Does Stress Affect Memory?

Expert tips on how to keep your memory sharp when stressed.


memory-names


Q: When I get really busy, I blank on names and sometimes forget important stuff. Is it just stress or am I losing my mind?

A: Its a fact that stress inhibits the brains ability to learn new things and remember old ones, so your blanking is normal. You can fix that, though. Ever notice that when you try to remember something, you cant, but if you “give up,” it pops back into your mind?

This is because the part of your brain that is trying hard to focus and get stuff done is also blocking access to all of your memories so you can concentrate. The best thing you can do is say, “Oh well, itll come back,” and relax.

On a more practical level, keeping track of everything in your head creates extra pressure that only makes things worse. So its a good idea to use a tracking system, whether its a day planner, BlackBerry, or Outlook reminder.

As for names, just say to the person youre speaking with, “Im so sorry, Im not good with names. Can you tell me yours again?” Then repeat the name to yourself a few times, and picture the persons face with the name. If you suddenly cant recall the name of someone you know, just give a warm, “Hi! Great to see you.” Chances are she wont even notice.
M.J. Ryan
Last Updated: November 21, 2009

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