Mind Cleansing Program
Perhaps your diet is healthier than normal: You never bought processed food, and your shelves are stocked with organic vegetables and whole grains. But if you are running in high gear Monday through Friday, you may be suffering from toxic stress overload. “When you’re stressed, cortisol levels in your body increase,” says Pamela Peeke, M.D., author of Body for Life for Women. “Chronic elevation of cortisol begins to cause a dysfunction in the immune system, and it induces greater levels of inflammation in the body, increasing the risk of heart disease, cancer and autoimmune diseases.”
A long weekened detox – styled like a miniretreat – can calm nerves and lessen the depleting effects of stress. Start by taking a Monday off work (leaving you with a shorter work week post-cleanse). Leave work early, if possible, on Friday; go directly home. For the next 72 hours, the focus is on absolute calm. Don’t even turn your computer on, unless it’s to compose haiku.
Unplug televisions and radios, turn off the ringers on your phones, and, if possible, do not check your voicemail until Monday afternoon. After a light meal and dairy-free dinner, run a hot bath; add seven drops of lavender oil, light a candle, and soak in the tub with a cup of chamomile tea for 20 minutes. Dry off, read a calming book, meditate with a lit candle, and go to bed as early as possible.
For the next three days, you’ll eat very light and simple meals, since going completely food-free can be stressful; eat only organic fruits, nuts and vegetables, consuming about a third of your usual caloric intake. Several times a day, do a gentle deep-breathing and yoga routine to help clear your body of stress and tension. Other calming suggestions: Listen to soft music, take warm baths and slow walks, read poetry, get a massage, mediate. Drink soothing teas: Try a blend of lemon balm, catnip and chamomile. You can spike them with a dropperful of valerian or passionflower for extra peace of mind.
Most important: You’ll want to start training your brain to calm down and perceive stressful situations appropriately using what Peeke calls “mental aerobics”. Some ideas: deep breathing, meditation and the creation of a personal mantra, such as “It is what iy is” or “No big deal”, which you can repeat during stressful times.
Four Simple Ways to Detox Your Mind
No detox is complete without clearing your mind of worries, fears, anger and other toxic emotions. Here are four simple ways to drain you brain during a detox – and long after.
1. Stay uninformed. For one full week, boycott the news, especially on television. Watching news coverage of traumatic events has been shown to increase stress. A national survey conducted after 9/11 found that people who watched the most hours of news coverage after the event had substantially more stress reactions than those who watched less. Fill your mind with positive images; you may be able to face the world with a fresh perspective – and some ideas for change.
2. Feed your head. Your brain needs nutrients to help it function properly. The most crucial are omega-3 fatty acids to keep brain cell walls pliable, and antioxidants to protect the brain from free radicals. “The best ‘brain longevity’ supplements are vitamins C and E, B vitamins, CoQ10, phosphatidylserine, gingkgo and fish oil,” says Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.S., president/medical director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Foundation. “The best foods for brain protection are blueberries, salmon and spinach.”
3. Turn up the music. Studies show that music has health benefits, especially when it comes to reducing stress. Some CDs to try: Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” or Jonathan Goldman’s “Chakra Chants.”
4. Change your mind. “Our thoughts have energy, and what we focus on gets bigger.” Says Sue Frederick, author of Brilliant Day: Seven Quick Solutions to Turn Your Day Around. “Focus on what you want, and who you want to be.” Pay attention to your thoughts. Write them down. Then consciously choose which you’d like to keep, eliminating any that do not serve you. Rewrite negative thoughts to reflect what you’d like to attract or become. Review your list every morning as the start of a 15-minute meditation. According to Khalsa, meditation is “the overall best thing for your brain.”