Dr. Mathewson’s 6 Tips to Support Healthy Cognitive Functioning

These are stressful times! Stress can have negative effects on your cognitive faculties. From headaches to forgetfulness, gut problems to lapses in judgment.

Here are Dr. Mathewson’s 6 Tips to Support Healthy Cognitive Functioning during times of stress:

  1. Stay active. Engaging in regular physical activity keeps the brain healthy and cognitively flexible. Select activities that you enjoy like walking, riding your bike, stretching or gardening. Aim to get about 150 mins of gentle to moderate body movement per week, or to your personal tolerance.
  2. Reduce lifestyle stressors. Spend extra time around people that make you feel calm, appreciated and valued. Limit time with people that make you feel stressed, anxious or uncomfortable. Humans are social animals, we do best when we feel connected and supported by loved ones. It’s extra challenging to stay connected with all the social distancing we are doing currently, please do your best to stay involved with your network.
  3. Make relaxation and rest a priority. Plan time each day to do something that you enjoy, whether it’s taking a walk through your neighborhood, relaxing in a warm bath, or lounging with a good book. Your brain needs time to be active, and it also needs time to be calm and restful.
  4. Get a good night’s sleep! I think adults should be aiming for at least 7.5-8.5 hours of high quality sleep per night, and teens and children need even more. Your brain does all of its housekeeping chores while you are sleeping, this includes getting rid of cellular debris and moving your lymphatic fluid. To optimize sleep: stop drinking caffeine past 11AM, limit alcoholic beverages to 1 or less drinks per night (alcohol is highly inflammatory and can disrupt sleep patterns), limit screen time past 9PM, and aim to go to bed and wake up around the same time each day.
  5. Strictly limit sugars and processed carbohydrates. Your brain is very sensitive to fluctuations in blood sugar. Aim to include adequate protein, fiber and health fats with each meal as they help stabilize blood sugar.
  6. Eat lots of colorful vegetables! Your brain loves all the antioxidants and minerals in vegetables.