Tips to help minimize stress and protect your brain

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Stress: State of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or demanding circumstances.

Reading the definition of stress causes me stress. Stress takes a mental and physical toll on our body and brain.

For example, let's take two people who are experiencing more than the usual stress in their lives; overworked, a sick parent, and marriage or money issues.

One person chooses to seek support, exercise, eat right and tries to not to allow difficult situations to envelope her entire life. The other gives in to the stress, stops eating or excessively eats, crawls into bed, and in general will not or cannot handle any type of stress.

Stress can kill. Some of the side effects can be:

  • Impatience with self and others
  • Excessive worry and fear
  • Insomnia, nightmares, disturbing dreams
  • Irritability and overreaction to petty annoyances
  • Memory issues

Minimizing stress and protecting your brain against its effects is easier than you might think. It is no fun experiencing these symptoms for you or anyone around you.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • For many, sugar is the go-to stress food. Stop! Eat a diet high in antioxidants like fruit, vegetables, dark chocolate and green tea. This will take willpower, but the results are worth it.
  • Get out and exercise, even if it's just a walk around the block.
  • Meditation not only reduces stress, it's a proven way to learn to master your thoughts. Does this take practice? Yes.

Stress does not come from events in your life as much as it comes from your thoughts - your automatic negative reactions and cognitive distortions about these events.

  • Try and surround yourself with positive people, set your boundaries, learn to say no.
  • Look into taking an adaptogenic herbal remedy. Adaptogens increase your resilience to stress while supporting overall health. They promote balance between feeling energetic and feeling calm.

Examples of adaptogens are ginseng, Arctic root, and bacopa. Always talk to your doctor first.

  • Relax! If you are prone to keep moving, like me, stop. Read a book, watch a comedy, call a friend, pet your animals, and laugh out loud.

A few days ago I was talking to my sister, Colleen, and she told me that she was feeling a little blue.

She had a book by Ellen DeGeneres and just started flipping through it. Before she knew it she was laughing so hard she forgot why she was sad.

Folks, life can be very difficult and sad, but it is how we choose to handle those times that keeps us sane.

Memory Matters will begin the fall session of Brain Boosters on Sept. 13. This course will help you to understand the importance of keeping a positive attitude and understand the negative repercussions that stress can have on our brains.

For more information, call 843-842-6688 or visit www.memory-matters.org.

Until then, take care of yourself.

Karen Doughtie is assistant director of Memory Matters, serving Bluffton and Hilton Head. karen@memory-matters.org

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