Cognitive resilience is the ability to overcome the adverse effects of stressors and harness stress for higher levels of cognitive performance. This means how well you adapt and recover quickly after stress, trauma, adversity, or tragedy. If you have a resilient disposition, you can more easily deal with life’s challenges. If you are less resilient, you are more likely to feel overwhelmed by life, dwell on problems, and use unhealthy coping strategies to handle stress. You are also more likely to develop depression and anxiety.
Why Are We All So Stressed?
The past generation has seen a steady rise in stress levels, and a lot of that stress is due to workloads that demand a high level of cognitive performance. In addition to job stress, other contributing factors include people issues and juggling work and personal lives.
Cognitive resilience reduces our susceptibility to depression, anxiety, and job burnout, as well as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. And while workers in the US are known for being prone to burnout, they are not alone. UK doctors are also reporting an uptick in patients reporting stress and anxiety issues, making this a worldwide trend.
Cognitive resilience or brain resilience is one aspect of brain health. Brain health training focuses on strengthening resilience and preventing stress-related disorders and cognitive decline with age. The most effective brain health exercises capitalize on the brain’s dynamic capability to be strengthened when healthy and repaired after an injury or cognitive impairment.
Improve Cognitive Resilience with Brain Training
Finding effective ways to improve your cognitive resilience is more important than ever. The good news is that you can develop or improve your resilience by training your brain to focus on the positive aspects of your life. The method involves using purposeful, trained attention to reduce negating thoughts and bring your attention to the most positive and meaningful aspects of an experience. But, it does take practice.
The training focuses on four areas: emotional, cognitive, physical, and spiritual. Training these areas of the brain can improve your resilience, improve your quality of life, and reduce your stress and anxiety. The training hinges on learning to view life’s inevitable ups and downs as opportunities.
Brain Training Exercise for Anxiety and Depression
Cognitive functioning is not fixed, so we need to improve it, give it a workout, to maintain and enhance cognitive resilience. In addition to helping fight anxiety and depression, brain training can improve your executive abilities and generally improve cognitive function.
Exercise Your Body
Surprised? Exercising is one of the best and easiest ways to exercise your brain. Exercising increases blood flow and oxygen delivery to the brain. It also helps reduce the amount of stress hormones produced by the brain and increases beneficial chemicals that enhance new neuronal connections. Forty percent of the brain contains white matter, which contains neurons that transmit pulses to the brain.
Meditate to Combat Anxiety and Depression
Develop a meditation practice to calm your mind and combat anxiety and depression. There are many long-term benefits of meditation backed by science, including improving memory and focus. In fact, meditation may be the ultimate form of brain training. Sitting in perfect silence helps the brain concentrate on your innermost thoughts and connects you to the world. Establishing this deeper connection with yourself helps free yours from stress, worry, and depression.
Regularly Challenge Your Brain
Just like you need to regularly exercise your body, you need to exercise your brain regularly. This involves doing things that are fun but also keep the brain working. Activities that challenge the brain include reading, writing, playing games, and solving puzzles. Variety is especially good for the brain, so mix it up. Solving problems is a great way to build new connections and improve brain function. Here’s a month’s worth of brain training exercises to get you started. Start with easy ones and increase the difficulty as you get better at them.
Keep in Touch with Friends and Family
Make new friends and keep the old, we learned as children, and it still applies as we move through adulthood. Socializing has benefits for brain health and cognition. It also helps increase feelings of wellbeing and reduce feelings of depression. Connections with friends and family can improve brain functioning and increase cognitive potential.
Get Enough Sleep
Insomnia is also a global phenomenon. Lack of sleep affects attention, focus, and working memory. Sleep deprivation can reduce cognitive function, not to mention make you more irritable. During sleep is when our brain sorts through events that happened during the day and makes connections and memories. Make sure you get enough sleep each night to improve cognitive functioning.
While I am certainly a proponent of yoga for everything, there is science to prove the effects of yoga on brain health. Not only does it help with cognitive resilience, but yoga can also improve depression, anxiety, stress, and overall mental health. There are so many yoga styles. You’re bound to find one that is right for you.
Depression and Anxiety, Two Stress-Related Brain Health Issues
Stress triggers a cascade of physiological effects that affect the hippocampus, the area of the brain involved in memory and learning. Depression and anxiety are two major stress-related brain-health issues. They are not mutually exclusive. A person can suffer from both.
Depression triggers cortisol, and excessive amounts of cortisol in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex can affect memory and learning. When depressed, a person feels discouraged, hopeless, sad, unmotivated, and uninterested in life. When these feelings interfere with daily activities such as spending time with friends, taking care of family, coping at work, this may be a major depressive episode.
Characterizations of anxiety disorders include exaggerated tension and worry, expecting the worst outcome when there is no obvious reason to do so. People suffering from severe anxiety often have sleep disorders, constantly feel on edge, and are always on the lookout for potential threats.
A Note from GR8NESS
Depression and anxiety can be extremely debilitating to live with. If you are suffering from long-term depression and anxiety, please see your primary care physician or reach out to a therapist to explore treatment options. These options can help, but always seek professional help for mental health issues or concerns.