Tag Archive: stress

  1. What is Brain Fog?

    Leave a Comment

    Your mind may feel like the fog has just rolled in, and you wonder if it will ever roll out again.  Do you ever feel like a word is on the tip of your tongue?   Or perhaps you walk into rooms and can’t recall what you were there for.   Imagine if these symptoms persisted over weeks or even months.  Brain fog refers to feelings of mental confusion or a lack of mental sharpness.

    Symptoms of Brain Fog

    *  Forgetfulness
    *  Feeling detached or depressed
    *  Mild difficulty with word finding
    *  Processing information more slowly

    Brain fog is not considered a formal diagnosis because testing is not clearly defined.  Women may complain of these symptoms during menopause, particularly during the peri-menopausal period.   Periodic changes in cognitive skills for women are believed to be related to hormonal fluctuations that occur during pregnancy, shortly after childbirth and during menopause.

    There are also other causes for brain fog, or the mild cognitive decline, that frustrate so many people during periods of their adulthood.  Brain fog may lower self-esteem and can sometimes lead to depression if not properly addressed.

    10 Causes of Brain Fog      

    *   Exposure to toxic metals
    *   A copper imbalance in the blood – birth control pills can make this condition worse
    *   Dehydration
    *   Food Allergies or Poor Nutrition
    *   Hypoglycemia
    *   Thyroid imbalance
    *   Poor diet
    *   Stress
    *   Artificial sweeteners
    *   Fibromyalgia

    If symptoms of brain fog persist, be sure to consult with your physician to rule out potentially treatable causes of brain fog.   Talk with a friend or family member about your symptoms and frustrations – this can put your mind at ease and allow you an outlet to vent.   Finally, challenge your brain in new ways each day.  Simple activities like crosswords, brain games, physical exercise and music can help energize your mind and ease your symptoms.

  2. Fixing Your Sugary Brain

    Leave a Comment

    If you’ve ever ordered dessert when you’re already full, or reached for a pint of ice cream when you’re stressed, you’ve experienced emotional eating. Emotional eating is attempting to use food to boost your mood or feel better.

    And using food occasionally as a pick me up, a reward, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, when eating is your main emotional coping mechanism—when your first impulse is to rip open a bag of Oreos whenever you’re upset, or stressed, or bored—you get stuck in an awful pattern that’s bad for both your brain and your body.

    Not sure if you are an emotional eater? Answer these questions to discover if you may have a problem.

    Emotional Eater Checklist

    *Do you always eat more when you’re feeling stressed?

    *Do you reward yourself with food?

    *Does food feel like a friend?

    *Do you feel powerless or out of control around food?

    Taking Steps to Break the Cycle

    Identify Your Triggers. The first step in putting a stop to emotional eating is identifying your personal triggers. What situations, places, or feelings make you reach for sugary comfort foods? Keep an emotional eating diary. Make note of events or feelings that are happening when you reach for a sugar fix.

    Feed Your Emotions in Other Ways. If you’re feeling down, call someone who lifts your spirits. If you’re anxious, take a walk to burn some of that nervous energy. If you’re exhausted, treat yourself with a hot cup of coffee or tea. If you’re bored, change tasks or read something inspiring.

    Choose a Healthy Lifestyle. Invest in yourself. When you’re physically strong, relaxed, and well rested, you’re better able to handle the curveballs that life inevitably throws your way. Exercise, sleep, and other healthy lifestyle habits will help you get through difficult times without emotional eating.

  3. 10 Tips to Improve Your Memory

    Leave a Comment

    Walk into a room and forget why you came?  Can’t recall the name of the new neighbor you just met yesterday?  You are not alone. We all forget things from time to time. Yet, memory loss can be a more serious condition.  While there is not an iron-clad solution to prevent memory loss or dementia, there are a number of brain fitness tips to reduce our risk and improve our memory function.  Try these ten simple tips to boost your memory.   Talk with your doctor when you feel you need help.

    No. 1: Exercise your body

    Physical exercise is still the number one thing you can do for your brain.  When we exercise, oxygen and blood flow to the brain increase which helps to support improvements in short-term memory function and retrieval of information.  Aim to break a sweat every day.

    No. 2: Exercise your mind

    Cross-training is the best way to improve memory function. On Monday, dive into a new book.  On Tuesday, play 15 minutes of brain games.  Try Making Curfew on BrainSpade.com to challenge your visual memory skills.  Continue to tackle new challenges for the remainder of the week – card games, board games, or even trying a new recipe are all part of keeping your memory fit.

