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Stress and Short Term Memory

We all know chron­ic stress is bad for our heart, our weight, and our mood, but how about our mem­o­ry? Inter­est­ing­ly, acute stress can help you focus and remem­ber things more vivid­ly. Chron­ic stress, on the oth­er hand, reduces your abil­i­ty to focus and can specif­i­cal­ly dam­age cells in the hip­pocam­pus, a brain struc­ture crit­i­cal to encod­ing short term mem­o­ry.

When is stress chron­ic? When you feel out of con­trol of your life. You may feel irri­ta­ble or anx­ious. While every indi­vid­ual varies in their response the type and quan­ti­ty of stress, there are some things you can do to feel more in con­trol of your envi­ron­ment. This sense of empow­er­ment can low­er your stress, and as a result, help your mem­o­ry.

What are some ways to feel in con­trol and less stressed?

  1. Use a cal­en­dar to sched­ule impor­tant things. Give items a date and a pri­or­i­ty.
  2. Make a list of things that need to be done. Even if it’s a long list, it can be reward­ing to cross off items as you com­plete them.
  3. Use a con­tem­pla­tive prac­tice like yoga or med­i­ta­tion to calm your mind and body or try using a heart rate vari­abil­i­ty sen­sor to learn to relax and focus your mind and body.
  4. Ask your­self how impor­tant some­thing tru­ly is to you. Maybe you’re stress­ing over some­thing that you are bet­ter off just let­ting go.
  5. Del­e­gate what you can.
  6. Get reg­u­lar exer­cise to burn off those excess stress hor­mones.
  7. Get enough sleep so that you can recharge your bat­ter­ies.
  8. Eat well and reduce your caf­feine and sug­ar intake which can add to your sense of jit­ter­i­ness.
  9. Main­tain your social net­work. Shar­ing con­cerns with friends and fam­i­ly can help you feel less over­whelmed.
  10. Give your­self 10 min­utes just to relax every day.

Fur­ther Read­ing on Stress and Mem­o­ry
Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert M. Sapol­sky, Ph.D.
A Primer on Mul­ti­task­ing
Sim­ple Stress Test
Quick Stress Buster
Is there such thing as GOOD stress?
Brain Yoga: Stress — Killing You Soft­ly

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