“We must all wear out or rust out, every one of us. My choice is to wear out”
Our systems are well-designed to manage acute stressors. These are the temporary mental or physical challenges that we face on a day-to-day basis. These stressors actually promote a strengthening of our physiological systems and make us healthier. Thank our prehistoric ancestors for this amazing gift.
Unfortunately, in the present-day while we still face those occasional temporary stressors, but we also live in a world of chronic low and medium-grade stress that our ancestors could never have even imagined. Job stress, poor sleep, traffic, post-sunset blue light exposure from computer screens and cell phones, and the constant chasing of the clock to get more done in less time flips the switch on our stress response all day, every day.
Acute, short-term stressors enhance our memory and ability to learn by proliferating and strengthening connections in the brain. Chronic stress increases inflammation and oxidation (the formation of free radicals) in the brain that promote a deterioration of these connections resulting in deterioration of memory and reducing our ability to learn. This is oxidation is literally like rusting from the inside out. Sorry, Teddy.
As a health professional, I see how chronic stress negatively affects my clients’ ability to manage their personal health every day. As a human, my quality of life is affected no less than that of my clients. To assure that I promote optimal health in myself, I’ve established the following behavioral strategies in an effort to maximize my return on investment to maximize health and quality of life.
- Establish a lifestyle supported by proper nutrition. This assures sufficient energy for brain and body regardless of your pursuits. It promotes a healthy intestinal tract that directly feeds back to support the brain. It helps to control blood sugar that will influence my longevity. Additionally, I rarely overeat (except for the occasional eating contest with IFAST employees and interns… I’m 2-0 by the way) as this is a stressor, and I rarely drink alcohol (except for the occasional margarita from my favorite Mexican restaurant… Rocks, no salt!).
- Establish a pattern of sufficient sleep every night with consistent bed time and wake time. We need sleep and we tend to sacrifice it for other things. Sleep time is when your brain cleans itself of plaques that promote degeneration and prunes the connections in your brain to solidify your new memories and enhance learning. My wake time is now 5 a.m. If you would have told me that I would be an early bird at any time in my life prior to now, I’d have laughed at you. Now I wake with more energy than I can remember in anticipation of a great day.
- Meditate every day. It’s not just for the gurus sitting upon mountaintops in flowing robes. Meditation actually enhances your ability to control your interpretation of the world around you to help manage and minimize negative stressors. I currently use the Headspace.com app. I can put it on my phone as well for travel purposes and stay on top of this practice. I think it’s essential. Meditation impacts every system of the body and provides an element of control for me. I’m less inclined to react emotionally to situations that I cannot control. I maintain the ability to think clearly in stressful situations.
- Exercise several times each week. There is no better strategy to create an internal environment of overall health of every system in your body including brain health. My aerobic sessions are designed to promote circulatory and cardiac benefits as well as promote the release of BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor) which promotes the development of new neurons in my brain. I currently do two intensive training sessions and two medium to easy session per week. I also do breathing activities coupled with movement to maintain my mobility. As I’ve aged, my ability to generate intensity has not declined, but my ability to recover has. It took me too long to recognize that resulting in some relatively permanent limitations and some chronic pain that I’m managing quite well, but again, I should have recognized this sooner.
- Learn something new every week. As a health professional, one of my personal goals is to keep providing my brain with new stimuli to keep it growing and to enhance the connections that already exist. I read widely and my wife and I have even taken dance lessons. Our brains were designed for movement. Take advantage of that fact and don’t forget to play a little bit every day.
- Support each behavior with appropriate supplementation to enhance each behavior and fill in the gaps that arise when I’m not perfect. And I’m not perfect, so I regularly seek out supplements to improve my intestinal health, quell undesirable inflammation, assure sufficient energy and development, and reduce oxidative damage to the cells in my body.
Cerevan (full transparency, this is an affiliate link) is now an essential component of my behavioral program. There is no supplement that can take the place of my system of behaviors in promoting health of my body and brain, but Cerevan assures that I’m maximizing each and every aspect of my personalized brain health program every day. It’s a great anti-oxidant that will impact inflammation in my brain. My subjective opinion is that it is also providing an acute effect on my clarity of thought and memory. It’s a new addition, so I’ll see how it goes longer term.
Neuro Coffee (affiliate link. Add coupon code IFASTPT and save 15% on your first order) is now a staple. I was never a coffee drinker at all. Never liked the taste. I’ve been a green tea guy for quite some time, but this coffee provides a healthy dose of BDNF just like my exercise routine. I actually look forward to it every morning. It is now the only source of caffeine in my program as well. I’ve eliminated all other stimulants from my behavioral program. Too much sympathetic nervous system stimulation may reduce my ability to manage systemic inflammation.
Curcumin and an EPA/DHA supplement is also in my regimen to control systemic inflammation as I don’t like salmon, so the thought of eating it several times a week makes me gag. It reminds me of force feeding myself tuna because it was a cheap protein source when I was bodybuilding in college. The things you’ll do when motivation is high and funds are low. I’d rather swallow a couple of capsules and be done with it. Read more about it HERE.
Berberine is something I’ve added recently to help manage blood sugar and to take advantage of some of the anti-inflammatory effect. I’ll see how this goes, but it may be tough to measure the impact without sticking my fingers and measuring blood sugar directly. Tracking body composition may be a way to monitor it. Read about it HERE.
This is a glimpse at my current plan. I’m sure it will change to some degree, but I think it’s pretty solid at this point.
I’d rather wear out than rust out.