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Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Anxiety and Stress Disorders
Stress and Memory Loss
I`m a 25 year old female. For the past year I`ve been noticing that I seem to be having a problem remembering things. Mostly small things, for example not remembering where I have put things away, or recalling certain memories or sometimes things or something I have said just a minute ago.
I am under a lot of stress and tension right now. I have a stressful situation with my family for a while now, but mainly because I am unemployed and am very worried about my job prospects. Can all my stress be causing this problem or is it something else? How do I find out?
Certainly, when we are under stress, we suffer both emotionally and physically. While everyone will experience stress in their lives, some people do seem better equipped to handle it than others While some people seem to naturally handle stressful situations without letting it "get to them," in reality, it is a combination of both natural and learned skills that help us deal with stressful times. While we can't change the temperament we were born with, or medical problems we may have, we can all learn better ways to handle stress.
When people feel overwhelmed, they may find it difficult to sleep, they may lose their appetite (or want to eat everything in sight), find it hard to concentrate and even seem to forget things more often. When these symptoms last for many weeks, and especially if they are associated with sadness, tearfulness and a loss of interest in things, then a person might have depression, and should see a mental health counselor or primary care physician for an evaluation.
Healthy ways of dealing with stress can decrease uncomfortable physical and emotional symptoms. Of course, actively working to decrease external stressors is helpful, but sometimes you have no control over a situation. Remembering and following some of the following steps may help you improve your ability to survive stressful times more successfully:
- Allow plenty of time for sleep, and practice good "sleep hygiene." That means sleeping in a comfortable place, no caffeine or alcohol before bed and getting up at a regular time each morning (regardless of how well you slept the night before).
- Get some regular exercise almost every day for at least 30 minutes. It could be a walk around the block or a work-out at the gym, but get up and move. Don't, however, exercise within 1 - 2 hours of going to bed.
- Eat healthy -- remember lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Try to avoid lots of fatty foods and sugary foods.
- Drink plenty of fluids, preferably water. Limit caffeinated drinks and alcohol.
- Avoid mood altering drugs like alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and other drugs.
- Be with people. The strongest factor that separates those who deal with stress well from those that don't is the presence of a strong social network of friends and family. Being with these people, talking to them, spending time with them, doing for others and letting others help you is the the most important thing you can do to get through stressful times.
Nancy Elder, MD
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati