Stress is a normal part of our adult lives. The pressure of deadlines and responsibilities, and our ability (or inability) to cope with them can often cause us anxiety. Although stress and anxiety come and go, they can sometimes affect us deeply, by causing nausea, sleep problems, tense muscles, or even memory loss. The memory problems have been extensively researched and talked about during the last decade.
So, does anxiety affect memory and how?
Stress Hormones and Their Function
The reason for this concern is the role of stress hormones in our bodies. Also known as glucocorticoids (GCs), they have an important function in our immune system, reducing inflammation, and are also released during stress. Unfortunately, GCs are also capable of damaging the neurons in the hippocampus, a part of the brain vital to our memory. Another study confirms this hypothesis, linking glucocorticoids to both memory performance and a 14% smaller volume of the hippocampus.
A study by the Laboratory of Human Stress Research from Canada goes even further, showing that stress or cortisol treatment temporarily blocks memory retrieval. The researchers came to this conclusion using the MRI screening, proving the reduced activity of hippocampus.
What Can You Do?
There are many things you can do to reduce stress and preserve your cognitive function:
- Get some sleep – One of the main causes of anxiety is sleep deprivation. Set a reminder to go to bed as early as you can, and try to keep a healthy sleep schedule.
- Exercise – Physical activity helps reduce stress and releases endorphins – hormones which induce a positive feeling in our bodies.
- Start eating healthy – Cut processed foods, caffeine and sugar from your diet. They can be adrenal stimulants and trigger panic or anxiety attacks.
If you were wondering does anxiety affect memory, we hope we’ve answered your question. However, if you feel your stress levels are higher than usual, contact your doctor or psychiatrist. They will help you find the cause of your anxiety and help you treat it. Furthermore, sometimes just talking to someone about your problems can reduce your stress levels.