"Your grandma's not doing so well..."
I was talking to my mom on the phone when she said those words. My mom's mom was 102 years old at the time so it wasn't exactly surprising to hear that, but it wasn't comforting either.
My grandma had apparently been asking to see her mother (who had been gone for almost 60 years) and talking about things that didn't make a lot of sense. She seemed agitated, confused, and tired.
You may be thinking "well she is 102..." and dismiss this as just a fact of getting older, dementia, or maybe Alzheimer's. But in fact, something else was the culprit.
My grandma has always had a bit of a sweet tooth, which more often than not she tended to satisfy with lots of fruit. But over the previous few days, she had taken to eating sugar packets for a quick fix.
The doctor mentioned that her mental confusion could be an infection, as sometimes infections can affect the brain, so they made sure to run some tests. From previous experience with my grandma - knowing she doesn't always drink a lot of water or eat a lot of food - we wondered if her blood sugar or being dehydrated was instead the issue.
So my parents and the nurses made sure my grandma became well hydrated and ate some balanced food.
I checked with my mom the next few days to see how my grandma was doing. The tests came back negative for infection. And what do you know? My mom said "She looks even better than she has the last few years". Mentally, she was much more alert and coherent.
I can't prove to you the ONLY thing that healed her was better nutrition and hydration. At least not for 100% fact. But because this tends to be a pattern of my grandma's, it's a pretty sound theory.
Which brings me to what this wasn't...
Being in and around the coaching world, I hear all the time how "it's all about your mindset".
My definition of mindset is the same as the dictionary's: A fixed mental attitude or disposition that predetermines a person's responses to and interpretations of situations. An inclination or a habit.
But sometimes it's not entirely "fixed".
You can alter your body's (we sometimes overlook that our brain is a part of our body, not something outside of it) chemistry, composition and compulsions by changing other things. Such as increasing movement/exercise, getting enough sleep, having supportive relationships, and like my grandma, eating a more well balanced diet and drinking enough water.
How can you apply this to your mind and body? Here are some questions to ask yourself:
How much am I moving throughout the day?
You don't have to do anything crazy. If you don't like Crossfit, for example, no problem. Find something you do like. Jump on a mini-trampoline or walk some place instead of driving. Moving around increases certain chemicals in your brain, in addition to strengthening muscles and helping you breathe more efficiently. It can also help with posture, and body position can also increase mood.
How much am I sleeping? Is it quality sleep?
If 8 hours a day isn't what you need, no problem. Do 7 hours or 9 hours. Just pay attention to what you need and make sure you get it. Your body uses sleep time to rest and restore certain functions so if you're not getting that time, things don't run as smoothly. And your mental game suffers. How many times have you said something you didn't want to say because you were so tired? Not to mention if you're tired your body can crave quick burning food (read: sugars), which starts you down a poor nutritional path.
Do I feel supported in my home and work life?
Whether that's your co-workers, a spouse, friends, or family, it's helpful to have people that support you and you them. If my grandma hadn't had me, my mom, and some medical professionals to help her she may not have gotten what she needed. Or been easily dismissed as old. We noticed a pattern and helped her figure out what to do about it. You can help others do the same, and vice versa.
How is the quality of the food I'm eating? Am I eating too much? Not enough?
Paying attention to your body's signals can do a lot in helping you figure out what you need nutritionally. It's so hard to know what the "right diet" is. Partially because, in my humble opinion, there isn't one. For example, some people do really well eating a lot of complex, and sometimes simple, carbohydrates. Others need more protein. Others more fat. There are even times during the week or month you may need more than others. Blindly following a diet without taking into account all of your needs, can sometimes throw you off more than paying attention to how your body reacts to what you're eating.
Am I drinking enough water (for me)?
I don't totally believe in the 8 glasses of water a day suggestion. As a suggestion it's fine. You can drink 8 glasses of water a day and see how you feel. Is that enough for you? Too much? If you're eating a lot of fruit or drinking tea you may not need more water. If you exercised a lot that day, you may need more. I'm not afraid to get a little thirsty because it tells me something. You just don't want to get as far along as my grandma did because dehydration (or over hydration) can affect your mind for sure. You can feel dizzy, lethargic or angry.
So if you hear people say "just change your mindset" and it's been hard for you to "snap out of it" and do that, you're not a failure. There may be some other things you need to look at that could help you improve your overall (and that includes your brain) health.
Life and health is not just one thing. There are many things that interact and come together to create either an imbalanced or well balanced version of whoever you are. Hormones can affect what foods you want to eat, and consequently, if you eat healthier foods, it can affect your hormones in a positive way.
And whoever you are can change, once you figure out a way to look at the big picture and see the cause and effect of your actions.
My grandma is now 103 and spent her birthday basking in the sun (with a wide-brimmed hat on of course) at one of her favorite places. I hope, like her, you live your life to the fullest and look into what you could change to make your mental (and physical) state a more healthy one.