Small Steps Toward Brain Vitality

Categories: Ask an Expert, Care Partners, Optimizing Brain Health|By |Published On: March 14, 2022|

Available as an audio article. LISTEN HERE

Brain health expert, Dr. Andrea Wilkinson, offers practical advice to begin positive change.

This article was written by a guest contributor, and the views, thoughts and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author.

Did you know that March 14 to 20 is Brain Awareness Week? It's the global campaign to foster public enthusiasm and support for brain science and brain health. Read on to learn what you can do to optimize your brain health, starting today.

Caregiving can be a fulfilling experience, but many have to manage multiple responsibilities, including work and other family demands. The increasing pressure on caregivers to “manage it all” can lead to caregiver distress, including anxiety, depression, burnout, and difficulty sleeping.

It may seem counterintuitive to prioritize yourself, you’re caregiving for others after all; but, keeping your brain and body healthy will enable you to show up as your best self for the people you care about most.

You are likely familiar with the healthy habits and practices that are good for your brain and body - for example reducing stress and minimize overwhelm, getting good quality sleep, moving your body regularly, and eating healthy and nutritious foods. However, you may have a multitude of reasons as to why you think you can’t make these necessary adjustments to your lifestyle that will have you feeling your best.

  • I’ve never been a good sleeper.
  • I’m always stressed out.
  • I don’t have time to _____ [fill in the blank].

For Brain Health Awareness Week this year - I invite you to get honest with yourself about the elements of your life that you wish were different and the rationale you have been giving yourself about why positive lifestyle changes cannot be accomplished.

If you feel resistant to taking small steps, know that your human mind is playing tricks on you. You don’t need to drastically change yourself today for your life to be different tomorrow.

– Dr. Andrea Wilkinson

The first, and arguably most important, step in integrating more wellness practices in your life is being open to the possibility that you can create a different reality for yourself. You can begin to feel different in your mind and body if you choose to make slight alterations in your everyday life.

The key is taking small steps.

  • If you are stressed and overwhelmed regularly, notice the people, places and behaviours that give you peace and choose to bring more calm into your life as often as you can.
  • If you can’t seem to get a good night’s sleep, resist the urge to stay up late looking at technology or watching TV. Create a nighttime routine that soothes your body and gets your mind ready for rest.
  • If exercising on a daily basis is a challenge, identify the movement activities that you can do. Even if it is as small a change as parking farther away from the store entrance, get your body moving in some way, every single day.
  • If you want to get a better handle on your snacking behaviours, start by identifying observable patterns. Do you always crave unhealthy, processed foods at a particular time of day or after feeling a specific emotion? By building your awareness, you can begin the process of empowering yourself to make different choices.

Another critical element of building healthier habits is getting brutally honest with yourself. What limiting beliefs are you holding on to that are keeping you stuck? If you want to change how you feel, you have to be willing to take responsibility for limiting thoughts and beliefs.

Choose to take one small step towards your desired outcome.

If you feel resistant to taking small steps, know that your human mind is playing tricks on you. You don’t need to drastically change yourself today for your life to be different tomorrow.

Big changes consist of a series of small steps. So, what small step can you take today?

Creating a life where you can “manage it all” is not realistic, but showing up for your life as the best version of you is. The only requirement is a willingness to go after what you desire and a belief that positive lifestyle change is possible.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brain health expert - Dr. Andrea Wilkinson – is helping people find focus, mental clarity, and calm through a better understanding on how the brain & body works. She has a Ph.D. in Psychology and has been researching brain health, wellness, and mental resilience for the last 20 years. In 2014, she founded BrainShape.ca – a platform for adults who want to optimize their mental vibrancy and physical energy. Dr. Andrea is also the host of the BrainShape Podcast – a weekly show that covers the latest brain health research and shares tips on how to feel your best.

GET MORE INFORMATION

Find more brain health resources by the Dana Foundation, for adults and kids, at BrainAwareness.org including a calendar of free brain awareness week events.

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