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Train Your Brain: Not Just for Menopausal Women

Sunset Angles © lynette sheppard

Sunset Angles © lynette sheppard

Menopause plays havoc with our mental faculties. Brain fog, memory loss, difficulty concentrating, loss of focus are just some of the symptoms that plague us. Even after the worst of the Pause is in our rear view mirror, our minds just don’t seem as sharp as they once were. A consequence of aging? Well, maybe. Then again, maybe we can give it a kickstart.

Playing games like Scrabble, learning a new language, or doing math in your head surely can help exercise our brains. I tried all of these and while it seemed to help; after a while I just plateaued. I really wanted my old, sharp mind back – I needed help but didn’t know where to look.

Then I happened across a brain training website called Lumosity. I started out playing the free games and was instantly hooked. I signed up for the family plan for a year. Now I can’t imagine missing my daily workouts.

Based on the science of neuroplasticity, or brain plasticity, Lumosity trains our brains in a number of areas: attention, flexibility, task switching, memory, problem solving, and more. The brain is not static nor is learning confined to a single part of the brain. Basically, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks. You can even teach a damaged brain new ways of processing to recover function.

Lumosity games are fun, but more important, they stimulate your brain to get in shape. Games become more complex and difficult as you master them. You receive scores and points as you “exercise” each cognitive area and you are able to map your progress in them as well as track your overall improvement in BPI or Brain Performance Index.

You can also check your BPI against others of your age group. I personally don’t care how I stack up against others. I am much more interested in my improvement over time. Like it says on the Lumosity site: Training is a marathon, not a sprint. (OK, I just checked myself vs others for the first time in months. I was about average when I started my training – around 50th – 60th percentile, now I am in the 90th percentile for my age group. Woo hoo!)

So the next time you are tempted to play Angry Birds or Candy Crush, skip on over to Lumosity and give your brain a workout. (While Lumosity is best played on your computer online, there are also Lumosity apps for the iPad  and iPhone that I use when traveling.)

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Menopause And Anxiety: The Night Terrors Pt. I

There is always the Garden – © wcjacobson

I’ve received a great many letters from readers confirming that the least talked about symptoms of menopause were afflicting them. Like many of us, they were just happy to  know that they were not going crazy.

We Venuses may not all have suffered daytime panic, but each of us had nocturnal visits from a variety of rest-sucking fears we called the night terrors. Thankfully, these were temporary, but while this symptom was with us, it seemed ovewhelming.

Our specters included anxiety and worry, instant replays, and the list of undones. Some of us got all three of these lovelies, occasionally all in the same night. Along with insomnia, these visitations disrupted our sleep profoundly, leaving us more vulnerable to all the other emotional and physical changes that afflict us during the daylight hours.

Initially, I was feeling rather smug during the onset of menopause because I did not find myself bursting into tears or excessively cranky like some of my menopause goddess sisters. However, I made up for this initial blessing in spades during the night time.

In the wee hours of each morning, I would wake to find myself aboard the Fretliner Express, my own personal bullet train to anxiety and worry. While I would have no memory of embarking or even purchasing a ticket, I’d suddenly be speeding straight on to worst-case scenario with no stops at logic, rationality, or probability statistics.

“But this is not me!” I’d cry out silently. “I just don’t worry.” I think I’ve mentioned before that this phrase could be the mantra of mid-life women “This is not me.” Alas, it is you. And me. Now.

Back to the Fretliner – as always, I would be alone and the train would be whizzing past stops so fast I couldn’t tell where we were. Of course it is an underground train – eerie and dark and forbidding. My heart raced, and I worried. About everything, it would seem. My kids – where are they right now? Either sound asleep, like I ought to be or partying the night away with their friends or mates. In any case, they were thousands of miles away, living their own lives. But I worried about unseen, amorphous dangers they might encounter.

I worryied about my health, my husband’s health, the health of my island or the planet. I fretted about global warming and whether Friendly Market sould have mahi-mahi for the following night’s dinner. I worried about aging in general. I worried that Island Air might be late on a trip to Maui, though we had no particular schedule that would be affected if it were late.

All these worries seemed equal somehow. Equal as in HUGE. So I would lay awake – worrying and fretting and desperate to get back to sleep. The worst part was that all this worry was aging me further! As much as I lost my train of thought those early days, I couldn’t seem to lose my nocturnal journeys on the Fretliner Express train. For many months.

Take heart, dear ones. It doesn’t last forever. It actually becomes laughable. I swear it.

Stay tuned for variations on the night terrors in the next blog entry.

(material partially adapted from Lynette’s ebook Becoming A Menopause Goddess, available also in softcover as The Big M)

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The Best Change Brought by Menopause

dandelion swirl © lynette sheppard

“I’m sorry about your weight,” said Marcia, the checker at my local Safeway.
“Wha… what?” I stammered, wondering if I’d worn pants that showed the two extra pounds I’d regained over my HCG diet weight.
“I know it took a long time, but her credit card wasn’t working and…”
I burst out laughing. “Oh, you’re sorry for the wait! If you knew what I heard…. I wanted to say that you couldn’t possibly be as sorry as I am… I’ve been practicing avoidance maneuvers to get around the scale in the bathroom.”
Marcia is a woman of Menopause Goddess persuasion and began to laugh, too.
“Don’t even go there,” she giggled. “I’m way ahead of you.”

Just when I was beginning to feel that I’d gotten a pretty good handle on the mental changes that have alternated between distressing and hilarious, I now find that my ability to process information is on the blink.

I’ve been taking my acetyl-l-carnitine religiously and my memory has been pretty good (for my age.) And I am definitely less spacy – the brain fog has  mostly cleared leaving just a few misty spots. I even caught a problem in a legal document recently that saved us a lot of time and trouble.

So while I wasn’t all the way to smug about my mental faculties, I felt like I could hold my head up pretty high.

Until today. When I had trouble understanding words in context in my native tongue.

I do think I have discovered the best thing about Menopause, though. It’s not the lack of monthly cycles (although that’s pretty good.) It’s not the transition to elder (with its assumption of wisdom, although that’s pretty good, too.) It’s not even the feeling of comfort in my loosening skin. (Although that’s great…just sayin’…)

Nope. The very best thing about Menopause is that I will be kept laughing for the rest of my life. Because what else can a Menopause Goddess do when confronted with the shifting sands of time? It is just so freaking funny. My sense of humor is in better shape than ever. Thank heavens something is!

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Menopause Attention Deficit Disorder

River Eddy ©lynette sheppard

Theresa Venus sent me this horrifically funny clip about a woman of a certain maturity. Yes, I said horrifically. Because this video describes too much of this Menopause Goddess’s life. Maybe yours too?

I wrote about this phenomenon back in 2007 claiming that HDD (Hormonal Deficit Disorder) leads to Menopausal ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). While I can honestly say that the severity of the ADD has eased, I still have days that are reminiscent of being caught in eddies on a river. You know eddies. Those parts of the river, usually behind some obstruction near the bank, where the water swirls around in a circle actually heading upstream of the normal flow. Every good river boater knows that you can lose a lot of time and momentum in eddies.

One thing I have learned in my five plus decades as a woman and a river runner: don’t fight the current. Work with it, harness its power, use it to your advantage, and try to achieve some degree of harmony with the flow. Struggle never works. It will exhaust you and you won’t achieve the desired result anyway. We are not in control. And maybe that’s a good thing.

So on those days when my attention gets caught in multiple eddies, I just become part of the flow. And try not to leave anything burning on the stove.

“I confirm the subscription of this blog to the Paperblog service under the username lynettesheppard”

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