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Posts from the ‘mental fitness’ Category

Burnout syndrome? Chronic fatigue? Turn to the nature

Popular assumption is that burnout is the result of excessive stress. Stress management system of the body is a very complex multi-action trigger and response system that involves both branches of the autonomic nervous system: sympathetic and parasympathetic, the brain and the HPA axis (the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis), as well as other pathways.

Burnout syndrome and chronic fatigue syndrome are quite difficult to diagnose because when somebody experiences frequent headache, chronic pain, depression, anxiety, insomnia, loss of appetite, lack of interest in anything, hormone imbalance and irritable bowel symptoms: these symptoms do not immediately make us think about low cortisol and a suppressed HPA axis which have eventually resulted from stressing oneself to the maximum over long periods of time. Physical and mental exhaustion manifest as similar set of symptoms, therefore, overdoing with inappropriate physical activities, overloading one with duties or studying and learning until complete exhaustion occurs is not a good idea.

Burnout syndrome and chronic fatigue syndrome may seem to be very different, but they are quite similar, in fact. The same hormonal abnormalities are present in both conditions, as well as similar complaints about physical symptoms. It could be that the brain has decided to shut down the HPA axis activity in order to prevent us from damaging our body completely. If we did not experience tiredness, sleepiness and exhaustion, we would probably work until our body is permanently damaged and unable to recover. Research suggests that the brain, and the HPA axis may be responsible for the fatigue experienced during burnout and with chronic fatigue syndrome.

Our body loves balance, so that all mechanisms and systems can work in a well-adjusted, well-balanced way. We certainly want to be safe and rich, and have no financial struggles. Many people go for 2 jobs or work even at 3 places. Nobody has cancelled family or kids; that takes our condition to the point when every single day is too short. When we start feeling worse and weaker, we can get done much less, so one wonders how that was possible I studied and worked and still had time to go out and enjoy? This pretty much affects any tasks we have to deal with: whether work or relationship related, and it does not stop there. Burnout causes to lose any motivation and interest in the job or activity which could have been even exciting and good opportunity when we started out.

It is not always work which causes somebody to burn out. It is usually a combination of things. That can be job that has become very difficult to cope with, too demanding boss or too many tasks; sick parent who needs daily care; kids’ education that needs attention, difficult and worsening relationships with spouse or friends who were there to support before, so on and so on. Loss of somebody very meaningful, especially if this person was more or less associated with anything we do. Stressful situations and events just pile up and we seem to have less and less control over them and less and less power to manage everything.

The worst part is that these emotions and feeling completely ill are like a vicious circle: they will not go away until the cause of never-ending stress is eliminated. It is easy to say: quit the job or leave the family, move to another city or town, or place your parent in old folks home. Most often the financial situation and debt are the most stubborn issues. Still, if you reach the point when it is almost impossible to keep doing that job or fighting with duties or people, you will have to quit it. Your health will demand it. In burnout syndrome, mental issues prevail; chronic fatigue manifests more as a physical illness.

Feeling good and healthy makes everything else happen.

My personal recipe before one turns to brain-affecting medications or drugs and alcohol is being in the nature. Being with it, in it and having oneself immersed in the nature. That is why these who have a garden or backyard are better off.

The soil and grasses have huge power: as you touch soil with your hands or stand bare-foot on a fresh, green grass, the bad energy flows out and energetic imbalances return to normal. We have so much electricity in us that sometimes it just needs to be unloaded. Give it to the soil, return into natural circulation. Doing garden work is good in any regard and no gym can ever compare to that. Don’t do this to become the world’s best gardener: do gardening for yourself and as much or as little as you can.

The other thing that makes time and everything else disappear is art. Meditation with pencil or brush. How wonderful is that? Drawing flowers or scenes where everything is included and balanced. Peaceful soul reaches out to the beauty of nature. Be careful, though, if you do art for achieving the status of the best artist ever, but not to relieve your stresses, there won’t be results. I am talking about activities which are completely different from your daily duties. Who cares what your drawing or painting is like? Nobody, as long as you have let stresses go for a while.

If you are an artist or writer who feels completely exhausted and swallowed down by the competitive world, you will have to choose nature for walks, forests for discoveries and gardening for making brain and body more saturated with simplicity.

Simply switching activities can help, too.

The worst way to gain more time is depriving oneself of sleep. Sleep has to be made a big priority. Cannot sleep? Drink chamomile with honey, lemon balm (if you do not have low blood pressure because it lowers blood pressure a lot), literary: smell roses and lavender.

