May 7, 2020
Clinical Contributors to this Story
Talya Fleming, M.D. contributes to topics such as Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
By: Brianna McCabe
Amidst the coronavirus pandemic and current social distancing orders, some may feel a bit ‘lost’ without a set routine and schedule. This, coupled with feelings of loneliness, can significantly affect one’s ability to properly think.
“Periods of stress can affect many areas of brain function, including memory, attention, thinking, mood (including anxiety and depression) and sleep,” says Talya Fleming, M.D., Medical Director of the Stroke Recovery and Aftercare Programs at JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute. “Stress can also affect levels of inflammation in your body, which can affect your heart, blood vessels and alter hormone levels leading to other disease states.”
Here are 7 tips to re-stimulate mental growth and put your brain health at the forefront:
- Stay mentally active. Just as physical activity helps keep your body in shape, mentally stimulating activities help keep your brain in shape during this time. Crossword puzzles, playing card games and learning to play a musical instrument are all great ways to boost your brainpower. Now may be the perfect time for meditating, deep breathing, practicing gratitude and journaling.
- Socialize regularly. Social interaction may help ward off depression and stress, both of which can contribute to memory loss. Look for creative opportunities to get together with loved ones, friends and others—especially if you live alone. This may include:
- Calling long-lost friends or family
- Walking at a social distance (6 feet apart)
- Scheduling virtual video meetings
- Playing free online games with your loved ones, such as Words with Friends
- Keep a schedule. Write down tasks, appointments and other events in a special notebook, calendar or electronic planner. Other methods may include:
- Repeating each entry out loud as you write it down to help cement it in your memory
- Keeping to-do lists current and checking off items you’ve completed
- Setting aside a place for your wallet, keys and other essentials
- Limiting distractions
- Focusing on the information that you’re trying to retain
- Improve memory and attention. Everyday activities like folding laundry and making dinner can be exercises in attention and memory. For a new recipe, read the 3 or 4 steps and see if you can commit them to memory. Then review before doing to be sure you are correct.
- Challenge yourself. Start a new hobby or interest. Experiment with different types of music, art or drama. The more challenging the activity the more likely it is to sharpen underlying cognitive ability.
- Eat a healthy diet. A healthy diet might be as good for your brain as it is for your heart. Eat fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Choose low-fat protein sources, such as fish, lean meat and skinless poultry. Additionally, it is recommended to try to limit alcohol consumption as too much alcohol can lead to confusion and memory loss.
- Include physical activity in your daily routine. Physical activity increases blood flow to your whole body, including your brain. For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity, such as jogging. If you don’t have time for a full workout, squeeze in a few 10-minute walks throughout the day.
Dr. Fleming shares, “By using the above strategies, you can help maintain and even improve your brain health during these times. Don’t be afraid to ask your brain health physician specialist for more information.”
Next Steps & Resources:
- May is Better Hearing & Speech Month! Without proper health and hearing, one’s ability to think may be impaired. The Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology at JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute provides services for patients with cognitive deficits and hearing conditions—and offers teletherapy visits! Call 732-321-7063 to make an appointment.
- This article was written by the experts at the Department of Speech Pathology & Audiology at JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute.
The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.