10 Things to Prevent and Fight Alzheimer’s

10 Things to Prevent and Fight Alzheimer’s

20 June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Day, and it’s a great opportunity for all of us to be reminded about brain health, Alzheimer’s disease, and other dementias. Alzheimer’s disease is one of the leading causes of death which can’t be cured, can hardly be prevented or delayed and can potentially affect everyone who has a brain. 

There are an estimated 47 million people living with Alzheimer’s disease and associated dementias worldwide, with that figure likely to rise to 76 million by 2030 if nothing changes. However, everyone can make a difference and take a part in combating this debilitating disease. 

Here are 10 things you can start doing now to prevent and fight Alzheimer’s!

1 Get physical

Engage in regular exercise that elevates heart rate and increases blood flow/ studies have shown that physical activity reduces risk of cognitive decline.

2 Continue learning

All types of education help reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Enrol for courses online or find a class in your local area. 

3 Use your hands (and brain)

Challenge your motor skills. Take up a hobby that requires using both your brain and your hand. Build a piece of furniture, paint, carve out something or take up knitting or sewing. 

4 Call a friend

Staying socially engaged supports brain health. Share activities with friends and family and become an active member of the local community.

5 Get enough sleep

Not getting enough sleep may result in problems with mood, memory and clear thinking. Make sure you are having a minimum of 6-7 hours of sleep every night. 

6 Look after your diet

Eat a balanced diet that is higher in vegetables and fruit to help reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

7 Safety first

Brain injury can raise the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Wear a seat belt and use a helmet when playing contact sports or riding a bike.

8 Quit smoking

Smoking increases the risk of cognitive decline. Quitting smoking can reduce risk. to levels comparable to those who have never smoked.

9 Look after your heart

Risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke – obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes -negatively impact your cognitive health.

10 Take care of your mental health

Growing evidence indicates that it is possible to reduce the risk of cognitive decline by adopting key lifestyle habits including those above. When possible, combine these habits to achieve maximum benefit for your brain and body.


If you would like to speak with a counsellor about how we can support you, please contact us.

Anoush Davies

Find out more about Anoush here

Other Articles:

The Brain is not Hardwired

Five Elements for a Happier and Healthier You

What is PTSD

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

After a stressful and traumatic experience, it’s quite usual to have disturbing flashbacks, feel anxious, stressed and/or depleted and have difficulties sleeping. It may be hard at first to carry out routine everyday tasks, such as going to work, school, or spending time with and paying attention to people you care about. However, after a few weeks or months, the majority of people begin to feel better. If you’ve been experiencing symptoms for more than a few months and things are still not looking brighter, you may have PTSD. PTSD symptoms may appear later in life for some people, or they may come and go over time.

Symptoms of PTSD

There are four distinct diagnostic clusters of PTSD:

  1. Reliving the event
    At any point, unwelcome recollections of the trauma can resurface. They can feel quite real and frightening as if the event is happening again.  Those feelings are referred to as flashbacks and usually they are happening because of a trigger. A trigger is something that reminds you of the event and can bring back memories of the trauma. Anything can work as a trigger: smells, sounds, and people are just a few examples. 
  2. Avoiding things that can bring up memories of the event
    You might try to avoid situations that bring up memories of the event. Someone who was attacked in the lift, for example, could only use stairs or never share the lift with others. Alternatively, a person who survived a car crash might avoid driving for years as it feels dangerous. 
  3. Feeling generally more negative than you did before the trauma
    Feeling sad for no apparent reason or losing interest in things you used to enjoy, feeling numb and emotionless – all could be signs of PTSD. Lack of trust in the world and the people in it could also be another sign. Another feeling that often accompanies PTSD is the feeling of guilt and constant wondering if there was something you could do to prevent the event from happening. 
  4. Feeling on edge
    Experiencing extra levels of anxiety and feeling like it is impossible to relax are common for PTSD. Sudden outbursts of anger and irritability are also possible. Those symptoms are called hyperarousal and they often drive those who suffer from PTSD to search for relief in unhealthy ways, such as drugs and alcohol. 

The only way to find out whether you suffer from PTSD is to speak to a mental health professional who will talk to you about trauma, symptoms you are experiencing and treatment options available. Even if you don’t have all the above symptoms but have experienced a traumatic or life-changing experience, reach out for help. And remember that all people are different and it is not only abuse, assault and accident that may cause PTSD, for many major life changes such as relocation to another country, loss of a friend who moved or change of job could also be traumatic and cause subsequent PTSD. 


If you would like to speak with a counsellor about how we can support you, please contact us.

