2. MID-DAY RESETS & DOPAMINE WITHDRAWALS
In “Create a Better Brain through Neuroplasticity” by Debi Pearl, she has a whole section on addictions. I identified with the section on behavioral addictions. “Behavioral addiction, sometimes called ‘process addiction,’ refers to a person becoming addicted to certain activities through a process of repeated participation. These might include such things as shopping, playing video games, pornography, exercise, gambling, eating, and even texting.”
It speaks of people in perpetual states of sadness or stress are overrun by cortisol and are not producing enough serotonin, oxytocin, or dopamine. “The chemical imbalance happens like this: by our addictions, we artificially trick the brain into producing more dopamine.” “The brain actually ceases to be able to maintain equilibrium without the excessive amount of stimulus input. Our actions, thought, and desires actually change the brain’s chemical balance just like hard drugs do.”
The problem this creates is that our brains never rest. We feel the need for the dopamine and we go to our repeated behavior and our brain begins ingesting the stimuli and an over stimulation cycle of our brain continues. What our brain really needs isn’t the dopamine shot. What it really needs is to process its data and shut some things down.
I compare this to a web browser that has fifteen tabs up. The computer processer is running and running and the computer is getting bogged down. What it needs is for you to review each tab, close them down one by one and then to literally shut off the computer to restart it later.
I’ll label this section “What I Said ‘Yes’ To
A. Mid-day Resets: I started scheduling in times of transition throughout my day to do just that. During my lunch break, I eat my food and scroll my phone for 15 or so minutes and then I have the kids do something safe and I drink a coffee, take a walk or ride a bike somewhere quiet for up to 30 minutes. It is then that I review the events of the morning (often with my “To Do” list) and I shut down that section of the day. Then I review what I need to do in the next few hours and pray for God’s leading and blessing.
I schedule another one in around 2:30 after science, history and giving a piano lesson. I call it “Snack and Water Break.” Our brains need water. I appreciate a bit of fruit and yogurt, and then I just stare and process. It has been healing.
I schedule a final one in around 5:00 right before I make dinner. By this time, all of our stuff has been completed. I just need everyone to clean up. I eat some oats & 1/4 cup Daisy cottage cheese and drink some water and I am rested before I begin the process of dinner prep. I do this because I am a bit edgy if I get hangry. LOL.
But these scheduled breaks equal about one hour (outside of lunch) and that was the hour I gave up of scrolling. I chose rest instead. I feel like we know we need rest, but sometimes would rather grab another cup of coffee rather than taking a nap. This goes back to the principle of “The Power of Subtraction” and as The Minimal Mom calls it in this video “Mental Minimalism.”
B. A Morning Prayer Walk: I try to kill four birds with one stone in this step. Last year, I read the benefits of being outside 2 hours a week. I could honestly say I was barely outside 30 minutes a week, but I started bundling up (in the cold weather) and walking 20 minutes a day around my subdivision. It was after this that I learned the power of a 20 minute walk a day.
Then as I was trying to get into a better sleep cycle (so hard for a wired brain like mine), I heard about the importance of your body being in sync with the sunrise and sunset and getting outside before 10AM.
As I have always tried to set aside time for personal prayer each day, it made sense for me to pray as I walked. This honestly has become the most looked forward to part of my day. I feel like “Enoch” walking with the Lord.
C. Nutrition: Our brains need fats and magnesium. We need vitamin D, calcium, magnesium and Vitamin K2 to keep our bones strong. Our guts need good bacteria to keep our immune system healthy. Our entire body needs water. Our blood (especially women’s) needs iron. This is a big deal. If you are continually exhausted, please take some time to see if you are deficient in any nutrients. When counseling women, it is the very first thing I try to look at. It links up with thyroid disorders, auto immune disease, anxiety and depression.
I love the study of nutrition and it’s effect on our mental health, but for the sake of time, I will just say that I make it a priority.
On a side note, one of my pet peeves with cooking shows is that they give your recipes that you couldn’t really eat very often. They are more like special occasions type of foods or VERY expensive meats with gourmet vegetables. It just isn’t practical. When I was first learning how to cook nourishing meals for our family, finding an actual meal plan of a variety of dinners and lunches that were just family meals that everyone liked took several years to develop.
So, when I decided to make a Family Cookbook for my kids as they leave home in a few years, I thought I would share them with you all as well. We have “Taco Tuesday” meals, and coming in October I will have all the soups I make. (Soup is my super power). I will just keep adding to the recipe section of the blog here.
D. Sleep: Many women need more than 8 hours a night of sleep, but aren’t getting it. I have taken special care to turn off any screens an hour before I intend to sleep. I read for a while, put some earbuds in and play Alexander Scorby reading the KJV and drift off to sleep thinking of God’s word rather than the day’s events or whatever random thought may pull me away from sleep.
God says that He gives His beloved sleep. It is a gift from Him. Accept it.
E. Gratitude: Every morning when I wake up, I thank God for everything I can think of. I start my morning breakfast thanking God for my home, warm coffee, tidiness and lamps to light the dark. I take my morning walk and thank Him that I can walk, for the birds, for the sunrise, for safety. As my children head to the kitchen, I thank Him that I can be a keeper at home and for food to cook. I am retraining my brain in Philippians 4:8 KJV.
So, in all of this I am giving my brain rest from continual stimulation. I am allowing it to process and shut down. I am giving it contentment and joy with gratitude. This is what I believe mental health looks like and it is very much linked with brain health. It feels like a deep breath.
I know that while I still have to work very diligently throughout the day, these things truly have made a HUGE difference. I have spent this past bit with more joy, more peace, more patience, more eye contact with my children, more smiling at my husband and I am so glad.