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Clear Your Mind

Tips on How to Maintain Mental Health

· brain,health,depression,mental health,stress relief

Your health is one of your greatest assets. However, while society seems obsessed with fitness and physical health, there is still a negative stigma that exists around mental health. May is Mental Health Month, and what better time to consider how you can help maintain your own mental health. Keep reading to learn how to clear your mind and other tips to maintaining mental health.

 

Threats to Your Mental Health

 

First, we must learn what causes a breakdown in mental health. The two biggest threats to your mental health are stress and aging.

 

Too much stress causes depression and mood instability, which can impact your mental and physical health. And aging will eventually affect your mental health by eroding your memory and other cognitive abilities. For some, this means the onset of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

 

So how do you combat two things you can’t really control? First, you need to understand what stress really is, and how aging affects the brain.

 

What is Stress?

 

Stress is caused by “physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension,” according to the American Institute of Stress. Stress can certainly mean different things to different people – especially between what most consider good (or healthy) stress (also called eustress) and bad stress (also known as distress).

 

Eustress could be a job interview, planning a wedding, or accepting an award, but those same things – the idea of discussing your career goals, organizing a huge family event, or speaking in front of people – can cause severe symptoms of distress for others.

 

According to a 2017 study, “Stress in America,” released by the American Psychological Association, 63 percent of stress is caused by worrying about the future of our nation; 62% of stress is caused by worrying over money; and 61% of stress is caused by worrying about work-related issues. And those are just three of hundreds of stressors we may face each day.

 

Too much of this “bad stress” may result in physical, physiological or biochemical responses, such as stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system and adrenalin secretion in the “fight or flight” response. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to how you’re feeling about what’s happening in your daily life.

 

Here are other ways stress can affect your body.

 

Physical Symptoms of Distress

  • Upset stomach (diarrhea, constipation, or nausea)
  • Rising blood pressure
  • Low energy
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Insomnia
  • Change in appetite
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Migraines or headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Fainting
  • Chest pain or rapid heartbeat
  • Peptic ulcer

 

Cognitive Symptoms of Stress

  • Worrying
  • Racing thoughts
  • Forgetfulness
  • Procrastination
  • Disorganization
  • Inability to focus
  • Poor judgment
  • Pessimism
  • Irritability
  • Nervousness

 

Dangers of Long-Term Exposure to Stress

  • Mental health issues (depression, anxiety, or personality disorders)
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Obesity or eating disorder
  • Menstrual problems
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Skin and hair imbalance
  • Gastrointestinal disruption

 

Preventing and Coping with Stress

 

Stress is something we can’t always control – especially since external factors in our lives and environment may be the cause of our anxiety. That’s why it’s essential to learn how to prevent and cope with stress.

 

For starters, try to avoid the things you know cause you distress. If it’s a family member who nags you about your life choices, an unsatisfying friendship, or a neighbor you don’t like to make small talk with – just try to reduce your time around those people. For activities you must endure, like work or certain social gatherings, try to make the best of the situation. Use humor to lighten the mood or simple activities to destress your workday.

 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are several healthy ways to deal with stress. They include:

 

How the Brain Ages

 

Know that you understand how stress affects the body, let us dive into understanding how aging affects the human brain. As we age, the brain changes dramatically, which can affect our mental and physical health, leading to the decline of higher cognitive function and the ability to make new memories, as well as an increase in symptoms of depression.

 

Physical changes in the brain that occur during aging, starting at around age 60, include:

 

  • Shrinkage of brain mass in the frontal lobe and hippocampus
  • Thinning of the cortical density of the brain, causing fewer synaptic connections
  • Shrinking of the white matter in the brain – the part that carries nerve signals between brain cells
  • Fewer neurotransmissions (chemical signals) that occur

 

When these changes in the brain happen, some memory loss during aging is normal, including:

  • Difficulty learning something new
  • Multitasking
  • Recalling names and numbers
  • Remembering appointments

 

However, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are not normal in the aging process. Alzheimer’s is caused by genetics, inflammation in the brain, vascular risk factors, and overall lifestyle risk factors, according to Harvard Medical School.

 

The National Institute on Aging reports that “Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.” It is a form of dementia. Whereas, “dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning — thinking, remembering, and reasoning — and behavioral abilities to such an extent that it interferes with a person's daily life and activities.”

 

An individual with dementia may experience severe memory loss, inability to control their emotions, personality changes, and loss of language skills, visual perception, problem solving, and self-control.

 

So what’s normal? As the article from Harvard Medical School points out, “There's a difference between normal age-related memory slips, such as forgetting where the car keys are, and more serious signs of memory loss, such as forgetting what car keys are used for.”

 

Protecting Healthy Aging for the Brain

 

Healthy aging takes effort. Fortunately, there are brain health therapies and supportive strategies that may help slow or prevent brain deterioration. Ironically, many of these solutions are similar to the list of ways to reduce daily stress. Here they are:

 

  • Exercise (30 minutes a day, four days a week)
  • Get enough sleep (7-8 hours per night)
  • Eat a Mediterranean diet (fresh fruits and vegetables; whole grains; olive oil; nuts; legumes; and fish)
  • Take brain health support supplements*
  • Learn new things or hobbies to stimulate the brain
  • Try strategic brain games or puzzles
  • Connect socially

 

* Herbs such as Ginkgo biloba naturally help support against symptoms of cognitive decline. Shop for Ginkgo biloba from trusted health brands such as Banyan Botanicals and NOW Foods.

