I recently read an instagram post by a mom blogger who had an embarrassing snafu due to mixing up dates that made me cringe and relate to her situation. She accidentally took her family on a spring break vacation, during the wrong week. While they were enjoying their time in a beautiful cabin in the woods, she received an unexpected email from the school asking why her son had been absent the past few days.
Can you imagine? I had to laugh and share her embarrassment because I’ve had those moments to varying degrees! Have you?
You’ve heard of mom brain, right? We’re familiar with it as a phenomenon that starts at pregnancy – of being forgetful and absent-minded due to sleep deprivation and a flood of new responsibilities, surging hormones. As a mom of a kindergartener and a toddler I’m well acquainted with mom brain.
Earlier in my parenting years, I’ve had my own humbling experiences. I left my car door open on multiple occasions in our apartment garage while handling two car seats and trying to keep a baby asleep during a transfer to the stroller. I’ve had neighbors and doormen call me to alert me of suspicious activity around my car – the culprit being, me! And now, I find myself combating mental exhaustion with older children and demands at work.
As women with families, careers, relationships, homes to maintain and nurture we have a lot going on. Our brains are always fired up making decisions each moment of the day – from the mundane to big life decisions. We need our brains in tip-top shape to make sound decisions and keep us sharp, creative and resilient for what life has in store for us.
We often forget about this important organ because we can’t see it, but our brain uses up to 25% of calories we consume. It needs a lot of good fuel!
In a recent lecture by Daniel Amen, a leading researcher on brain health and imaging I picked up a few simple tips to maintain brain health that I wanted to share. These are simple back-to-basics tips that I try to keep in mind for myself everyday.
# BRAIN FOOD – Did you ever notice Walnuts are shaped like brains? Coincidentally they are a powerful source of fuel for our brain shown to support increased processing time and cognitive flexibility. Make your own trail mix with walnuts and dried fruit as a snack. I add toasted walnuts to my morning oatmeal. Yum! Blueberries have been shown to improve neurological function to those with cognitive impairment. They make great toppings for yogurt or combined in smoothies!
# SLEEP – Rest your brain. When we are in deep sleep, waste and toxins are cleared out from our brain. This is when memory consolidation also occurs which allows for storage of new information. One way to get wind down for a good sleep is to stop screen time at least 30 minutes before bed. The blue light from our devices can interfere with our body’s natural rhythm. If you have a newborn and in that season of motherhood where any kind of rest is hard to come by, focus on getting as much support to sleep and rest your body. I know, its hard but for the thousanth time, nap when the baby naps.
# GROWTH MINDSET, LEARN SOMETHING NEW – Just because you’re out of school doesn’t mean you’re done learning. Having a growth mindset not only makes you happier but is an indicator of longevity. Learning a new skill and having new experiences can literally change your brain and form new connections between brain cells. Having kids is a great opportunity to take advantage of their curiosity and learning right along with them. How often have you been asked a question you don’t know the answer to? Explore with your kids. Take up a hobby you’ve always wanted to try!
# MOVEMENT – Increase blood flow to the brain to ensure oxygen is being delivered to it. This doesn’t have to mean hitting the gym everyday. Incorporate movement you enjoy in your life – walking outside, dancing with your kids, yoga at home. Keep it simple and don’t forget to take breaks from your desk if you work at an office.
#GET SOCIAL! – You know I don’t mean social media. We are social beings and need human interaction – even if you’re an introvert. And women especially are wired for connection and socialization. This might seem like a nice afterthought to hang out with friends and make plans to meet up in a social setting, but studies show that those with the most social interaction experience the slowest rate of memory decline. Don’t let your responsibilities as a parent or career driven professional get in the way of nurturing your personal relationships and keeping them strong – schedule a playdate for yourself and a friend!
Did you notice these tips aren’t only about food? While you are what you eat, that’s not the full picture – lifestyle choices are just as important for nourishing your body. This is how I work with clients as a health coach – we look at the whole picture to bring better balance to areas that might need some shifting and it has a domino affect.
Which of these tips are you inspired to take action on? Small steps can lead to big changes so don’t just read about it, take a small action this week to give some love to your brain.
P.S. If you’re interested in hearing more about brain health, I recently listened to a great interview with a neuroscientist who talked about this topic in a down-to-earth fashion on “The One Part Podcast”. Check it out!