How Do You Care For Your Brain During Stressful Times?
Times are stressful. When the pandemic hit, many people started to look at the health of their lungs, heart, and immune system. The reality is that there is no better time to look at and improve your health than right now! However, most people have failed to think of their brain health during this time.
How does a pandemic affect our brains? How can we protect our minds against damage? What are some things we can do to protect our mental and cognitive health?
It has been known for a long time that one’s mental health suffers in times of high stress. Mental health issues are no surprise since the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a spike in anxiety and depression. Over 34% of Americans are now experiencing these symptoms, according to a survey from May 2020! There is already an epidemic of mental illness globally, and now the pandemic is causing it to spike even more.
We also know that when we are under stress, our thinking can be compromised. When we have high-stress levels over long periods, it can damage our brains and cause us to make bad choices.
But do not fret! The good news is that we can improve our brain health! If we take a few easy steps to improve our brain health, we may lower our risk of damage and reduce our chances of developing long-term health issues.
Why Have a Healthy Brain?
We ultimately want a healthy and resilient brain. Resiliency allows us to handle a variety of different stresses and challenges and still be strong. This helps us to make good choices under pressure and fight off symptoms of anxiety and depression. Food is one of the best ways to build a brain that can do this.
To create a healthy and resilient brain, we have to look at ways to increase our defenses against environmental challenges. Our brains are mostly made up of fats. Omega 3 fatty acids are an essential part of your brain because they may help fight oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is increased when we are under a lot of psychological strain like we are during the pandemic. Omega 3 fatty acids are found in foods such as mackerel, sardines, salmon, and anchovies. You can also use a high-quality supplement like this one.
Another great option is polyphenols. These are natural chemicals made by plants. Polyphenols are thought to help protect our brain against toxins. Foods that are high in polyphenols include berries, grapes, green tea, and dark chocolate. You can also supplement to make sure you are getting enough.
The last thing that makes a big difference is to reduce or eliminate processed foods. Anything with added sugars or refined carbohydrates degrades our brain.
Neurofeedback For Brain Health
Neurofeedback addresses problems with brain dysregulation, which happen to be numerous. If you think about it, the brain and central nervous system work together to control and coordinate EVERYTHING in our bodies. Neurofeedback works by balancing the brain into a more appropriate brain wave pattern.
As previously mentioned, during and after a pandemic, it is shown that levels of depression and anxiety skyrocket. These are unhealthy brainwave patterns. Luckily, neurofeedback helps balance unhealthy brainwave patterns into healthy habits, reducing or eliminating feelings of depression and anxiety. This is a great drug-free option for those who are suffering. Neurofeedback helps reduce stress in the brain and gives you a better sense of calm and focus.
A little stress is good, but high and chronic levels damage our health- physically and mentally. De-stressing is easier said than done, but here are a few things you can do to protect your body and brain against stress. These are great anytime, but especially during a pandemic.
First, take a look at your schedule and how you are spending your time. Cut out as many unnecessary times of stress as possible. Think about the activities you give your time to and how they make you feel. For many people, much of the psychological stress they experience comes from watching the news. While it is great to be informed, ask yourself if it is worth the stress your body goes through and the fear generated? Unfortunately, a lot of what is aired on television has been designed to create fear and anxiety in our brains. This fear causes a stress response within us, overflowing our bodies with cortisol and other chemicals that degrade our brain health. If you don’t feel like you can eliminate this, try to reduce your time watching the news or setting a time limit.
Another great tactic is to use ways that help decrease stress. Reducing stress might be different for each person, but some great things to try are meditation, mindfulness, or walking in nature. Moderate exercise also works well for some people. The best way to start is to pick a method and try it for a few days and pay attention to how you feel. Then, try another approach and compare and pay attention to how you feel. Try taking some deep breaths throughout the day.
Necessary Maintenance For A Healthy Brain
Our brains do a lot of work and, therefore, require a lot of energy. Because of all the work that the brain does, it has a lot of metabolic waste. It is essential to clear this waste out of the body, and there are a couple of good ways to do this, besides doing an actual detox.
The first way to help the brain get rid of metabolic waste is to exercise. Everyone knows that exercise is good for general body health, but it is helpful for brain health. Blood flow and oxygen are increased in parts of the brain during intense physical activity. One area that appears to benefit is the prefrontal cortex. This brain area is critical to good decision-making and plays a central role in mental health.
BDNF or brain-derived neurotrophic factor, has been shown to increase during exercise. BDNF is a protein that helps the brain learn and adapt to different environments. As a goal, try to get a 30-minute workout of moderate intensity each day.
Many people struggle with getting the right amount of sleep or high-quality sleep. This is very important for brain health. Poor sleep has been linked to many health issues, such as cardiovascular disease and poor immune function. Poor sleep also puts you at increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease as well as mental health issues.
Getting the right amount of high-quality sleep is one of the easiest ways to improve your wellbeing. Rest is a time for your brain to detox and reset, help you make better decisions, improve mental health, and provide psychological strength to help with the stressors in life. It is not always easy to get good, high-quality sleep, but here are some tips to help you:
- Eliminate caffeine after 12 pm
- Reduce blue light exposure (especially screens) one hour before going to bed
- Take a hot bath or shower before bed
- Read something relaxing
- Keep your cell phone outside your bedroom
- Turn your room temperature to 65-70 degrees during the night
Keeping a healthy brain is an everyday challenge, and the challenge increases during a pandemic. However, you have many options that will help your brain’s health, including eating healthy, getting adequate sleep, neurofeedback, exercise, and stress reduction. If you are concerned about your brain’s health or someone you know, please give us a call at 303-794-1737.