Podcast Episode 67 – Take Care of Your Brain

Jul 1, 2023 | Podcast

I’m Diana Swillinger, and this is The Renew Your Mind podcast. Episode 67 Take Care of Your Brain. 

DIANA: Hey. Hey, everybody. What’s happening? I hope you’re doing well. I’m doing well. It’s a holiday week here in the United States, and my kids kind of all went in different directions for the 4 July weekend. So I had a nice, quiet weekend, and I hope you had an amazing weekend, whatever it was you were doing. As I thought of what to share this week and what I wanted to record, I was drinking water all weekend because it was 90 degrees, and I was thinking about how my brain needs water. Have you guys ever thought about that? Your brain is largely made up of water, just like every other part of your body, and your brain needs water to function optimally. Have you ever thought about that? I was noticing how I talk to you guys all the time about what we can do with changing what we think, and that is at the center of all the work I do with clients. But there are things that make it harder. Like if we’re not taking care of our brain and what it physically needs trying to do, the thought work is harder. 

There are times where I’m like, I don’t want to try to come up with a new thought right now. That would take too much energy. Sometimes our brains get petered out. You know, this episode is going to be talking about what we need to do for our brain to help it function well. So when we want to do this thought work, when we want to change our thoughts, we have a much better chance of doing it because our brain is healthy, physically healthy. So think about this. I looked up a lot of stuff for this, so this was fun for me to research, but experts say that the brain uses well. The brain is only like 2% of the body’s weight, but your brain is actually responsible for using 20% of the energy that your body as a whole uses. 20%. That means all the physical stuff you do all day long and digesting food and everything else your body does. 20% of your used energy goes toward your brain. Maybe that’s why they call it brain power, so we can keep working on taking responsibility for what you think. 

But when your brain is low on energy, it’s just going to be hard. It is. You know, when I don’t think we should be trying to improve our thoughts when we’re exhausted, when our body’s out of energy, when we can sense that we’re tired, when we feel tired in our body, it’s safe to assume that our brain is going to be tired as well. I’m not talking about just the after physical exertion tired, but that exhausted feeling, like as the day goes on or it’s later at night. I used to have a rule with my kids even about this, and they probably didn’t understand at the time, and that’s totally fine, it didn’t matter. But my rule was don’t ask mom any questions after 07:00 p.m.. Um, I just didn’t think there was anything they had to ask me by that time if it was getting ready for bed or whatever. They had previous routines to fall back on. They knew what to do. And my brain was tired. I was working full time, and I was finishing my bachelor’s degree, and I had four school age kids, and my brain was too tired after 07:00 p.m. to answer any questions because it’s hard. It’s hard to come up with answers or make decisions when our brain is out of energy. 

Similarly. Wait, is that how you say it? Similarly? Similarly. When we are really tired, it can be very challenging to try to monitor our thoughts or choose our thoughts or regulate our emotions. So when you’re tired, it’s not the time to have important discussions. Just imagine it’s 10:00 at night. A kid walks in the room, and they’re like, I want to change my major at college, or your spouse wants to talk about switching careers, or should we sell the house? Or whatever it is. It’s hard to make those decisions at night. We’re tired. I’m just basically telling you, well, two things. One, when you know your brain is tired, don’t give it something important to do. Save that for when your brain has energy. And then, uh, the other thing is, give your brain time to rest. They need to recharge, and sleep is how our brains do that. 

Our bodies need to rest. Our brains need to rest, too. If you want to be renewing your mind, giving your brain adequate rest may need to be one of your priorities. This is why I tell you, too, it’s not selfish to take care of yourself when you don’t make sure that you get enough rest. When you don’t take care of that, not only will you be physically tired, it’s just going to be harder to make decisions. It’s going to be harder to choose your thoughts. It’s going to be harder to be in charge of creating the emotions that you want to create. Throughout the day, ask yourself if you’re getting enough rest for your mental and emotional health. The Mayo Clinic, which studies pretty much everything, and they’re, uh, a leading authority in so many things physically and psychologically because of all the research they do. They say there are theories that sleep helps us clear abnormal proteins out of the brain. So that’s like a physical process of particles in the brain. 

