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Stressful Times: Tips For Keeping Your Memory Sharp
Dr. Dale V. Atkins, January 2009

A sure sign of stress (and sleep deprivation) is memory loss. All of us, at some time or another, find ourselves shocked, dismayed and frustrated when we walk into a room and blank on why we came in there in the first place. Or wonder exactly where DID I put my keys? Or, as we fill with panic, cannot recall the name of the person walking toward us with a big smile.

Getting upset with ourselves makes the situation worse. Why? Because in addition to the stress, we pile on criticism and diminishing comments directed to ourselves that make us even more stressed. Rather than make ourselves crazy, the best prescription for keeping your memory sharp is to reduce and manage stress at every opportunity. Engage in deep breathing and relaxation rather than chastising yourself. You will be more likely to remember that which you forgot if you don't beat yourself up. Give yourself "space" to remember.

Here are some additional tips for keeping your memory sharp:

Reinforce - When you are learning something new (being introduced to someone, for example) pay close attention and repeat aloud what it is you are trying to remember. Reinforce through multiple pathways (auditory, visual, etc.). If you used to be a whiz with names, play an association game and work hard to put the new information into your brain.

Visualize - Visualize an image that relates to what you are trying to remember. Focus on what you are trying to remember and keep the distractions to a minimum.

Slow Down - Rushing often takes our focus away from where it should be and makes it nearly impossible to remember that which we try to recall.

Minimize Interruptions - How often are you in the middle of a thought or action, remember something that you want to do or say, return to your original activity and when finished, you have forgotten what you wanted to do next? Too many interruptions, distractions or interferences can work against trying to keep your memory sharp.

Exercise - No matter what age you are, be sure to include aerobic exercise into your life routine. To maintain good brain function during your life, it appears that aerobic exercise and sleep seem to keep memory skills sharp.

Write - Write down what you need or want to remember. Read your notes and pride yourself on your ability to remember where you put the note pad!

Appreciate that as we age, we learn and retain new information slower. This does not mean we cannot learn. It means we learn a little slower than we used to. But we MUST keep learning and keeping our brains active.

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