 

How do you stay sharp mentally? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

 

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Photo by Jeremy Perkins on Unsplash

Your health is one of your greatest assets. However, while society seems obsessed with fitness and physical health, there is still a negative stigma that exists around mental health. May is Mental Health Month, and what better time to consider how you can help maintain your own mental health. Keep reading to learn how to clear your mind and other tips to maintaining mental health.

Threats to Your Mental Health

First, we must learn what causes a breakdown in mental health. The two biggest threats to your mental health are stress and aging.

Too much stress causes depression and mood instability, which can impact your mental and physical health. And aging will eventually affect your mental health by eroding your memory and other cognitive abilities. For some, this means the onset of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

So how do you combat two things you can’t really control? First, you need to understand what stress really is, and how aging affects the brain.

What is Stress?

Stress is caused by “physical, mental, or emotional strain or tension,” according to the American Institute of Stress. Stress can certainly mean different things to different people – especially between what most consider good (or healthy) stress (also called eustress) and bad stress (also known as distress).

Eustress could be a job interview, planning a wedding, or accepting an award, but those same things – the idea of discussing your career goals, organizing a huge family event, or speaking in front of people – can cause severe symptoms of distress for others.

According to a 2017 study, “Stress in America,” released by the American Psychological Association, 63 percent of stress is caused by worrying about the future of our nation; 62% of stress is caused by worrying over money; and 61% of stress is caused by worrying about work-related issues. And those are just three of hundreds of stressors we may face each day.

Too much of this “bad stress” may result in physical, physiological or biochemical responses, such as stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system and adrenalin secretion in the “fight or flight” response. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to how you’re feeling about what’s happening in your daily life.

Here are other ways stress can affect your body.

Physical Symptoms of Distress

  • Upset stomach (diarrhea, constipation, or nausea)
  • Rising blood pressure
  • Low energy
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Insomnia
  • Change in appetite
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Migraines or headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Fainting
  • Chest pain or rapid heartbeat
  • Peptic ulcer

Cognitive Symptoms of Stress

  • Worrying
  • Racing thoughts
  • Forgetfulness
  • Procrastination
  • Disorganization
  • Inability to focus
  • Poor judgment
  • Pessimism
  • Irritability
  • Nervousness

Dangers of Long-Term Exposure to Stress

  • Mental health issues (depression, anxiety, or personality disorders)
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Obesity or eating disorder
  • Menstrual problems
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Skin and hair imbalance
  • Gastrointestinal disruption

Preventing and Coping with Stress

Stress is something we can’t always control – especially since external factors in our lives and environment may be the cause of our anxiety. That’s why it’s essential to learn how to prevent and cope with stress.

For starters, try to avoid the things you know cause you distress. If it’s a family member who nags you about your life choices, an unsatisfying friendship, or a neighbor you don’t like to make small talk with – just try to reduce your time around those people. For activities you must endure, like work or certain social gatherings, try to make the best of the situation. Use humor to lighten the mood or simple activities to destress your workday.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are several healthy ways to deal with stress. They include:

How the Brain Ages

Know that you understand how stress affects the body, let us dive into understanding how aging affects the human brain. As we age, the brain changes dramatically, which can affect our mental and physical health, leading to the decline of higher cognitive function and the ability to make new memories, as well as an increase in symptoms of depression.

Physical changes in the brain that occur during aging, starting at around age 60, include:

  • Shrinkage of brain mass in the frontal lobe and hippocampus
  • Thinning of the cortical density of the brain, causing fewer synaptic connections
  • Shrinking of the white matter in the brain – the part that carries nerve signals between brain cells
  • Fewer neurotransmissions (chemical signals) that occur

When these changes in the brain happen, some memory loss during aging is normal, including:

  • Difficulty learning something new
  • Multitasking
  • Recalling names and numbers
  • Remembering appointments

However, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are not normal in the aging process. Alzheimer’s is caused by genetics, inflammation in the brain, vascular risk factors, and overall lifestyle risk factors, according to Harvard Medical School.

The National Institute on Aging reports that “Alzheimer’s disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.” It is a form of dementia. Whereas, “dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning — thinking, remembering, and reasoning — and behavioral abilities to such an extent that it interferes with a person's daily life and activities.”

An individual with dementia may experience severe memory loss, inability to control their emotions, personality changes, and loss of language skills, visual perception, problem solving, and self-control.

So what’s normal? As the article from Harvard Medical School points out, “There's a difference between normal age-related memory slips, such as forgetting where the car keys are, and more serious signs of memory loss, such as forgetting what car keys are used for.”

Protecting Healthy Aging for the Brain

Healthy aging takes effort. Fortunately, there are brain health therapies and supportive strategies that may help slow or prevent brain deterioration. Ironically, many of these solutions are similar to the list of ways to reduce daily stress. Here they are:

  • Exercise (30 minutes a day, four days a week)
  • Get enough sleep (7-8 hours per night)
  • Eat a Mediterranean diet (fresh fruits and vegetables; whole grains; olive oil; nuts; legumes; and fish)
  • Take brain health support supplements*
  • Learn new things or hobbies to stimulate the brain
  • Try strategic brain games or puzzles
  • Connect socially

* Herbs such as Ginkgo biloba naturally help support against symptoms of cognitive decline. Shop for Ginkgo biloba from trusted health brands such as Banyan Botanicals and NOW Foods.

How do you stay sharp mentally? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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