Let's give our brains a deserved rest
Monday, March 24, 2014 4:24 AM
During the past two weeks, this column has taken a look at ways to keep our brains active and sharp. It's good for them.
Now, however, we'll journey in an equally important, but opposite direction. Our brains/minds also need a time to be still, silencing the seemingly nonstop and often times negative and second-guessing chatter that can plague us.
Admit it. There are many times the "chatter in your head" will talk you out of trying something you can readily handle and could be very rewarding, but which might be challenging. "Oh, you can't do that," it says, repeating the message again and again, listing all kinds of problems that you surely won't be able to overcome.
Or maybe the "chatter in your head" makes you second-guess and regret a decision over and over. The brain/mind can be really obnoxious like that.
Since my fall of 26 feet, from a bridge, in September of 2012 and a minor traumatic brain injury (TBI), followed by a stroke while in the hospital, I've learned all about brain issues. Doctors and staff at the Mayo Clinic and its hospitals fully believe in whole body wellness. Free educational presentations on health issues are given, I believe, weekly.
A visit to the Barbara Woodward Lips Patient Education Center shares more. The center is located in the Siebens Building, Subway Level, near the Siebens elevators, the Mayo Clinic Store and the Patient and Visitor Cafeteria. The Siebens Building is east of the Gonda and Mayo buildings. The center will highlight information on many topics including stress management, tips to get a better night's rest and yoga.
Practicing yoga is one way to silence the chatter and still the mind. Controlled, deep breathing is key. Meditation is another way to bring on silence; I like to think of it as yoga without the physical moves.
I was first given a few yoga moves to help loosen my muscles by Mayo physical therapists. As I've explored further yoga, as well as Pilates, with online videos, I've grown to appreciate the control required for the still mind and even the simplest body moves and poses. It all feels good even if I am just a beginner.
I attended one of Mayo's patient education presentations on a day when it coincided with free time between appointments over the noon hour. It was on stress management. Staff also handed out a CD on the same topic from the Barbara Woodward Lips Education Center. A fellow patient from Ohio, sitting close by in the auditorium, told me how much she appreciated Mayo's whole-body approach and education pieces.
The CD has a guided meditation that includes visualization. (There's nothing quite like imaging you're on a sun-warmed beach as a soothing voice steers you away from perceived problems to a clear, restful mind.) I'm also using music and guided meditations from a company called Silent Journey, which I purchased.
I'll share right here that I have a long way to go to fully embrace yoga and meditation, that is, quieting my mind. I hope it happens soon since I feel the full benefits just barely out of my reach. But... I still have trouble letting that "chatter" go.
Another thing I need to do is reread a book that came highly recommended - and is praised by everyone who subsequently tells me that he or she has read it. It's titled "My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey." It was written by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D., then a 37-year-old, Harvard-trained brain scientist learning about the differences in the brain that caused her brother to have mental issues, while she did not, and helping others. To her misfortune - or she would say to her benefit and understanding - she had a stroke at the age of 34.
The book is brilliant, whether you've had a stroke or a brain injury, or just want to learn more in, for the most part, non-medical talk. I want to reread this to really soak it in (maybe getting my mind quiet first?).
One thing I can recall to some extent, even without rereading, is her take on the nagging mind chatter. She suggested telling your mind it has, say, 90 seconds to nag and be negative - and then that's done. I like the idea of attempting to train your brain/mind to be not only sharp, but to be thoughtfully, beneficially silent.
And that's it. This is the final column looking at brains. I have to say I can't wait to see what further brain studies and explorations reveal.