How can stress affect your memory? Stress affects memory
We all have experienced stressful situations that lead to another problem linked to our memory. For example, you are late for work or a meeting and you are frantically searching the entire house for the car keys, which you may have found if you weren’t late. Have you ever wondered why the world conspires to make you even tardier for something when you are already late but everything is at ease when you’re not? However, sometimes when we are stressed, we do much better under pressure or at the last moment.
Stress and distress
It can be more difficult to recall something that you may have found boring in comparison to something you might have enjoyed. But note that even though stress is an emotional response, it can actually sharpen your memory.
However, distress (for example, with the car keys) can cause you to forget something as small as a name or even your ATM code. When stress becomes severe or chronic, it doesn’t work to your advantage but may actually progress to memory loss. In this case stress affects your memory.
Memory and depression
When you are depressed, it can be difficult to focus and pay attention, which will ultimately affect your memory. Anxiety and stress can also obstruct your creative juices while working by blocking your concentration. When under too much tension, your mind is distracted, you lose focus and you find it difficult to remember and recall the information or events later. Chronic stress may result from emotional trauma which can lead to memory loss.
What happens when you are under pressure?
You’re walking on a deserted street and it’s getting late. You expect yourself to be alone the whole journey but suddenly you hear footsteps behind you. This may cause some fear and anxiety in you, making your heart beat faster so that your blood brings more oxygen and glucose to the brain. Along with stress hormones, hormones called glucocorticoids are also released in the process. However, in a situation like this, it is easy to recall where you parked your car and make a great escape. This is called acute stress. Acute stress is actually beneficial for you because it transfers a gush of energy to your brain, making it work faster and better.
However, if stress lasts for more than 30 minutes, or becomes chronic, the hormones and glucose begin to build up and obstruct your memory. Your brain requires 20 percent of the total energy in your body to function. Prolonged stress deprives the neurons of the energy required for them to work. This is mainly the reason why we tend to respond much better to last-minute stress that stress that lasts weeks or days before the exam. You waste more time stressing and less time working and thinking productively, ultimately causing poor sleep and memory loss.
Luckily, this is reversible. You can de-stress and actually help your brain work better with the right lifestyle choices and emotional remedies. Some examples include, eating whole foods, exercising, laughing more, having an active social circle and having enough motivation to succeed.