Late night is not the time to resolve anything. Morning always knows better.

Why am I suggesting such simple things for extremely complex conditions? Because I’ve been through this. The last stretch of 4 years was horrible. I have made through it without falling apart completely only because of nature, garden, work in fresh air and art. It is not that easy to paint or draw after a bad fatigue episode when everything hurts. It is not easy to get back to life after being exhausted or depressed. If we don’t do anything, nothing good can happen either. Change is hard work, but we need to find strength within ourselves. Nature is smart, way smarter than we admit. It is very rewarding to find a part of our strength in the nature.

This is what heals me

The fantastic fragrant air raising from apple blooms: it works like a medicine

Lilac beauty and fragrance therapy

The spring blossoming this year was so intense that I could not resist taking a few more pictures.

Enjoy the blooming!

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Keeping memories alive and our brain fit

We know what happens to body parts not in use, for instance, during longer periods of immobilization: they degenerate and we have to work very hard to re-establish their flexibility and activity, and that involves all tissues and cells. That takes work, exercise and treatment. While wrinkles on somebody’s face or body shape clearly indicate person’s age and are visible at a first glance, the memory glitches and mild brain dysfunction are not. That’s why most people are obsessed with looking younger at any means, with diets, must have outfits and tools. That is an inevitable part of the visible and directly noticeable personality. Nobody is afraid to spend money on gym, sports equipment, hairdo, makeup, plastic surgeon and costly skin treatments. There’s so much money spent on useless food supplements which quite often harm the user without giving any of the benefits commercials promise. How come the most important part, the commandment and interaction managing center, the brain is so frequently left out of the scene of self-improvement?

Brain fitness 3

Keeping memories alive and watching the brain health is the most neglected aspect of our general health. Why?

Most likely, the main reason is nobody can see the aging of our brain or notice it right away. As it progresses, the person experiencing this badly affecting disorder is not even aware of it. This trouble becomes a serious issue when the memory loss is already large enough to affect the daily routine and any normal activities.

We simply should not allow that happen. Do we? Along with genetically inherited factors, mobile and digital devices do not demand us to use the memory and our brain. Everything is on the phone or laptop: directions, reminders, alarms, alerts and lists. We can send notes to ourselves and make endless to-do and other lists. How is that bad? It’s very simple: while we are watching screens or scrolling through them, our brain is half asleep. It’s crying for attention, but most people do not take this seriously until the brain turns itself off. The usage of our brain with well-known activities even with demanding, but familiar mental activities is very little. The brain requires daily exercise, daily workload and high level usage. That’s the only way to keep neurons alive and not to lose any connections which are called synapses. That’s the only way to develop new neurons at any age. The research in twins shows that genetic factors are by far not everything since one of twins develops dementia or Alzheimer’s while the other does not. That is a very strong indication in favor of epigenetic factors, like our daily activities, the work we do, the level of our involvement in challenging mental tasks.

Good food, absence of harmful chemicals, physical activity and proper care are essential elements of our well-being, but they make no sense when the brain stops functioning. They make zero sense without cognitive function and memory. The sad reality looks like this, however: once we are done with school and degrees, the active learning period ends, too. How many people who engage in intentional brain exercises on a daily basis when their job does not require that do you know? Let’s compare this number with people who care about their diet and physical activity. I can bet that there are very few who will say they know a lot of people who learn playing a new instrument, who do a research or learn a new language and who do visual arts for their brain exercises every day at an older age.

I would call the lack of brain exercising phenomenal in times when statistics reveal that the number of people suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s is expected to double in countries like Canada and the USA by 2038. Besides, there is nothing complicated about it: book your drawing and painting class, language learning course, music class or do your research with visual illustrations right away. Do not delay because any hesitation is causing trouble.

Brain health

It’s proven by now through many controlled trials that the best brain life boosting activity is drawing and painting because:

it is something new every time;

it is challenging and requires obtaining new skills every single minute;

it is a skill one can build on while starting at an easy level;

it is rewarding and pleasurable activity;

it involves socializing when taking a class in a group;

it reduces stress, anxiety and nervousness;

it involves positive thinking and positive attitude towards reality.

Brain fitness 2

These elements of brain exercising are essential. Besides, doing an art class is easy, affordable and some class always takes place close by. Just a small note: drawing and painting with alcohol does not improve brain function because we get opposite effects: alcohol kills brain cells while visual art extends the life of neurons and number of their connections.

Taking care of the brain is essential. We shouldn’t put it off.

Preveting memory loss

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