Guest blog by Jessica Andersen, BSN, RN, CPHQ, Director of Program Strategy, Development & Measurement at GoMo Health.
In 2020, I found myself in a constant haze. My list of things to do each day seemed never-ending. Get the girls up for the day. Feed the dog. Pack lunches—but not with peanut butter! Get the girls dressed. Respond to emails. Answer IMs. And there were the constant thoughts: Did Evie brush her hair yet? Did Elsie brush her teeth? What is the mask situation today? Where did I leave my coffee this time? And a lot of, “Girls, we are going to be late!”
All of this came before 8 am. All of it came before diving into a very busy, strategic and cognitively heavy workday.
All of it was important, too. But it was taking me out of the present moment. Pushing my mind to go a million miles a minute for 14-straight hours a day, never able to fully complete a thought, always trying to do as many things as I could at one time to get through my list. It all made me forever exhausted.
Then, life presented me with an opportunity to learn how to go about my day in a different way: from brain health experts, nonetheless.
Through a collaboration with the Center for BrainHealth, I was able to work alongside experts in the field to create a brain health program for mothers.
The timing could not have been more perfect. The subject matter could not have been more applicable. I had hit the jackpot. Help was on its way!
Walking through each area of the program with the team was like watching a late-night infomercial when you’ve been up all night with a sick baby… I needed it all. In short, the program walks moms and moms-to-be through several different aspects of brain health to lay the foundation for a healthier brain. Because thinking about brain health in this way is novel to most of us, the program also explains why and how each topic impacts the brain, then provides weekly activities and suggestions on how to incorporate these concepts into daily life. Each month the program focuses on a different aspect such as:
Understanding brain health and why it’s important (‘Mommy brain’ is real, ladies.)
Stress and anxiety (Honestly, after the past few years, who isn’t feeling this one?)
Flexibility of thinking (Spoiler alert – there’s more than one right answer to situations…)
Social relationships (This one made the introvert in me want to hide, but it’s not actually that painfully uncomfortable.)
Less is more to the brain (Full stop. I legitimately found myself rethinking my entire life with this one.)
Gratitude (It seems a bit cliché, but it really is impactful.)
While I learned a lot—from both talking to our friends at the Center for BrainHealth and going through the program myself—I walked away with three main areas I really wanted to focus my attention on: Minimizing distractions. Reducing my incessant (it’s literally hardcoded into my DNA) need to multitask. And taking a little bit of time each day to prioritize myself.
The result… I adjust the things I can control. I shut the notifications off for most of the apps on my phone (if I want the news, I will go look it up; I don’t need to be reminded every hour that the world has gone mad). When I really need to focus on completing a task, I close out of my email and instant messaging apps on my desktop, turn the ringer off on my phone, and I devote my full attention exactly where it needs to go. The result? Better deliverables.
Most importantly, I think, especially for moms, is the concept of prioritizing ourselves. I think we’ve all heard that it’s important, and we’ve probably all recommended it to a friend in an offhanded way. But, learning from the experts that it is not only good for my mental and physical health, but also healthy for my brain… that was the encouragement and validation I had been longing for.
Now, each day, my goal is to prioritize myself in three 15-minute blocks of time purely devoted to my physical health, mental health, and brain health. Some days it works out as I’ve planned. Other days, I can only find those few minutes of peace, by myself, in the bathroom. (PSA to other moms—it IS ok to lock the bathroom door for a few minutes sometimes. Everyone else will be fine. They will most likely survive on their own for three minutes.)
My goal for my brain health is not lofty. It’s not a long list of steps that’s hard to remember. And some days, I don’t meet my goal. But I am improving. I feel better. I can complete a full, cohesive, impactful thought again. One of the things I’m most thankful for is the ability to demonstrate for my daughters a healthier way for women to “Do it all.” Best of all, I’m showing up for my family as a better version of myself, and to me, that is worth everything.
Every woman deserves to have access to this life changing information. Not just for herself, but for all generations that come after. This program is the drop in the water that creates the ripple that changes the tide. It’s time for the tide to turn and for us to prioritize our brain health.