As the chief organ of the human nervous system, your brain is the one holding the emblematic remote control. Brain Health Initiative (BHI) wants to protect that vital on-off organ by imploring you to get up off the couch. Your everyday abilities such as motor control, sensory recognition, body regulation, emotion, reasoning, language and remembering to let the dog out shouldn’t be taken for granted. So even as a certain pandemic continues to make waves, don’t allow yourself to become sedentary or depressed. According to Neuropsychologist, founder and executive director of BHI, Dr. Stephanie Peabody, the virus is not only causing physical ailments but it is also affecting brain health at the individual and community level. The initiative can’t champion enough how important it is to give your brain and body a much-needed cognitive boost during this time. “A trauma like the experience of the coronavirus pandemic, and the resulting stress, can threaten brain health in the moment and create numerous long-term risk factors for future brain illness,” she said. In response, Dr. Peabody recently wrote to US Congressman Vern Buchanan to bring attention to this critically overlooked aspect of COVID-19, and seek approval to launch a statewide BHI COVID-19 Neurologic and Mental Health Call to Action on the poorly understood neurologic and mental health consequences of the virus.“

In the meantime, while undertaking a Global Call to Action campaign, she is working to continually build brain-healthy communities in collaboration with Massachusetts General Hospital, a Harvard Medical School Teaching Hospital, and the Academy for Brain Health & Performance. In March, BHI launched an e-series called Brain Health Boost. Newsletters came daily to bring preventive resources and actionable steps to subscribers’ inboxes—friendly reminders to change the batteries out of your remote when it starts to lose juice. Brain Boost’s support is designed to increase a healthy mental state and optimize brain performance with a grab bag of fun, insightful ‘What You Can Do to Promote Your Brain Health Today’ tips. Such tips spanned from making a Hope, Goodness, Optimism & Renewal playlist on Spotify including artists such as Dave Matthews Band, Pink and Elton John, to selecting a feel-good film such as Mrs. Doubtfire, Forrest Gump and Finding Nemo.

Each post dove into navigating a new stay-at-home lifestyle—including how to socially engage while social distancing, how to manage stress, how to compile a gratitude list, how to step back from too much media/news consumption, how to laugh generously and embrace the ridiculousness with healthy humor, how to boost your immunity/promote a tolerance to the virus, how to give yourself an electronic curfew for a good night’s sleep, how to make cooking a family activity, or how to ensure nutritious takeout options. When gyms closed their doors, and pickup basketball games were abandoned, BHI partnered with Lakewood Ranch Live to bring virtual activities to the community. Fit-Tip Friday’s featured full-body workout videos from Anchor Fitness & Performance every Friday morning, followed by a brief Q&A session via Facebook Live with owner/trainer Graham Anderson, to teach a new ‘fit-tip,’ including stretching techniques and physical activity routines during quarantine. On Mondays, Trish Hart of Hart Mind Body Solutions, provided meditation expertise for Brain Boost’s Mindful Moments.

Hart’s video clips included live community meditations, affirmations, short readings, yoga practice guidance and more. The initiative also promoted various other virtual events on a local and community level that aligned with their mission. The Create for Care program hosted weekly arts and crafts classes for the kiddies on Facebook Live each Tuesday, led by Kori Clark Design and benefiting Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, while Ranch Nites Happy Hour every Wednesday streamed a selection of local musicians to play live performances to BBQ to from home. And with a close working relationship with Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the BHI put out weekly online lectures from medical professionals—covering topics from “Helping Those Who Serve: How Family Members and Friends Can Support Healthcare Workers,” “State Prisons and COVID-19,” “Love in the Time of COVID,” “COVID Brings Persistent Racial and Ethnic Disparities to Focus” and more. With a world-class network of resources, BHI continues to offer the region an arsenal of knowledge and positive reinforcement during an otherwise uneasy time of distress.

“The question is not whether we will get through the ordeal that lies ahead—because we will,” said Dr. Peabody. “The important questions, from our perspective at the Brain Health Initiative perspective, are how well we can work together to protect the greater good, promote brain health during this period, prevent the potential spiral of brain illness, as well as how much we will learn from this unprecedented challenge and make necessary changes for the future.” SRQ

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