Anoush Davies

Find out more about Anoush here

Other Articles:

The Brain is not Hardwired

Five Elements for a Happier and Healthier You

The Benefit of Laughter

The Benefit of Laughter

Did you know that healthy children can laugh 400 times in a day but adults only average 15 times? It seems that we all need more laughter in our lives. But, does it really matter? Is laughter the best medicine?

The Benefit of Laughter

Well, research indicates that laughter is beneficial for our stress levels and our overall wellbeing. There are immediate short-term benefits and there are great long-term effects:

Short Term:

  1. Reduce stress: Laughter changes the perspective of stressful events and we can view them more as challenges and therefore less threatening. The relaxation of your muscles makes you less tense which reduces the symptoms of stress.
  2. Stimulation: Laughter increases your breathing and the oxygen boost stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles. And, the brain releases more endorphins.
  3. Exercise: Laughing is an exercise for the diaphragm, abs and shoulders and also leaves them more relaxed.
  4. Contagious: Laughter is contagious. It effects the others around you and brings increased benefits to a group. You will laugh more at a comedy with a group than on your own.

Long Term:

  1. Immune system: The positive thoughts that accompany laughter releases neuropeptides that help fight stress and general illnesses. While you have banished the negative thoughts that would otherwise flood your body with harmful and stress producing chemicals.
  2. Pain: Laughter is believed to produce natural painkillers to ease pain.
  3. Depression: Laughter provides a long term and beneficial effect by reducing the symptoms of depression.
  4. Fake it: Research indicates that the positive effects of laughter are not dependant on whether it is real or faked. Like many things, faking it works and, as a bonus, usually leads to it becoming real over the long term.
  5. Social: As in ‘contagious’ above, the group benefits of laughter can lead to an improvement in the quality of your social life.

You don’t find that much is funny in life? Just give it a try and try to find the funny side. Laugh at your bloopers instead of cursing. Enjoy a good comedy – live is often best. Observe yourself after a good laugh. Feeling good and relaxed? That’s laughter at work.

Befriend your Nervous System

Befriend your Nervous System

 

Our brain is wired to constantly scan for potential dangers and safety in our surroundings, even if we do so without realizing it. We read thousands of social cues when we interact with others, such as facial expressions, voice tones, body language, and more. Dr Stephen Porgers developed the Polyvagal Theory which describes the process of the neural circuits assessing whether the situations are dangerous or safe. He called it neuroception. This ability to distinguish cues of safety, danger, life-threatening situations, or people in a split second is learned throughout our early childhood development stages by observing our caregivers and from life experiences.

In Polyvagal Theory, there are three stages of the autonomic nervous system: Immobilization, Mobilization, and Social Engagement. Deb Dana, a US social worker and expert in Polyvagal theory, describes these three responses as an autonomic ladder. When we are at the top of the ladder there is a state of social engagement. We feel calm and want to connect or interact with others. When our bodies sense signs of danger, we move to the middle of the ladder. At this Mobilization stage, our heart rate speeds up, our breath is short, and our body will release adrenaline to prepare us for harm. We might ruminate with negative thoughts, feel anxious, and want to run away or lash out. While we continue to encounter extreme life-threatening danger, our nervous system starts to perform intensely. When all else fails, we will fall to the bottom of the ladder to the Immobilization mode causing us to become frozen, numb, dissociated, shut down, or collapse. You might describe ourselves as hopeless, helpless, abandoned, lonely, or too tired to think or act.

We shift up and down on different levels of the Polyvagal “ladder” every day. By being aware of what ladder level we are on at any given moment and understanding how we move between levels, we can be in control to move up if we are on a lower part of the ladder. We can set a specific time-out moment to check our status according to the schedule. When we notice that we are in the middle or bottom of the ladder we can say to ourselves, “Thank you, nervous system, for trying to protect me from danger. I am safe now.” Then we can do the activities that help us move up to the top of the ladder such as taking a break, going for a walk, doing some exercise, or having something to eat or drink. Social engagement behaviours will occur when the neuroception is feeling safe. 

Here is an example of shifting through different states of the ladder. I was enjoying a conversation with my close friends, feeling happy and connected (top of the ladder). The conversation turned to the current COVID situation and I started comparing my life to their friend’s life overseas. I started to feel frustrated that I haven’t seen my family for over two years or even been able to travel abroad (moving down the ladder). I disconnected from the conversation and was not able to pay attention to what my friend was saying (shutting down and moving to the bottom of the ladder). After dinner, I took a walk with my friend and felt more relaxed (beginning to move up the ladder). I started to tune in to the conversation again. I talked about the possibility of travelling and goals for the future (back to the top of the ladder). 

