Beat Stress to Remember Well

It’s that time of year when political ads, calls, debates, mailings, and commentaries overload our senses along with fall colors. The upcoming elections in the United States are causing almost everyone’s stress levels to climb. Stress happens even when we don’t realize it and impacts our memories more than we think.

Everyday activities like simply watching the news, conversing in a coffee shop, or dining with friends can be a new source of stress. When routines are disrupted, change is forced upon us or uncertain futures loom, our stress meters creep into overload and even simple things escape our memory.

Stress can come from any source, but the symptoms are the same. Focusing is lost, scatterbrain develops, sleep is erratic, eating disrupted, and normal relationships feel strained. Stress causes many physical symptoms and even contributes to diseases, but its impact on our memory can also be quite impairing.

Is your stress meter needle inching into the red zone with the upcoming elections, holidays or other stressors looming? Feeling scattered, with even less of a memory than you used to have? You’re not alone. Many slip into depressive moods, fight more physical ailments than usual, and can’t make decisions well as the holidays approach. Stress contributes to all of this, yet many don’t always see stress as their source.

Elections, holidays, and other stressors will come and go and it’s up to each of us to manage how we deal with the effects of them. The first step like most things is to acknowledge if there’s an issue. Some people thrive on the increased activities and stress surrounding big events. Others struggle and if so, the next step is crucial.

Understanding how stress affects each of us is a great learning tool for our emotional and memory wellness. We can’t always change stress or its sources, but we can always manage our reactions. Our overall attitude matters a lot here and we’ll discuss that another day, but for now let’s focus on our stress awareness and management.

If we don’t manage stress well, physical and memory symptoms will develop. So let’s be aware of our typical reactions and then manage them in a healthy way to mitigate any potential fallout.

Some of the best ways to manage stress are also (not surprisingly) good for our brains. Try some of these stress busters:

  • Exercise. This releases endorphins improving mood, sleep and increases blood flow to help our memory. Win, win, win!
  • Take a mental or physical break. If able, physically get away if only for a few moments from any stress inducing person or situation. Some fresh air and a change of venue can do wonders for perspective. If this isn’t possible, take a mini respite in your own mind for a few seconds or minutes. Breathe in deeply a few times and draw in some fresh oxygen and perspective.
  • Talk it over. Whether it’s with a close friend, family member, an impartial professional or higher power, talking through a stressful situation with another can often help us find a solution or at least the next step.
  • Change it up. Often when faced with a stressful situation, we become creatures of habit. Sometimes, these habits can perpetuate the stress. Changing something, anything can often create momentum to move us in a new and less stressful direction.

Stress sneaks up on us or comes with full force. It stems from both unsettling and happy events and impacts our memory more than we imagine. Being diligently aware of its symptoms in ourselves and others will lead to many more memorable and less stress filled moments. So let’s be alert, manage stress and make more memories!

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