22 April 2020   

3 min read
Research has found that chronic and acute stress have adverse effects on memory processing systems.

Therefore, it is important to find ways to reduce the amount of stress in your life if you’re trying to improve your memory.

Do you tend to forget things when you’re stressed? Like when you’re late for a meeting and can’t remember where you left your car keys? Or when you have to give a big presentation and suddenly forget all your talking points seconds before you start?

There’s nothing like stress to make your memory go a little spotty. A 2010 study found that chronic stress reduces spatial memory: the memory that helps you recall locations and relate objects. Hence, your missing car keys.

University of Iowa researchers recently found a connection between the stress hormone cortisol and short-term memory loss in older rats. Their findings, published in the Journal of Neuroscience, showed that cortisol reduced synapses – connections between neurons – in the animals’ pre-frontal cortex, the area of the brain that houses short-term memory.

If the stress you’re experiencing is ongoing, however, there can be devastating effects. Neuroscientists from the University of California, Berkeley, found that chronic stress can create long-term changes in the brain. Stress increases the development of white matter, which helps send messages across the brain, but decreases the number of neurons that assist with information processing. The neuroscientists say the resulting imbalance can affect your brain’s ability to communicate with itself, and make you more vulnerable to developing a mental illness.

So how do you improve and protect a memory that’s being overwhelmed by ongoing stress? You must examine the sources of your stress, come up with plans to avoid or minimise those that you have some control over, learn how to alter your reaction to those that you can’t eliminate, and develop some strategies you can use in your daily life to provide your body and mind with healthy breaks from ongoing pressures.

Stress-busting strategies are as varied and individual as we are. But you may be able to find some help developing your own through a class or workshop at your local hospital or community center.


Here are 8 general suggestions may also help you begin creating a personalised stress-fighting plan:

1. Eliminate your stressors

List all of your stressors, then determine if any can be eliminated from your life. Think about what’s truly important to you and drop those that aren’t. Learning how to say “no” is one of the best stress-busting tools.

2. Try delegating

See if you can minimise some of the stress you feel by asking for help or getting family, friends, or co- workers to take on a more equitable share of the load.

3. Make lists

Again, writing down what you need to remember or what you need to do can help unclutter your mind so you can pay attention to the task at hand. Make different “to do” lists for the day.


4. Cut yourself some slack

Wanting to do well is an admirable goal. Demanding perfection from yourself is not only unrealistic, it creates enormous pressure that can jeopardise your physical and mental well-being.


5. Learn to breathe

Throughout the day, try to pay attention to your stress level. Check for tightness in your shoulders, a furrowed brow, clenched teeth, etc. When you notice these physical signs that your stress level is high or growing, take a few deep, long breaths, releasing the air slowly after each. Such a simple, quick ‘timeout’ can help stop the stress cycle in its tracks and help you to refocus your attention.


6. Open doors to relaxation learnings

Consider learning meditation, yoga, biofeedback, guided imagery, or progressive relaxation.


7. Schedule some time every day for yourself

Take a relaxing bath, go for a walk, read a book, or just sit quietly somewhere away from everyone and from all your daily stressors and try to clear your mind.


8. Take up a hobby, craft, or sport

Focusing on something you enjoy, rather than on your problems, worries, or responsibilities, can give your body and mind the stress break they need.




– Kodali M, Parihar V, Hattiangady B, Vikas Mishra, Shuai B, K. Shetty A. Scienti c Reports 5, Article number: 8075 (2015), Resveratrol Prevents Age-Related Memory and Mood Dysfunction with Increased Hippocampal Neurogenesis and Microvasculature, and Reduced Glial Activation. January 2015.

– Conrad, C. Behavioral and Neurobiological Consequences of Stress, A critical review of chronic stress e ects on spatial learning and memory. Volume 34, Issue 5, 30 June 2010, Pages 742– 755.

– Anderson R, Birnie A, Koblesky N, Romig-Martin S, and Radley J. Adrenocortical Status Predicts the Degree of Age-Related Deficits in Prefrontal Structural Plasticity and Working Memory. The Journal of Neuroscience, 18 June 2014, 34(25): 8387-8397.

– Wikipedia, Memory improvement.

– Mohs, R. How Stuff Works; Health, Improving Memory: Lifestyle Changes, Stress and Memory.


This article was written by 60 Plus Club and republished with their permission, you can find the original article here: https://www.60plusclub.com.au/memory/improve-your-memory-by-reducing-stress-levels/