    No. 3: Keep it Social

    Maintaining social relationships helps to reduce stress levels and depression, both of which are major contributors to memory decline. Make plans to spend time with friends and family.

    No. 4: De-Clutter

    Forgetting things can be more of a problem if your home is in disarray. Organize papers and throw away things that aren’t needed.  Get in the habit of putting your keys and other important items in the same place each day.

    No. 5: Stop Multi-Tasking

    Resist the urge of tackling multiple tasks at once.  Multi-tasking elevates stress which can hinder memory function. Divide your day into chunks and concentrate for periods of time before stopping to do other things.

    No. 6: Turn Up the Music

    Studies show that listening to music can improve our ability to recall information.  Choose music that lifts your spirits and add that into the mix when you are exercising, cleaning, or working on something familiar.

    No. 7: Eat Your Veggies

    A diet rich in dark-green leafy vegetables is essential for keeping your memory strong.  Find creative ways to add more greens to your diet.  Look for green smoothie recipes as a start.  Dr. Oz has an excellent spinach smoothie which is actually quite tasty: Dr. Oz’s Green Drink.

    No. 8: Spice Things Up

    Countries like India that incorporate a variety of spices into their daily diet, show a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s and other dementia related illnesses.  Look for new recipes and menu options that incorporate spices like cumin, cinnamon and ginger into your diet.

    No. 9: Drink Up

    Are you staying fully hydrated?  Our brain is made up of 75% water.  By the time you feel thirsty, you are already a bit dehydrated.   If you don’t enjoy drinking water consider dropping in fresh lemon, basil or cucumber.  Herbal tea is a great option too.

    No. 10: BrainSpade.com

    We would be remiss if we didn’t share that our team of clinicians are hard at work developing new brain exercises and brain teasers to keep your mind sharp, challenge your memory, and boost your spirit. Remember to make Brain Games part of your daily routine.

  4. 12 Steps to Better Sleep

    Leave a Comment

    Falling asleep might seem like an impossible dream when you’re awake at 2 a.m., but deep sleep may be within your reach. Following these healthy sleep habits can put you on the right track. Researchers have identified a variety of “sleep hygiene” techniques that can help anyone maximize the hours they spend sleeping, even those whose suffer from insomnia.

    1.  Avoid exercising in the evening.

    2.  Eat a lighter evening meal and avoid snacking before bed.

    3.  Turn off all electronics a full hour before sleep.

    4.  Take a warm shower or bath.

    5.  Turn the temperature in your bedroom. Cooler temperatures are help to improve your breathing and encourage deeper sleep.

    6.  Invest in the perfect pillow.

    7.  Make your room very dark.

    8.  Ban the blue lights in the bedroom. Insomnia feeds on the soft blue glow from a cell phone, PDA, or digital clock resting on your bedside table.

    9.  Jot down any worries or concerns you have and save them for the next day.

    10.  Block the clock. Don’t watch the time in the middle of the night.

    11.  When you wake in the morning, let the natural light into your room.

    12.  Aim for getting at least 20 minutes of sunlight every day.

    Getting a good night’s sleep is essential to good health. Study after study has found a link between insufficient sleep and a number of serious health problems including heart disease, heart attacks, diabetes, and obesity.

  5. 9 Tips for Training Your Brain Today

    Leave a Comment

    While nothing has been shown to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, there is abundant research showing we can delay the onset of mental decline by building a brain-healthy lifestyle.  Here are some tips to training your brain today.

    1.  Sleep. Sleep defragments your brain and organizes information you’ve learned during the day.

    2.  Focus. Quit the multi-tasking. It not only lowers your productivity but it may increase your risk for dementia when you are older.

    3.  Exercise in small bursts. Take the stairs. Walk the block. Try a tango class. Exercise is still the number one thing you can do for your brain.

    4.  Play games. Games are good for your brain and variety is key. When you tackle new problems, you form new neural pathways.

    5.  Meditate. No tie-dye T-shirt required. Clear your mind and focus on positive things.

    6.  Make time for fun. Laughter enhances creativity and lowers stress. Your brain thrives on fun.

    7.  Drink more fluids. By the time you feel thirsty, you are already slightly dehydrated.

    8.  Target your working memory. Make a point to push yourself to store details quickly. Work on names and faces to start.

