When there's a crisis or old age in the picture, it's often hard to keep your mental health on track. Many people right now are struggling with keeping their sanity intact, while keeping life on track and that can really be a struggle right now.
We know that aging is something that can impact mental decline, and many of us can be fearful of it. However, cognitive impairment, to one degree or another, is something that is not inevitable. Our mental functioning can change right there along with it.
So here are some ways that you can help to maintain your brain function, no matter what age you are. It can be something that can help you at the moment too. If you’re in quarantine, then let’s face it, there are only so many hours that you can watch Netflix. Try some other options and it can help.
Keep Your Mental Health on Track During a Crisis
There has been a lot of research into brain activity, looking at how we can get new connections from nerve cells in our brain. New connections between cells in our brains have been found to help generate new cells, which really helps the loss of them later down the line. So any kind of activity that mentally stimulates your brain should do enough to build up your brain and keep your mental health on track.
There are a few different activities that will make a difference, such as reading, doing courses (online or otherwise), as well as things like working out maths in your head, and puzzles, much like these ones: https://www.pennydellpuzzles.com/fill-ins/. It can also be a good idea to experiment with things that need to use your brain, as well as dexterity, like painting, crafts, and drawing. These can all be lovely things to do, so why not give them a go?
There is research that shows that when you use your physical muscles, it can help keep your mental health on track. You can develop new nerve cells and it can help the connections between your brain cells. As a result, this will mean that the brain is more efficient and adaptive, helping your brain to keep performing well as you get older.
Exercising is something that can help to lower your blood pressure, as well as improving cholesterol. Exercise is also something that can help you to manage your blood sugar, and reduce any mental stress. So it is a good call for both mind and body.
Improve your diet
If you want to look after your mind, then you need some good nutrition to help you. Believe it or not, you are what you eat, and it impacts your mind, as well as the rest of your body. One of the best ways to live is by eating a Mediterranean style diet, as described here: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/mediterranean-style. This is all about emphasizing fruits, vegetables, fish, olive oil, nuts, and other plant-based protein sources. These are all good to help with cognitive development and should be included in your diet for balance and variety, as well as health.
Improve your blood pressure
Having high blood pressure is something that can speed up the decline of your cognitive function. So if you are someone who currently has high blood pressure, then it is important to take steps to reduce that, so that it doesn’t impact or impair you later down the line. Keeping within a healthy weight range is important, and taking part in some regular exercise is really key at the moment too.
It is a good idea to limit the amount of alcohol that you drink, and try to reduce stress in your life as much as possible. Eating well, as mentioned above, is another key thing that can make a difference. We've all heard it before, but making sure we get at least 8 hrs of sleep daily can keep your mental health on track in more ways than one.
Improve your blood sugar
Diabetes is something that has been found to be a risk factor for having dementia later down the line. So of course, there are things that you can be doing to reduce your risk for type two diabetes down the line. One of the first things to think about is eating well, exercising regularly, and keeping your weight within a healthy range. It is all about the kinds of foods that you eat that make a difference too. Too many processed foods and foods with refined sugar can all impact your blood sugar levels. You want to keep your blood sugar level as much as possible and avoid having too many peaks and troughs.
Care for your emotions
We can all feel a variety of different feelings, all the time. If you are someone that is feeling anxious or depressed, then it can impact your cognitive function. The same can happen if you are sleep-deprived or exhausted. These are not good combinations for happy health in general, but particularly not mental health. These risk factors can be controlled, though, so that is a positive thing if you fall into those categories. Having good mental health and plenty of restful sleep are some really important health goals to have.
Build social networks
Right now, it is hard to be social in person, because of the social distancing that is in place. But there are ways that you can be social during these times, with phone calls, video calls, group chats, and so on. Having social connections, both physically when you can, or online, can really help you to have a lower risk of dementia and help your cognitive function (not to mention your mood). Being social can help to lower blood pressure, and also help your life expectancy. So having a group of friends or family members to call on can be such a good thing to keep your mental health on track.
The list could go on and on about what you can do to care for your health and how to improve things. A lot of them are things that you are likely to be already doing. But some of the things, like stimulating our brains in the right way, is a choice, and we need to take steps to be proactive with this, whether we are older, younger, or helping children that should also be doing the same. So take it seriously, look after your health, and be proactive to help your brain health, no matter your age.