Have you ever heard someone say they are suffering from “mommy brain” or “pregnancy brain”?
Although this isn’t an official diagnosis, the lack of sleep, stress, limited adult interaction during the day for those who stay home, and multitasking of parenting can most definitely leave someone feeling a little mushy up top.
If you have found yourself feeling this way, the good news is, you don’t have to stay that way. Just like you head to the gym to work out your muscles, you can work out your brain. But how?
“Keeping your brain fit will help in decision making, reasoning, awareness, problem solving and memory,” says Dr. James Lohman, a physician who has been practicing medicine in Indianapolis for 11 years.
When asked what activities and lifestyle choices will help parents keep their brains sharp, he suggested parents engage in reading, puzzles such as crosswords and meditation.
Dr. Lohman also recommends the following:
Get a good night’s sleep.
Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep for optimal health — and this includes mental health. If you have a newborn, this may not be possible for you right now, but take heart: The time will come when you will sleep again.
Eat a well-balanced diet.
That includes plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole foods! Avoid processed foods and excessive sugar intake as much as possible.
Get plenty of exercise.
The Department of Health and Human Services recommends most healthy adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity.
Manage your weight.
…and overall health!
Keep your stress levels down.
Stress can wreak havoc on our bodies, and this includes our brains. If you feel your stress levels starting to rise, you can take deep breaths, meditate, practice yoga, exercise, light a candle, take a hot bath, spend some time with family or friends, journal, reduce caffeine intake, listen to soothing music, or find something to make you laugh. There are plenty of things that we can do to reduce stress, you just need to find what works for you.
Harvard Health Publishing also suggests that not smoking, limiting alcohol to one drink a day and having good social connections can reduce the risk of dementia and help prevent cognitive decline.
You may be thinking: This sounds great, but I have little kids at home. When am I going to find time to do these things?
The good news is there are simple things you can do to work your mental muscles when you are spending time with your littles, too. You can:
- Learn a new instrument alongside your child.
- Do mental math out loud.
- Do puzzles together.
- Read out loud.
- Play the alphabet game where you pick a category and take turns coming up with a word in alphabetical order that fits with the category. Want to make it harder and work on memory? Have each player recite all of the words that have been listed so far when it’s his or her turn.
- Learn a new dance with your child.
- Try something new.
- Color. This can also reduce stress. Want to make it more challenging and give yourself a brain boost? Try coloring, or writing, with your non-dominant hand.
- Take a class together.
- Learn to juggle.
- Get outside and get moving. Ride bikes, play with your child at the park, hula hoop, kick the ball, play a game of basketball, have a jump rope competition. The possibilities are endless. Kids love to play, and having you play with them will not only make it more fun, but will also be good for both your physical and mental health.
If you find yourself feeling a little foggy, or not quite as sharp as you once were, there is hope. Mommy brain does not need to take residence any longer. Try incorporating some of these tips, and lifestyle choices, into your day — and in no time you will find yourself in tip-top mental shape, as you build up your brain from flab to fab.