One of my followers on Twitter posted this tweet and I could understand just how she felt! Sometimes life’s just like that –  after a weekend partying, hitting the books for exams, going through a stressful relationship break-up or just too much of everything!

I’ve seen lots of Twitter jokes about memory loss – like this one: Memory loss runs in my family – um, do I have a family? Or
When my doctor knew I had memory loss, she made me pay in advance.

But it isn’t really a joke because if your memory is being affected so much that you are forgetting things, then the what is causing the stress needs to be taken seriously.

What are the warning signs of stress?

Rapid breathing, increased heart rate, withdrawal, headaches, chain smoking, chest pains, insomnia, ulcers, and reduced sex drive. These symptoms often lead to thoughts and feelings of despair or panic (I’m doomed, I’ll never succeed, I’m useless). And of course, stress can mean dollars lost, projects delayed, poor morale, arguments with friends, poor heath, and failure in your job. So, although the jokes are a bit of fun, stress bad enough to cause memory loss is far from a joke.

I’ve just moved house and taken up a new job so I’ve been feeling a bit stressed lately. How can I tell? I put out my mobile to be sure to take it to work – then left it behind on the table where I placed it so carefully. I wake up in the middle of the night with a To Do list rolling round in my head. I spend minutes searching for an important paper that is actually sitting on the desk where I placed it. Silly things that wouldn’t happen if I was thinking straight, and not stressed

There are many natural stressors in our lives, both positive and negative. A constant barrage of noise, being fired, facing fierce competition, the death of someone close or divorce cause a lot of stress for us. So do moving, starting a new job, making a large purchase, going on holiday, marriage…any of these circumstances evoke our emotions . while some are joyful, often the opposite is the case, causing worry, grief, or depression. All stressors cause tension and tension is the enemy of memory.

Time honoured ways of reducing stress include:

  1. Relaxation: When anxious, find a friend, a book, or learn relaxation techniques. This can take the form of breathing exercises, a gradual relaxation of the body, or an imaging process. At first the mind technique you choose may take half an hour to ‘bring you down’, but once you become adept all it need is ten seconds or so.
  2. Time Management: Manage your phone calls and interruptions. Make a daily plan: this helps accomplish critical or urgent jobs, the ones that create the most stress and take the highest toll on memory. The simpler the management plan, the better
  3. Cut yourself some slack: Tell yourself that mistakes happen and the world hasn’t ended and that there is usually no one clear right and wrong way to do things, and so on.
  4. Assert yourself in a tactful, flexible way which makes your needs and wants known but does not cause aggression and anger. Try using statements with “I believe…” or “I would like to try…” rather than “you…” This negotiating approach is much less stressful and more likely to be successful.
  5. Problem solving. Evaluate many possible solutions, then decide and implement the one that seems best. This frees your thinking and memory capacity.
  6. Risk-taking. Be willing to be embarrassed and non-traditional. Have fun. The discomfort of opening yourself up will gradually fade as you experiment by taking risks. As life becomes more satisfying, you can be more relaxed about the way your life is progressing; your stress will lessen, and your memory will improve.

If you feel stress coming on, take 90 seconds to:

1. STOP. Abandon what you are doing
2. RELAX. Free your mind of distractions
3. THINK. Identify your irrational and panicky thoughts and replace them with positive statements.
4. RISK. Break the routine; try something new.

Check out these related articles: Check your Stress Levels, What Do You Know About Stress?