One of my favorite passions is learning more about the brain and how it works, both to stay healthier and to create more joy and happiness in my life. Particularly as we travel through the journey of aging in the third chapter of life, we are faced with uncertainty and this alone can lead to feeling stressed.
I remember when I had been caring for my mom for about six months in my own home and her health suddenly deteriorated so rapidly that she became completely bedridden. Despite being rather experienced as a professional caregiver, demands quickly began to exceed the resources I currently had in place. I was so caught up in the overwhelm of this sudden change of circumstances and what it meant for her and for myself and my family, two months passed before I even realized that I had to mobilize more help and reach out to others in a big way.
I look back on it now and still wonder what took me so long. Accepting the loss of what was and coming to grips with what is can make you feel like you are going crazy and you strangely wait for things to return to normal, even if it is very evident that that is not going to happen. Dr. Daniel Amen, author of Use Your Brain To Change Your Age explains, “It will comfort you to know that you are not going crazy; but your deep limbic system, where your emotions of connection and bonding are stored, is going through withdrawal from the person you love as bad as that of any drug withdrawal.”
Practicing good self-care and brain care when your stress or feelings of loss are escalating, is the one decision that will help you cope better with all the other choices and adjustments you must make during a difficult time. 1) Eat well. Fruits and veggies reduce inflammation that lead to more pain and illness. A high protein shake can come to your rescue to increase the de-stressing hormones of norepinephrine and dopamine in your brain. 2) Take Omega-3’s, Vitamin D and a multi-vitamin daily 3) Just say NO to negative self-talk 4) Cry: Did you know that tears of sorrow have been shown to have toxins in them, whereas tears of happiness do not? Just let the grief waves flow to wash some of the pain out of your brain and body. 6) Set goals. Having a specific goal is critical for positive brain function. After that good cry, do something that soothes you and offers you a little bit of joy. 7) Learn something new that is nourishing to your soul. 8) Hydrate. Water is crucial for brain function and to remove toxins from the immune cells and reduce the possibility of infections when under stress.
One of the best steps you can take is to write daily in a gratitude journal. It is hard to really feel grateful for the good things that you have in your life and feel negative or stressed at the same time.
Marjorie Horne is the host of Engaging in Aging on AM1150, Sundays at 9am and owner of Caresmart Seniors Consulting..
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