Getting Through It
As unnerving as suddenly experiencing Swiss-cheese brain can be, rest assured that your mind will eventually bounce back. For now, your best tactic is to avoid trying to do everything all at once. As you attempt to register for gifts, plan a babymoon, research strollers, and interview pediatricians and sitters, you'll feel a lot more clearheaded if you can focus on just one task at a time and let go of others. Write the important things down on paper and make it a priority to actually look at the list throughout the day. You might also try to prepare your to-do list the night before.
It's important to make taking care of yourself a priority: Get enough sleep and regular exercise. "When you don't sleep well, your thinking is impaired," Dr. Dugan-Kim says. So before bed, do something relaxing, such as meditating or reading a book, rather than doing work, checking Facebook, or catching up on e-mail. Exercise can also help you get better zzz's at night and focus during the day. In fact, a new study from the Institute for Memory Impairments and Neuro?biological Disorders at the University of California, Irvine, found that memory is sharpest right after a workout; if you exercise regularly, the cognitive benefits can be ongoing.
Finally, surround yourself with supportive people. In old times, pregnant women had an extended network of female kin who could pitch in. Even if you live far from your family, try not to go it alone; when you're overwhelmed by shopping for the nursery, rope in a friend to help you out -- or just call one to vent and help you see the humor in the situation. "Looking back, I laugh at that time I had a meltdown when I was trying to fold socks," Dr. Smolyansky says. Although she found her memory lapses scary at the time, knowing that other women had been through something similar was also reassuring. "I felt less crazy! My pregnancy brain, which I attributed to a lack of sleep, lasted a while after the birth of my daughter. But as she got older, I was once again able to add, remember things, find the right words... and fold socks!"
Originally published in the September 2011 issue of Parents magazine.
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