Demands. Deadlines. Delays. Some days the stress of life makes our mental cogs spin so wildly, it can feel like our brains are overheating! In the rapid pace of everyday living, accumulated stress can compromise brain health, but what can we do about it?
Perhaps the advice of 85-year-old Nadine Stair offers some direction. In her poem “If I Had to Live Life Over Again,” the sage Kentuckian penned: “I’d dare to make more mistakes next time. I’d relax. I’d limber up. I’d be sillier than I’ve been this trip. . . . I would eat more ice cream and less beans.”
So how can we apply Nadine’s slow-down-and-savor-life perspective to our lives? Here are some suggestions:
Stop being such a perfectionist. A sure-fire path to burnout is to place expectations of perfection on ourselves and others. When we believe that mistakes or failures are to be avoided at any cost, we can end up at either tragic end of the spectrum: accomplishing a lot while creating massive amounts of stress for ourselves (and the people we love), or so paralyzed by fear of failure that we never really do anything with our lives.
Relax. Limber up. Relaxing and limbering up can happen in almost any area of your life—your body, your thoughts, even your schedule! Many of us are addicted to our daily list of activities and errands. Why not start the day by postponing or eliminating a couple of non-essential to-dos on your agenda? Give yourself room to stretch and move a little. In fact, don’t be afraid to create quiet moments in your day to simply relax and let your mind wander. Unplug from your phone, computer, TV, etc. Develop the habit of letting yourself enjoy spells of doing nothing throughout your day.
Savor the good stuff. Silliness. Laughter. Family. A good book. Make your own list of things that make you smile, then make sure you incorporate these things into your everyday life. It’s tempting to live each day worrying about the past or the future. Learn to focus on the here and now and the unrepeatable moments with your children, family and friends.
As your stress level begins to subside a little, know that you’re doing your brain a favor. And while you’re at it, scoop yourself a heaping bowl of Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey. Calcium is good for the brain, you know.