When we befriend our autonomic nervous system, we can then begin to understand our internal response patterns. When we are aware of our movement on the Polyvagal “ladder,” we can successfully manoeuvre to safety and connection. 

​If you would like to speak with a counsellor about how we can support you, please contact us.

By Cecilia Yu

Find out more about Cecilia here

Other Articles Written by Cecilia Yu:

Say No to Emotional Blackmail

Negative Emotions Can Be Good for You

Trauma & EMDR Therapy

Nonviolent Communication

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Re-entering the Outside World

Re-entering the Outside World

Travelling post-Covid

In the 2015 movie “Room”, based on the novel by Emma Donoghue, a mother and her son Jack are held captive in a single-room outbuilding for nearly seven years.  During this time, “Ma” works to keep her son healthy and happy by structuring their days with physical and mental exercises, keeping a healthy diet, limiting TV-watching time, and a strict regime of body and oral hygiene. Because it is all he has ever known, Jack believes that only the things in his immediate world are “real.” Ma, unwilling to disappoint Jack with a life she cannot give him, allows him to believe that the rest of the world exists only on television.  When they eventually escape, Ma must begin the process of relearning how to interact with the larger world, and Jack, who is overwhelmed by new experiences and people (and the realisation that the world actually exists beyond TV), wants only to return to the safety of the world he knows – the world of his Room.

 

 

I recently ventured out of Hong Kong for the first time in two years.  My husband and I planned the trip in order to bring our son home – he’d been delayed in Australia because of Hong Kong’s ban on flights from “high risk” countries.  We intended to meet him in Thailand, do a 14-day “wash out”, and then fly back to Hong Kong together.  The trip was functional in nature, with the goal of getting him back to Hong Kong and regular school.  It took weeks of organising, securing various approvals, passes, and certificates, and an off-the-charts level of patience.

About a week before we were set to travel, the HK government rescinded the flight ban, which meant we could potentially fly our son straight back to the city.  This prompted a debate:  Should we still go?  Was it necessary? Should we spend the money?  Would we rather wait and take an actual holiday later?  What if we got Covid while overseas?  Would we be able to get proper medical attention?  Would we be able to get back into Hong Kong?  And on, and on.

Eventually, having reminded ourselves that we both loved Thailand and we hadn’t been outside of Hong Kong for what felt like ages, we decided to go. Being effectively ‘grounded’ (or as some of our friends described it, “imprisoned”) for the last two years had taught us two things:  first, that life is short, and it is richer with travel; second, that we’d taken for granted our ability to see friends and family whenever we wanted.  Like most Hong Kong people, we were used to hopping on a plane at a moment’s notice, and living away from our families had not precluded us from seeing them.  We saw an opportunity to reconnect through this trip.  We decided to turn it into a long-awaited holiday, and invited the rest of our family and some friends to join us.  With the decision made, we felt a surge of joy and anticipation.  We had something to look forward to.

While we fully expected that travel in a post-Covid world would be a logistical hassle, what we didn’t anticipate was how it would feel to be out in the world again.  We experienced walking mask-free down public streets and entering restaurants without checking in.  We went to bars that were packed wall-to-wall with people (again, no masks).  We saw people shaking hands and hugging again.  We made plans and reservations for meals and activities, without having to check whether venues were open.  We were able to go out without carrying our phones.

How did it feel?  Honestly, it was a strange sensation, which led us to reflect on how we’d coped with the last two years.  We felt happy, sad, frustrated, regretful, guilty, optimistic, and resigned all at the same time.  The joy and appreciation of rejoining the outside world sat very uncomfortably against a sense of grief at having missed two years with people we love.  Had we done the right thing in avoiding travelling to see our family and friends, simply because of government restrictions?  Should we have pushed ourselves harder to just cope with multiple periods (and the expense) of hotel quarantine, for the reward of spending precious time with loved ones?  What if something had happened to them (as it did for so many families) and we weren’t there?  This was an experience of simultaneous celebration and self-flagellation.  Being with our family and friends again filled our hearts, and also reminded us of how much we’d missed.  In addition, it highlighted how much we’d gotten used to life with Covid – mask-wearing, contact tracing, vaccination discussions, rapid antigen testing, and avoiding coughing in public all felt normal to us.  The absence of these things felt uncomfortable and foreign.