    9.  Be aware that your brain makes mistakes. When solving a problem, ask yourself what the big picture really looks like. Are you afraid of change? Experiment more.

  6. Games for the Brain – 10 Good Reasons to Play

    Leave a Comment

    Games for the brain sound like a good idea. But are they really or are they just a waste of time?  In the news, we hear a lot about the negative impacts of children playing too many video games, so why would games for the brain be good for adults.  Everything in moderation of course, but read on to discover 10 reasons to incorporate brain games into your daily workout routine:

    1)    Mental exercise – Brain games challenge our language, math and problem-solving skills in ways that we may not otherwise find in our daily routine.

    2)    Change is good for the brain – Exposing your brain to a variety of cognitive tasks including online games for the brain can help support neuron growth in the brain.  Novel exercises are key, so change up your crossword puzzle and opt for a math game like Double Digits a couple days a week.

    3)    Hand eye coordination – Studies show that surgeons who played games for the brain a few hours a week had improved accuracy and efficiency during surgery.

    4)    Stress Relief – Taking a short break to tackle a fun challenge can help you relax and provide a brief distraction from your current frustrations.

    5)    Pure Fun – Breaking away from your daily work to have fun is both good for your brain and offers you something to look forward to.  Use game time as a reward for completing your current task.

    6)    Verbal Skills – Language based brain games help keep your vocabulary strong.  Games for the brain that encourage word finding are particularly beneficial.  Try Picking Apples to exercise your language skills.

    7)    Creativity – Some brain games help stimulate right-brain thinking.  Look for games for the brain that include open-ended problem solving activities.  Think outside the box to solve problem.   At BrainSpade.com, one of our favorites is Me and the Key – give it a try.

    8)    Socialization – Not all games for the brain need to be played on the computer.  Find a friend and get out a deck of cards or the Scrabble board.  Enjoy socializing while you play.

    9)    Memory Skills – Research shows that short-term memory skills can be improved by playing games for the brain.  Short-term memory skills can fade without stimulation as we age.  Practice holding new information in your mind and recalling it back.  Play games like Lights Out to give your memory a workout.

    10)  Free Fun – There are many good free brain games available online or with a simple deck of cards.  Building a brain-healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to cost money.  Work to make small changes each day and enjoy some free fun with Brain Spade.

  7. Brain Benefits of Sweating

    Leave a Comment

    The business world is driven by stress.  The more pressure to succeed, the more stress seems to accompany it.  Research consistently indicates that exercise combats stress and is a key component to sound physical and mental health.  It’s clear to see how exercise helps us physically; while the mental benefits of exercise are not always tangible, it is important to understand that your brain benefits from sweating.

    Sweating through an effective exercise program provides wonderful health benefits for your brain, these include:

    *  Relieving Stress and Depression.  Research confirms that 30 to 40 minutes of daily exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, hormone that lifts depression and minimizes the harmful mental and physical effects of stress.

    *  Making You Smarter.  In addition to lifting stress and depression, sweating increases your brain capacity, actually making you smarter.  During exercise, growth hormones are released throughout the body.  These hormones stimulate connection pathways in the brain, making it easy to recall, retain and store important information.

    *  Improved confidence, mood and self-image.  While sweating improves your physical and mental health, it also improves your emotional health too.  Simply sweating for 30 minutes each day leads to improved self-esteem; a happier, more peaceful disposition; and a healthier overall outlook on life.  These mental and emotional improvements result in a more effective, more productive and happier you!

    Article by Michael Healey

  8. The Brain and Stress

    Leave a Comment

    A fire, your brain, and stress … how are all three of these related?

    Noticing a fire in your school or office building, you would pull the fire alarm (or call 911). The alarm alerts a fire station to send their trucks. In the mean time, everyone evacuates the building because the only necessary business is safety. Simultaneously, this same drama is going on in your brain.

    The brain’s hypothalamus detects a threat (fire) and sounds an alarm, alerting the adrenal glands (station) to send out hormones (trucks) such as adrenaline and cortisol. The cortisol shuts down (evacuates) all nonessential body functions, focusing your energy on survival. This is what we call the stress response.

    Stress effects your brain’s hippocampus (memory), amygdala (emotions), and prefrontal cortex (planning, execution). If your body remains stressed over time, those areas of your brain can eventually suffer damage. The amygdala will become too large, the hippocampus shrinks, and the prefrontal cortex can lose its ability to extinguish the fear response.

    Article by Jacqueline Marshall, licensed clinical professional counselor