31 May A Toolkit for a Healthier Brain
Brain Health & Wellness Tips
It is important to take care of your brain health (more commonly termed “Mental Health”), just as you would any other part of your body. Brain health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Brain health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. It is important to develop a toolkit of healthy coping mechanisms to maintain brain health and manage stress and sadness. These mechanisms can be lifelong tools that, with practice, get easier.
What areas can you focus on adding to your brain health and wellness routine:
Practice mindfulness daily. This daily practice helps lower levels of anxiety and depression, improves sleep and relationships as well as reduces stress levels. Take time each day to slow down, be in the moment, and breathe. Mindfulness exercises can include breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, listening to calming music, doing a puzzle, journaling or exploring nature on a walk or hike. Check out the apps, ‘Headspace’ or ‘Calm’, for guided meditation and breathing exercises.
Get your Zzz’s. Stick to a more structured schedule, including getting enough sleep. Getting enough sleep helps you grow and develop normally, be more alert during the day, and maintain overall health. For teens, this means about 8-10 hours each night.
Do things that make you happy. Find activities or hobbies that make you happy and incorporate them into your daily routine. This might be a physical sport, a creative artistic outlet (such as music, drawing, or writing) or spending time with family and friends.
Let light in. For some people, increased exposure to light can improve symptoms of sadness and depression. If you can, open the shades and let more sunlight in and try to get 10–30 minutes of midday sunlight, several times per week to help boost your vitamin D levels and mood.
Laugh a lot. Stay connected with others, and try to find moments of humor. When it comes to keeping you healthy, laughter is up there with a nutritious diet and exercise.
Eat nutrient-dense foods. Eat breakfast every morning, plus snacks and meals at regular times throughout the day. Try to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy. Avoid too many deep-fried foods, highly processed foods, or baked goods. A few easy go-to snacks could be a piece of toast with peanut butter and sliced banana, a handful of trail mix, a string cheese with whole-grain crackers, or some raw vegetables dipped in hummus. Food is your fuel, so to run better, give yourself lots of wholesome foods and water.
Don’t skimp on H20! Water is needed for most of your bodily functions. While in the state of dehydration, your mind and body can feel in a fog and low on energy. Aim for at least 60oz of water per day. Limit coffee or energy drinks, as these can be packed with sugar, have zero nutrients, and will increase feelings of anxiety and make it difficult to relax.
Get moving. Exercise takes our mind off stress and releases chemicals in our brain that make us feel better. This can be anything from a stroll in the park, yoga or dance, to a bike ride or basketball game with friends. Try to do something physically active for at least 30 minutes a day, most days of the week.
Unplug! One of the most beneficial mindfulness activities teens can take part in is a technology detox. Whether this is every Saturday, for a few hours, or just 20 minutes a day, it really will make a huge difference in your brain health and wellbeing. In fact, the constant use of technology is a major contributor to stress in teens, which is why it’s so important to take a break. We guarantee it will make you feel instantly calmer, have more control of your thoughts and allow you to enjoy living in the moment with family and friends.
Focus on your strengths and the positives.
Take some time to think about what you’re good at and ways to do more of those things. By focusing on building your strengths, you can keep your stressors in perspective.
Now that you have 10 tools to use, the next step is recognizing when you need your toolkit. Look for patterns or be aware of situations that make you feel particularly worried or anxious. When you’re in these situations, try taking 5 deep breaths, and practice other relaxation or distraction techniques.
It can be hard to manage stress alone. Talk to a parent, teacher or other trusted mentor about your problems and they may be able to help you find new ways to manage your mental wellness. If you continue to feel overwhelmed, out of control or unable to calm down using these techniques, seek help from a mental health professional.
And most importantly, be kind to yourself and each other.
If you or someone you care about feels overwhelmed with emotions like sadness, depression or anxiety, or like you want to harm yourself or others call 911.
Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline: You don’t have to be suicidal to call. If you or a loved one need to talk, call us now. Someone is always here for you on the other end of the line. Call (800) 273-8255 OR Text (208) 398-4357.