Does Stress Work Against Your Memory?

A little stress can be a great motivator. A lot of stress can create more obstacles than benefits. This is true when it comes to health-promoting behaviors, relationships, or memories. Stress can inhibit the way you form and retrieve memories and impact how memory works. There is good news to balance out the bad. Learn more about how stress impacts memory and how to make it work in your favor.

Stress and Memory

Stress can affect how memories are formed. When people are stressed, they have a more difficult time creating short-term memories and turning them into long-term memories. This means that it is harder to learn when stressed. Stress can affect the type of memories we form as well. If we are stressed, we may have a harder time remembering the details of an event later. This is part of why eye-witness testimony is so unreliable. People can be sure they saw something but what they saw was not really what was going on. One study found people who saw the same event has such varying accounts that the level of certainty they had about what they saw was not related to how correct they were.

Memory Changes

Memories can change after they are formed. Every time we retrieve a memory, we color it with our present experience of it, like when we take something off a shelf and put it back. This leaves fingerprints from having handled it. Research shows if people are questioned about something, information will color their memory. This influences what they thought they experienced. Stress was found to impede the formation of memories if it occurred prior to or during encoding. This is the time during which memory is formed. The good news is that there was a short delay between encoding and formation of memory. If material being learned was related to the stressor, memory actually improved.

Improve Memory Under Stress

There are several things you can do to improve memory when stressed. These techniques help manage stress. They include:

  • Personal self care
  • Getting enough rest
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Breathing exercises
  • Get moving and exercise
  • Practice mindfulness
  • Learn some tricks like clenching fists or moving eyes side to side to help with memory creation and retention

If you are struggling with memory and stress issues, there is help available. Some of it may be related to addiction and substance issues you are having but many things can lead to it. Find some help from professionals who understand what you are experiencing and can offer support for recovery.

The Last Resort provides a safe, supportive environment for men in a retreat-like setting. Nature is an important component of recovery and healing. We strive to provide a place of enrichment that cultivates the inner as well as the outer journey of recovery. However you find your way to the Last Resort, we endeavor to provide a haven where you can journey through recovery feeling like your life and story have meaning and a purpose. Call us to find out more: 512-750-6750.