The protein, it moves out the abnormal protein and it does other work. Kind of like organizing the files by consolidating memories, storing things where they need to go. And all of this while you’re sleeping, that clearing and the organizing and the consolidating helps your brain function on a higher level. You will have a boosted memory and boosted brain health and boosted brain function. They recommend getting seven to 8 hours of sleep every night. And I know this can be different. My dad functioned on five to six and he seemed to be pretty dang sharp. I need eight to nine. So everybody has their own. But one of the most important parts of making sure you get enough sleep then is making sure it’s not fragmented. We’re talking about consecutive hours of sleep. Not 2 hours here, 3 hours there and incremental. Like, I’ll fall asleep on the couch for a couple of hours then I’ll get up, brush my teeth, clean up the kitchen, then I’ll go to bed for 4 hours. Then I’ll wake up because I’m having to go to the bathroom while I’m up, I’ll feed the dog and go back to bed. That’s not consecutive. That’s chunks of sleep. The consecutive sleep gives your brain the proper amount of time it needs to do the consolidation and storage of your memories. Uh, this whole thing with sleep in your brain is probably why we come up with the phrase I’ll, uh, sleep on it before we make an important decision. Because intuitively, we just know our brain helps us sort things out. 

While we’re sleeping, the information from the day gets organized and sorted. Stored properly, the brain gets recharged, and the next day, we have clarity. So sleep on it, right? So that’s the first thing about brain health. Get the sleep that you need. Get the quality consecutive sleep that will allow your brain to do what it’s supposed to do at night. All right. The next thing I mentioned, the whole thing that got me on this was water. Our brains get dehydrated. So a different source I found on Psychology Today that, uh, our brains depend on proper hydration to function optimally. Brain cells require a delicate balance between water and the other various elements to operate. If the brain loses too much water and the balance is disrupted the brain cells lose their efficiency. 

Maybe part of this is like if you have foggy brain or you just feel a little scattered. You could be dehydrated. Uh, Psychology Today goes on and says years of research have found that when we’re parched we have more difficulty keeping our attention focused. Dehydration can impair short term memory function and the recall of long term memory the ability to perform mental arithmetic and calculations even like whether or not you’re going to be late for work or you want to hit your snooze for another 15 minutes is compromised when your fluids are low. Okay? Even doing arithmetic, making some fairly simple calculations gets much harder. They say it’s compromised when your fluids are low. Imagine if you’re trying to do something more complex or solve a relationship issue or get through a difficult discussion with somebody or feel less anxiety and try to manage your thoughts when your ability to think clearly is compromised. 

That’s so hard. So I, uh, was just talking about sleeping, so I might as well mention one of the things I do. The this is a great thing you can do for your body. I take a glass of water to bed. So, yes, in part, if I roll over in the middle of the night and if thirsty is going to keep me up and I need a quick hit of water so I can fall back asleep, it’s right there. But I go to bed with a full glass of water. It has a lid on it, too, just in case I’m klutzy. But with my full glass of water sitting there at night, I can take the sips I need. But when I wake up in the morning, as soon as I put my feet on the floor before I stand up and start doing anything, I drink the rest of that water. I start my day making sure my body and my brain have all the water they need to be hydrated so I can start my day functioning properly. And yeah, I do have coffee, but that comes a little bit later. And that first glass of water, then I’ve noticed it doesn’t even make me have to go to the bathroom. It’s like my body just absorbs all of it because it needs it. I’m putting the fluids back in my body so I can start my day in balance. Okay, so we’ve got sleep. We’ve got water. I’m going to give you one more. There’s a lot, but these are the three big ones, I think. Last one is and I don’t even want to call it exercise. Let’s just call it motion. You can increase the blood and oxygen your brain gets by being in motion. 

