to daily bad news, pseudo panic on social media, fear of the unknown, etc. Whatever the case, sleep deprivation does nothing good for your health or productivity.

To help your brain and body get enough rest, you not only need to sleep between 7 and 9 hours per night, but also make sure this sleep is healthy. Here’s how:

  • Make your bedroom 100% dark when you sleep. Light prevents melatonin secretion (a hormone that helps you fall asleep), therefore lowering your sleep quality. Use blackout curtains or try a sleep mask.
  • Avoid blue light from TV, computers, and mobile phones for 3-4 hours before sleep. In 2020, it seems impossible to do; but do your best to spend at least one gadget-free hour before going to bed. Or try blue light glasses to minimize its effects.
  • Organize and stick to your sleep schedule. Consider apps to track your circadian rhythms and help you understand what time is perfect for you to take some rest.
  • Keep your bedroom cold and humid. Body temperature naturally drops while sleeping, so help it jumpstart this process with a cool room (64-67 Fahrenheit works best).

Final Thoughts

As a freelancer, you've already developed the skill of adaptability. Even before all this pandemic stuff, you often worked from home, dealing with problematic clients, financial risks, strict deadlines, and last-minute requests.

And sure enough, you've put these strengths to practice during the current pandemic.

Now it’s time to work on empowering your mental and physical condition for more productive work and stress relief.

Making positive lifestyle changes with these tested biohacks can not only influence your freelance productivity, it can give you energy, inspiration, and creative ideas to drive your career forward.

Lesley Vos Lesley Vos is a ghost hiding behind posts on writing craft, content, and digital marketing. She builds web texts, writes for edu websites, and polishes her writing skills.