“Thinking Green” (Why Moms Need to Conserve Brain Cells)

Today over at her blog “Chocolate for the Brain,” my friend Sherri Antonetti writes about hitting a mental block with her third grader’s homework.

I haven’t experienced this quite yet … my kids are still young, and thanks to my academic pursuits, I still have a few years before I become the Worlds Dumbest Parent. Maybe.

Even so, I can’t help but notice that my brain is missing some of the elasticity it had ten or twenty years ago. More and more frequently I have to look up familiar verses and quotes. In conversation with kids and adults alike, I grasp for words, or accidentally replace one with another. All mothers go through this, due to stress and sleep deprivation. But it’s unsettling when it happens to you.

All this does not point to an easy road ahead, when I return to school. I remember watching my mother struggle to learn her pharmacology conversions when she got her LPN license at the age of 36. Then I couldn’t understand why she went over and over the same sheet of paper, never seeming to get anything to “stick.”

Now I get it.

So, how is a mom supposed to conserve brain cells — and keep the ones she has fresh and supple?

Taking care of yourself is a good first step — keeping hydrated and taking those Omega-3s, watching the diet to maintain a healthy level of cholesterol and blood pressure. Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and grains for Vitamins B (spinach, beans, strawberries), C (citrus and tomatoes), and E (nuts, seeds, and grains).

Brush and floss. Did you know there is a connection between chronic inflammation from gum disease and Alzheimer’s and heart disease?

Stay physically fit. There is a connection between physical and mental fitness. As we age, a holistic approach is best — striving to keep a healthy balance socially, spiritually, mentally, and physically. Seek moderation, rather than excess.

Challenge yourself. Minimize the time you spend in front of the television — do crosswords or Sudoku, or listen to classic books on tape while you’re running errands. Next time you go to the bookstore, stop by a non-fiction section of the library and pick up something on history, science, geography/travel. Make a point of learning something new — and of memorizing something — every day.

Finally, if you want to be sure to recall something, remember that visual memory is more reliable than audible memory — that is, you’re more likely to remember something if you see it than if you just hear it … and even better if you actually write it down.

Institute “family reading time.” Choose a family goal – 100 hours or 1000 “manhours” of non-essential (non-school related) reading. When you hit your goal, the whole family gets a treat! (One family I know makes their kids read the book version of whatever movie they want to see … ).

As we head toward summer, let’s think of how we can make the most of the time — let’s keep learning!

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