Brain Health Awareness month continues throughout the month of June, and after my friend Brenda told me about a movie with Robert Redford and Nick Nolte, called “A walk in The Woods”, and that it reminded her of me, I decided to check it out, I laughed and cried, I cheered, and I understood so much of what was said and not said.So Thank you Brenda for letting me know, I think its a terrific movie for anyone who is ageing and or living with any type of illness, chronic, terminal or otherwise. I think I will watch it again, it is so in line with what I have been doing and want to continue to do. It got me thinking about how often we focus on all the “medical reasons” for us to look after our brains, and they are for sure at the top of the heap of importance, I mean after all if there were things you could do, and often there is so that you don’t end up with dementia or some other cognitive issue wouldn’t you do it? There is also much about the diet and exercise/ nutrition component to thwart off many illnesses that impact our brain health, like diabetes and heart disease. etc., and yes even if you do all those things there is a chance you could still end up with some type of brain/ neurological issue. Sometimes it’s genetics, sometimes it’s the way our system is build, for me it is my vascular system, which is leading the charge. However just because it’s vascular at the core it still means that by looking after my brain health, I give my self a chance to maintain function at a level that allows me to live an independent and full life for longer.
But if we do all that is that enough? The short and simple answer for me is no. There is very large piece that I believe impacts our brain health, which in turn impacts all of our overall health. That is, our Mental Health, when we look after our mental health we tend to then look after all those other aspects of our brain health. I know the two are interconnected, but often we tend to separate them, we put Mental Health into one box and Brain Health into another, and often from a medical view they are very different, dementia is very different from bi-polar, or schizophrenia , or epilepsy, yet they are all related to the brain.
So why then am I talking about our mental health as part of brain health awareness month. Here’s the thing, when I look after the things that impact my mental health, like stress, fatigue, sleep, I look after my brain health. If I deal with traumatic events that I may have buried or locked away, when I accept things that have happened, I make room for things like joy, happiness, laughter, real laughter, I make room for good things positive things to move into my space. When I let go of anything that is negative or toxic to my well being, that is draining me and blocking my ability to find and seek joy in simple things, that is me looking after my mental health, therefore my brain health. My brain Health gets an immediate boost, less brain fog, less fatigue.
I have learnt that my brain health, or more specifically for me, my dementia and it’s symptoms become much more pronounced when I am not keeping things in balance, when I overload my plate taking on too much, pushing to do more, sorta like jumping back into the rat race we all believe is life. We somehow believe we have to be that busy, that there’s nothing we can do about it, we have to work that much, we have to belong to this that and the other, we never say no. We become so over busy, we often can’t even recognize the impact it’s having, often until some type of event makes us come face to face with it.
None of us are perfect and even after some event or diagnosis we can still put ourselves back into that same mode, sometimes it happens slowly and we just don’t realize it, but there comes a point where we do and then instead of continuing to over tire and over stress our systems we have to take steps to regroup, give ourselves permission to put our own well being and mental / brain health first.
Some don’t because they believe pushing through is always best, some don’t because they feel it’s selfish, others don’t because they believe it’s too much work.
I believe we can do much for our mental/ brain health, without making it hard or difficult. Do I think we should all deal with trauma we may have endured, absolutely, but sometimes doing the simple things first allow healing of many of the others. For me I spent years having very types of counselling, to deal with the various traumas that have impacted me, and now it’s about recognizing when it’s time to regrouped myself.
So in that last couple months it became about scaling back how much I’m doing, making room for the things that bring joy, like a walk in the woods, discovering new places in the backcountry, gardening, simple walks taking the time to listen to the sites and sounds, taking photos of things that bring me pleasure. Going for a drive to discover a new area. Learning more about the wildlife I love. For example, I love crows, they are fascinating to me, so I watch them, I listen to them, I talk to them, I learn about them. Most people think they are a nuisance, but they are intelligent, I admire them for their commitment to family and community, they have amazing memories, do you know if they have any type of interaction with you, like perhaps you yelling at them or somehow making them feel you are a threat, that from that moment, if they don’t see you again for forty years they will recognize you, ( you may decide to be nicer to them know). They have strong values. I find a lot of joy in getting to know them.
So it doesn’t really matter what it is you do, it’s about doing something, to find ways and places to let your mind go, to enjoy the silence, so you can hear your own thoughts, not the noise of the world, not all the stuff society is telling us, but to learn to hear your inner voice. Maybe it’s playing or listening to music, maybe it’s art, maybe it’s baking or cooking, sewing, gardening, the list goes on, maybe it’s something as simple as reading a book. For me it’s being in nature, taking it all in, the fresh air, the sites and sounds, and when not doing that gardening, taking care of houseplants, and my music, and of course my little dog. So remember taking care of your brain health, means taking care of mind, body, soul. Give yourself permission to stop and smell the flowers, make life changes if you must, but if making those big changes are too scary then start by carving out time and space for doing things that bring joy. And truly it is about giving ourselves permission to just stop.
I hope you enjoy these photo’s of my adventures of the last little while, my health has definitely felt the benefits. My fatigue is lessened, my brain fog improved, my inflammation markers better, my energy levels improved. Brain Health…. it’s important to all of us, and for those living with Dementia, it truly is something that we have to be mindful of.
So take time to enjoy, it takes time for our bodies and brains to relax, but keep working at it…. there is no harm in doing things in a simpler way.