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Finding the Light in the Cracks

Maria-Shriver-Finding-the-light-in-the-cracks

This week, I found myself really trying to find the light in the cracks.


That’s not always an easy thing to do, especially if you focus your attention on the blame game coming out of Washington right now with regards to the government shutdown. I mean, really? Who cares? Just fix it.


To me, though, there was a lot of light to be seen this week. I saw the light shine through in the women’s marches that were held around the world on Saturday, and which continue today. People are using their voices to stand up for their rights, and for those of others, and that’s a powerful thing.


I also saw the light this week coming from voices like Olympian Michael Phelps, who bravely opened up to CNN’s David Axelrod about his battle with depression and thoughts of suicide. That sort of honesty and truth will hopefully help many people who are suffering from the same thing know that they are not alone.I also saw the light this week in the news about our president taking a test to assess his cognitive health. I was especially pleased that his doctor spoke about the test and even directed people to take it.


I’m not being facetious about this one. I’m serious. Getting people to pay attention to their cognitive health, and getting people to take a cognitive test so they can get a baseline, is a big component of the work we do at my nonprofit, The Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement. I founded WAM to try and understand why Alzheimer’s discriminates against women and to help educate more people about what we can do starting today to save our minds and keep our brains healthy with age.


Turns out, there is a lot we can do today to support our cognitive health, but first, we have to get a read on it. The test the president took is one example (you can check it out here), but there are many other tests available as well.


A few years ago, I took a cognitive test of my own. I’m not going to lie. I was nervous to do it. In fact, I worked myself up into a frenzy before I did it. (That comes as no surprise to those who know me well.) “What if I fail?” I thought. “What if I don’t do well?” “What if they discover this or that?” It was like I was back in high school and about to take the SAT.


But, every doctor I had met through my Alzheimer’s work had spoken to me about the importance of spreading the word about cognitive health. How could I spread the word if I was too scared to even take a test?


Lord, have mercy.


And so, in I went. I counted backward by 7’s. I listened to stories and tried to remember facts, names and faces. At the end, voila! I had my baseline and information from which to move forward.


Today, I pay a lot of attention to my cognitive health. I think about how the food I eat and the exercises I do affect my brain. I think about how certain types of people affect my brain, and I develop boundaries for those types in my life. (Yes, I do.)


I also think about my sleep and view it as time spent clearing out my brain, which science backs up. (This helps me go to sleep earlier.) I think about how stress impacts my cognitive health. I now remove myself from situations that I’ve deemed bad for my brain. And, I stay committed to my meditation practice each morning because I know that it serves not just to quiet my mind, but to help preserve my brain as well. (Science backs me up here, too.)

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