The Cleveland Clinic has an article about this. It says physical activity benefits the brain in a number of ways, such as improving blood flow to the brain, which our blood carries oxygen. The next one is reducing inflammation, and the last one is lowering the levels of stress hormones. Hello. Feeling stressed? Get moving. That is enough reason right there for me. But I’m also giving my brain more oxygen, which is the fuel it needs to do all the amazing critical thinking and reducing inflammation. Oh, uh, so good exercise. Okay. Still from Cleveland Clinic. Exercise may provide physical benefits to the brain, too, such as increasing the thickness of the cerebral cortex and improving the integrity of your white matter and the nerve fibers that connect areas of the brain’s nerve cell rich gray matter. It also promotes neuroplasticity, which I teach about. It is your brain’s ability to form new neural connections and adapt throughout life. And then the doctor quoted in this article, Dr. Bonner Jackson, says, one of the key places that happens is in the hippocampus, which is a very important area of the brain for memory. If you get up and move, you all you’re going to be promoting neuroplasticity. 

One of the main reasons we feel stuck, one of the main reasons we feel stressed and overwhelmed and we have difficulty navigating through our life and our relationships, is because we are letting our brain go on the same old neural pathways that it’s been going on for years. Stuck in the same ruts. Neuroplasticity is our brain’s ability to create new neural pathways that allow us to follow new patterns of thinking, that allow us to create all sorts of new possibilities in our lives, and allow us to create the emotions that we want instead of the ones that are happening on default. This all happens from new neuropathways. And exercise promotes the neuroplasticity that you need to do this, and it doesn’t need to be extreme exercising. I’m not saying go out there and run a marathon or do the, um, tough mudder or all the other crazy things out there that I think are crazy. 

You can just put your body in motion in any way that raises your heart rate for an extended period of time. Ten minutes, 15 minutes, 20 minutes, whatever it may be. Go for a walk. I didn’t have time yesterday for a big walk. I walked for 15 minutes. That’s what I had time for, and I went and did it. Okay. Take several trips up and down your stairs. When it’s zero degrees, I don’t like to go outside for a walk. I will go up and down my stairs. I’ll listen to a podcast to make it more interesting. Listen to my podcast and go up and down the stairs. Stand up and march while you watch TV. You don’t have to sit down while you watch Survivor or Oak Island or let’s see, what else do I watch? Pole Dark. You don’t have to sit to watch those. You can stand, and you can march in place. You can, uh, do housework that’s a little more vigorous. Like, don’t just vacuum one room and sit back down. Maybe you can vacuum for 15 minutes and sweep and wash a couple windows and just stay on your feet, moving for at least 15 minutes. 

This is all doable. If you’re willing to get up and move a little bit each day like that, or multiple times a day is even better. If you care about your brain health, you want to do this move throughout your day to get the blood and oxygen that your brain needs flowing through it so it can function properly. There is so much you can do for brain health. There’s nutrition. There’s brain games and puzzles. I like to do word games and scrabble. There’s engaging in conversation, and I’d say even engage in conversation that makes you think a little bit. Like, get your brain to consider different possibilities. It’s never thought of stretching your brain. Be social. Being social helps your brain. There is so much. But anyway, the basics that you can start with today that are all doable is making sure you get consecutive sleep of, uh, seven or 8 hours, drinking plenty of water, and get your blood pumping by getting your heart rate up. You can even sneak these things in before an important meeting or an important decision or an important conversation. 

Shut your eyes for a few minutes to give your brain a moment to refocus and get some clarity. Have a glass of water, do a few jumping jacks. Set your brain up for optimal function. All right? This is important because keeping your brain healthy enables you to better manage how you think. And how you think largely determines how you feel. And how you feel is going to direct what you do and how you behave in your daily life. Having a healthy brain helps you manage all of it so you can overcome your stress, navigate challenges, communicate better in relationships, have more peace, have more joy, have more hope. All of it, you guys. It’s just an important part of it. All right, that’s all I have for today, so I will catch you next week. Until then, take care of your brain and take care of you. 

As an advanced certified life coach, I help Christian women trying to live their best lives, but they still feel unsatisfied and stuck. I teach thought management skills that work so you can enjoy life again and step into who God has created you to be. Don’t forget to head on over to Rympodcast.com to get my free resources or a free coaching call.

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