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Does Stress Affect Your Memory? Way More Than You Think

True or false: Stress is only in your mind. False! Anxiety is much more than a feeling. It’s a physical response, just like pain is.

When you have a cut, your body releases hormones that stop the bleeding. In the case of stress, different hormones are released, and they can have negative effects on your brain. One common symptom is memory problems.

The Very Real Connection Between Stress and Memory Problems

If people tell you that you’re constantly forgetting things, the real culprit may be excessive anxiety. Stressful situations affect your short-term and long-term memory in significant ways. Do these situations sound familiar?

  • Walking into a room and not remembering why you’re there

  • Momentarily forgetting the names of people you know

  • Needing to write down everything so you don’t forget

  • Forgetting important dates or appointments

  • Taking a shopping list to the store and still forgetting items on it

  • Having to read the same page over and over

  • Not remembering what you talked about on the phone a few hours ago

Stress hormones interrupt the memory process, like a computer virus deleting important data. That’s why concentrating or learning becomes so difficult when you’re going through a situation that makes you depressed or worried.

The Long-Term Dangers of Anxiety for Your Memory

Stress isn’t something you can afford to ignore. The part of your brain dedicated to memory can get damaged by too much stress in your life. Chronic stress — when feelings of anxiety never seem to go away — increases your risk of mental health problems such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Your Brain Can’t Handle Everything All the Time

Why is lasting stress so damaging? Prolonged anxiety floods your brain with false warning signals.

Imagine what would happen if your car’s brakes kept locking up every few minutes on the highway. Not only could it cause an accident, but it would probably ruin your car’s engine and transmission, too. That’s what nonstop stress is like for your brain. Over time, memory areas can shrink, which may lead to problems such as dementia.

Other Ways Stress Affects Your Brain

Contrary to what other people may tell you, stress isn’t something you should just “deal with.” It’s bad for your health in countless ways:

  • Mental exhaustion

  • Physical fatigue

  • Sadness

  • Irritability

  • Depression

  • Inflammation

Did you know that when you’re stressed, arthritis pain and inflammation get worse? Most people don’t realize how much stress has hurt them for years until they feel the difference when it’s gone.

The Benefits of Stress Relief

Alleviating stress can do wonders for your body:

  • Less inflammation

  • Pain relief

  • Better sleep

  • Lower blood pressure and a healthier heart

  • More confidence

  • Improved creativity and imagination

  • Better memory

In other words, finding ways to minimize stress is one of the best investments you can make.

Tips for Alleviating Anxiety

Some forms of stress relief are connected to natural healing remedies. Many herbs and plants have calming properties, such as valerian root, turmeric and chamomile.

Another way to reduce stress is to stay active. Control the things you can. Practice letting the rest go. You can’t always avoid negative situations completely, but you can refuse to spend your day thinking about them.


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