There is something in this for me that connects back to Ma’s experience of escaping the Room.  She’s been isolated for so long, and the narrow world she’s inhabited for the last seven years has suddenly widened beyond comprehension.  She does not remember how to exist in that world. What was an effective coping mechanism – creating structure, routine, and stories for herself and Jack to deal with a lack of freedom – is no longer needed.  The prison no longer exists.  But she also feels guilt at not preparing Jack for the real world.  Anger for being imprisoned for so long and missing out on life. Uncertainty about how to relate to people other than her son.  Regret at not having been able to escape sooner.  Grief at the loss of time and the experiences she and Jack have missed.  Fear and discomfort at re-entering a world that has been lost to her for seven years.

The tight restrictions in Hong Kong were nothing compared to what Ma and Jack had to endure.  I am not suggesting for a second that travel restrictions are anywhere close to being imprisoned and traumatised on a daily basis for seven years.  What does strike me is the wide range and similarity of feelings that bubble up once a fuller amount of freedom is available to us, whether that freedom comes in the form of post-Covid travel or a release from captivity.

Our ability to adapt to our surroundings has ensured our survival over time.   Covid led governments around the world to implement restrictions on daily living which none of us could have imagined.  And we’ve coped with those restrictions by getting used to not travelling, by learning to be more still, and by adapting our daily routines to fill the void.  Ma coped with her lack of freedom much in the same way – by creating routines to foster a sense of normalcy for her and her son.  We humans have the capacity for profound resilience in the face of adversity.

As our world begins to open up, a new range of choices becomes available to us.  What will we do with that freedom?  We can stay home, avoid the complexity of travel and the risk of getting sick, and remain comfortable in the routines we’ve built for ourselves.  The trade-off is, perhaps, a greater richness in life.  Alternatively, we can start travelling and stepping back out into the world, accepting that we don’t know what will happen when we do, and we don’t know how it’ll affect us.

Regardless of whether you stay put, or step back into travel, you can expect to “feel all of the feels”.  The challenge is to stay in the present and allow the full range of emotions to wash through us.  Nothing can be done to change the past or to control the future.  

What choice will you make?  

Find out more about Kelly here

If you would like to speak with a counsellor about how Kelly or AMindset can support you, please contact us.



Five Elements for a Happier and Healthier You

Five Elements for a Happier and Healthier You

We all are unique and have our preferences and things that we like and dislike, yet I am sure we all would rather have a positive mindset, clear focus and good physical health.

Therefore, this month we invite you to celebrate wellbeing by stepping up self-care and working on five essential elements towards a happier and healthier you. 

The pillars of well-being can be divided into the following five categories: 

Physical

Intellectual

Emotional

Social

Spiritual. 

The above is just a large-scale picture, and to look into more detail, let’s check the practical ways to implement each element in your daily life. It is not a detailed and exhaustive list of points as things are different for different people, and you might have your ideas to add. We encourage you to take a few moments to reflect and rate yourself on every point between 1 and 10. One shows the lack of attention to this particular area, and ten signifies the harmony and balance concerning this element in your life.

  1. Physical wellbeing: 

Healthy nutrition and diet. 

Regular sleeping routine

Physical exercises, push you out of your comfort zone

Regular medical check-ups

Things that make you feel good (massage, manicure, new hairstyle)

  1. Intellectual wellbeing: 

Challenging yourself with new learning

Having “me” reading or writing time

Making time for hobbies and creativity

Bringing cultural aspects into your daily life

  1. Emotional wellbeing: 

Celebrating achievements, no matter how small

Silencing the inner critic

Accepting compliments with ease

Being grateful for things that you have

Being kind to yourself

Being kind to others 

  1. Social wellbeing:

Having friends (at least one person you can call a friend)

Having a group of like-minded people

Feeling a sense of belonging

Quality time with those people you value (your children, your partner, your parents)

  1. Spiritual wellbeing: 

Doesn’t have to be religious

Reflect on something that keeps you going when things are tough

Verbalise it. What is it? Prayer? Meditation? Yoga? Walk-in nature?

Now look at the numbers above and see which areas you are doing well and which elements might require improvement. Choose one small step in relation to each component you want to strengthen and commit to it. Please write it down and make it visible. Set the deadline for two weeks and check in regularly. Make an effort to raise the score by at least two within the next two weeks( for instance, if if you rated yourself at 2 in “quality time with partner”, – write down a small step that you are ready to make to raise this number to 4 (two invitations to morning coffee before work in two weeks, for example) and commit to it. And keep noticing the way you feel about the changes along the way. 

Small steps and self-belief are all you need… 

And I promise it works!!!!


If you would like to speak with a counsellor about how we can support you, please contact us.

Anoush Davies

Find out more about Anoush here

Other Articles:

The Brain is not Hardwired