Brain Function: Compassion and Tips for the Overloaded Woman

Women want to know the magic cure to keep their minds going and going and going. But the truth is that all this going and going and going is why you feel like you're losing your mind.
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Do women fear they're losing their minds? Oh, yeah.

That's no surprise for most of us women. We experience it when we resist learning features on a new cell phone, overreact to a slow driver or forget the name of that awesome book we're reading.

We feel out of control, trying to herd together everything we're supposed to remember and do, so it doesn't drift "out of sight, out of mind." We worry that losing our minds is inevitable, from shifting hormones, aging, something we're doing (or not doing to the terror of being stalked by Alzheimer's, the mind eraser.

When I talk to women about my book, "Brain Fitness for Women," they want to know the magic cure that will keep their minds going and going and going ...

But the truth is: going and going and going is why you feel like you're losing your mind.

You are under insane stress from information overload. Sure, it's true for both men and women in much of the world. But women are also deluged with what I call expectation overload. Magazine covers exhort women to lose weight, get organized, cook smart, parent well, stay young and of course, become more fit and beautiful.

You don't realize how all this overload (both from information and expectations) affects your brain. Reactions include forgetting, being testy and difficulty learning -- the brain is staging protests and going on strike because it can't "do it all."

Compassion for the brain starts with knowing it's not just Alzheimer's, menopause or being stupid (or the fear of stupidity) that can lead the brain astray. Feeling compassion helps you see how much high levels of stress, living with toxins, sitting instead of moving, having too much technology and not enough nature impacts your brain. Compassion changes the usual mode of gritting your teeth and trying to live through it.

Instead of seeing the brain as failing to keep it all together, practice seeing the brain for the miracle it is: hundreds of trillions of synapses, alive, growing, vibrant and capable. That view gives you hope, because you can help the brain work better.

The brain reacts well when it's treated well -- good meals, movement, encouragement, times of stillness, learning and even playing may help. Imagine approaching your brain just as you romance someone you love -- nourishing dinners, walks, new adventures and just being by the fire. Your brain likes all of that.

Tips for the brain:

When you have compassion and hope about your brain, you'll want to keep it fit. Brain fitness tips suddenly make sense -- they are not just another OMG to-do. They're what you do because a happy brain makes your life more vibrant, more alive. Really, what we all want.

I'll be sharing brain-fitness tips and boosters in the next few posts. But you don't have to wait--here are a few:
  • When you wake up -- before you have breakfast -- drink a glass of water. Your liver releases extra glucose between 4 and 7 a.m., which is why you may not be hungry first thing. But your brain is thirsty and wants water, both in the morning and during the day.
  • Move more, it helps you learn. This is beyond the awesome benefits of exercise (I recommend half an hour a day, even in 10-minute chunks). Wiggle, stretch, stand at your desk, or pace the halls -- it all connects to and stimulates the brain.
  • Enjoy your chocolate. Flavanols, a naturally occurring nutrient in fresh cocoa, may be the source of brain-boosting power.

One other thing truly great for the brain is staying connected to others -- so I'd love it if you take a second and comment below, and let me know what you think ... and how you keep from losing your mind.

Sondra Kornblatt is a health and science writer, and author of four books on wellness (Conari Press). The most recent is "Brain Fitness for Women."

"... Solid science, great humor, and a completely accessible writing style that will keep you reading from beginning to end." -Christiane Northrup, M.D., ob/gyn physician and author of New York Times bestsellers on women's health.

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