One of the pitfalls of being out of work for an extended period is getting out of practice. Fail to use any skill for a while and you begin to lose your edge—whether it’s playing an instrument, performing surgery or programming a computer. Which is why it’s so important to keep your mind sharp and your skills well honed when looking for a job.
Your brain, like your body, can get flabby with disuse. So if you work on the beer gut, we’ll help with suggestions on how to avoid those mental “love handles.”
One of the fastest ways to lose touch with your industry is by not keeping up with current trends, news and trailblazing businesses and ideas. This is something you should do regardless of whether you’re working or not. Gone are the days when there were just one or two sources that served as the bible for all things related to your industry. Now there are numerous blogs, podcasts and other sources that cover a topic from every angle. Often they are entertaining and come to you in semi-real time. So you really have no excuse when it comes to staying knowledgeable.
But most importantly, it keeps the circuits in your brain well oiled and ticking along the same channels and at the same pace as before you were unemployed.
Stay In Touch
Another great way to stay in the game is by staying socially active. Studies have shown that social interaction with friends and colleagues keeps you healthy, both mentally and physically. Engaging in rigorous conversations regularly requires a level of mental dexterity that gets stronger the more you use it. And keeping in touch with industry colleagues will help you feel less like an outsider.
Learn New Skills
Put away those crossword puzzles and Sudoku. Contrary to popular belief, the way to strengthen your brain is not through brain games but through learning to play an instrument, speak a new language, or any other new skill that genuinely interests you. The goal is to use your brain in ways that it’s unaccustomed to being used.
The only caveat is that the better you become at a task, the less effort it takes for your brain to complete it. If you can perform a skill on autopilot, then it’s time to increase the challenge a bit.
Stay Physically Active
Study after study has shown that brain health is inextricably linked to physical fitness. After all, your brain is part of your body. So taking care of yourself through a healthy diet, regular exercise and adequate sleep will help keep your mind in excellent working order.
Aerobic exercise seems to be particularly beneficial to the brain. By strengthening blood circulation, exercise nourishes your brain with the nutrients and oxygen it needs to perform optimally. In a study done at the University of British Columbia, researchers found that regular aerobic exercise, the kind that makes you sweat and gets your heart pumping, appears to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain area involved in verbal memory, learning and other high level skills.
Additionally, physical exercise seems to counteract the damage that stress has on the brain by lowering insulin resistance and reducing inflammation.
So if you’re looking for a magic bullet that will help you stay sharp and healthy, exercise is the answer. Now, if only there were a magic bullet for getting you off the sofa and into the gym.