Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Has Parenting Turned Your Brain to Mush?

If you’re like me, you frequently enter a room to retrieve something and forget what you wanted. Or you spy someone you know in the grocery store but can’t for the life of you remember her name. Or perhaps you emerge from the store to find that you can’t remember where you parked your car. If you find this happening to you more frequently, you’re not alone. Being a parent is certainly a stressor and a sleep-depriver, which can play havoc with your brain.

But, sorry to say, this also goes with the territory when you enter middle age. Scientists aren’t sure why—perhaps we begin to lose brain cells, or our brain cells just don’t communicate as well as they used to—but chances are slim that you’re suffering from Alzheimer’s, as you’ve probably feared. It’s most likely caused by age and stress. And parents are masters at multitasking, which tends to clutter the brain. That’s why it’s helpful to keep a very accurate calendar and a to-do list (if you could only remember to check it . . . after you find it!).

At my house, I instruct my kids to write any food they use up on the grocery list posted on the refrigerator because I know I’m not going to remember when one of them says, "Mom, we’re out of milk!" And I keep a calendar in the drawer that I check several times a day on which I’ve written every single activity I must attend, even if it’s a regular event. And keep a notepad in your purse in case you remember something while you’re out and about that you need to do later. Some people even leave themselves messages on their cell phone or carry a small voice recorder. When you write things down, you won’t be stressed about forgetting them. (Of course, if your memory loss seems to get worse with time and even list-making doesn’t seem to help, please see your doctor to be checked out.)

Most importantly, and I know it’s hard, try to get plenty of rest, nutrition and exercise, and manage your stress. All of these things are good for the brain and allow you to achieve optimum mental functionality. A shower is also good for clearing the head! Writes Tammy Tibbetts in Ladies’ Home Journal (June 2007), "According to recent research, warm water running over your body can stimulate the outer layer of your skin, releasing molecules that ‘talk’ to your nerve endings. These molecules include beta-endorphins, which trigger brain activity." This stimulates your thinking power and problem-solving abilities!

So next time you can’t remember where you left your keys, or you can’t summon the words to formulate a thank-you note, hop into the shower and wait for a brainstorm!

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