Stepping out of the Comfort Zone and into the Spotlight

Image Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Image Courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

STEP OUT OF MY COMFORT ZONE AND DO ONE THING EVERYDAY THAT SCARES ME. This is my mantra.  I fall prey to routine and find that over time I am dulling my senses.  It is important to keep them fresh, alert, aware.  It is what brain health means to me.

In an effort to expose taboo topics of the current day, such as growing older, dealing with declining brain health, and the ever-present lines on our faces that we call wrinkles, HHS (the U.S Department of Health and Human Services) ACL (Administration for Community Living) are partnering with Stagebridge, the nation’s oldest and most renowned theatre company of older adults, along with Illinois  AARP and Northwestern University,  to host a series of learning and storytelling experiences through in Chicago.

Beginning Saturday June 11 at 12:00 p.m.,  a campaign-sponsored storytelling workshop will take place.  The winners of the event will move on to center stage at a live storytelling competition on June 25 at 1 pm.  Both events will be held at the Center on Halsted.

The event, appropriately called Laugh Lines:  A Storytelling Event on the Experience of Getting Older, will feature six older adult storytellers who will share stories filled with humor, authenticity and vulnerability to an audience of their peers.

The goal of the HHS  ACL campaign, “What is Brain Health?”  is to help the Chicago and metro area older adults (ages 60-69) become more aware of the importance of brain health. The organizations would like to increase the knowledge of:  the normal signs of aging, symptoms of concern, and steps that may help reduce cognitive decline.

AARP published a recent study that surveyed adults over the age of 40 about the importance they place on brain health;    98% stated that they knew brain health was important, but only half were taking actions to keep their brains health, sharp and on task.

Brain health is near and dear to my heart. Not only do I suffer from memory loss due to traumatic brain injury, but I am a professional in the field of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.  I know the importance of keeping things fresh in effort to create more connections in the brain.

One of the pitfalls I experience is relying on routine and schedules.  Although this is necessary and important when dealing with memory loss it can also be a detriment to exercising our brains. I challenge myself to do ONE THING EVERYDAY THAT SCARES ME then I know I am doing a good job at keeping my brain healthy.

That may mean driving home without a GPS or calling a stranger to ask for something rather than hiding behind a text.  It may mean getting in front of a potential client or investor, being incredibly vulnerable.  For others, it could be as easy as engaging a different sense than usual. What I mean is, try to navigate your way into your home by touch only.  Attempt to start your car with your eyes closed.  Eat a meal as a blind taste test.  Type instead of talk into your device.

Any and all of these mechanisms will strengthen your brain by creating new connections.  There are diseases that break down systems that cannot be repaired.  New neurons cannot be created, but new pathways to different areas of our brains can be remade, reconnected, regenerated.

So, in essence, let’s support these seniors who are going to get on stage and stretching out of their comfort zone, doing something scary, like getting on a stage in front of strangers, and tell stories that will engage, energize and encourage each of us to think more about brain health.

To learn more about these events and brain health, visit brainhealth.gov.

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