• Kathryn Watson

Stress, Your Memory and Dementia


We all react to stressful situations differently. Some people cope much better than others. People who don’t cope well tend to have the stress appear in other forms.

We can actually get ill from stress. Not only do our eating and sleeping patterns change but we become more susceptible to illnesses. It can also cause us to experience memory loss.

Stress



Pressures from our jobs, our family, our financial situation. There are many things we face all the time that cause us stress. Stress can really take its toll on us physically and emotionally.

Our brains can create ways for us to cope with stress. Maybe we just shut down, take to our beds. Others may take to alcohol to numb it away. Or, sometimes we just block it all out.

It’s not unusual for people who have experienced trauma to push it away so they never have to face it. But that is only masking it, not making it go away. People need better coping skills more than ever to make it through their day.

When we are under a lot of stress, our brains release a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is directly linked to memory problems. Our immune system is directly related to stress and the immune system plays a role in dementia.


Depression and Anxiety

Stress also plays a large role when it comes to conditions such as depression and anxiety. These conditions have also been suggested as factors that could increase the risk of dementia.

While there are links to stress and dementia, there is no real evidence stress causes dementia. However, stress does contribute to many other health problems.


All Stress Is Not Bad



Stress can be a great motivator. A deadline for your work, a school project, or friendly competition. But a lot of stress can do the opposite. It can actually work as an inhibitor. It can change the way we relate to memories, retrieve them, and how our memories work.

It can also change the way we store a memory. If we are extremely stressed during an event, we may not remember it accurately. Stress from an event can age the brain.

The more stress we experience, the faster the brain can age. This can accelerate the onset of dementia. Some trauma we often simply block out. This can skewer the memory when we do recall it.

Coping With Stress for Memory

In order to control the serious effects of stress on our memory, there are tricks you can try.

When faced with a stressful situation, take a moment, and just stop. This may be more of a metaphorical stop if you are landing a plane in a hurricane.

Just allow yourself a second or two to focus and think about what is going on. Try to visualize your way through it.

Take a few breathes and calm yourself down. In through the nose and out through the mouth. Inhales slowly and deeply. Then let it out slowly. This will clear your head and give you a minute to focus on breathing, not the activity.


We Were Designed To Move




Get exercise. Moving gets your heart beating and can relive a lot of stress. Run, do yoga, punch a sparring bag, or lift weights. Getting involved with team sports can also help and meet some like-minded friends.

Exercise will also help you sleep better. Getting a proper night’s sleep is so important. Stress leads to a lack of sleep and lack of sleep can lead to stress. A good night of sleep will also help clear your mind, help you focus, and deal with stress better.

Avoid junk food, drugs, and alcohol. These actually lead to stress, whether we know it or not. Take vitamins, if needed. Eat a balanced diet and don’t over-indulge with alcohol. It can be tempting to numb the stress, but the next day will only make you feel worse.


Reach For Help



Reach out to a mental health professional. They can help you find ways of coping. Joining groups of people who are experiencing the same thing can also help. You will not feel so alone. You can all share your coping tips.

Try to find ways to cope in the moment and after the fact. You can reduce the way you handle stress. Changing occupations or your current life situation is the only way to get rid of stress.

But that will only get rid of that stress. There will be more. And while there is no easy answer, you can find ways to help yourself to cope with it better. Stress is inevitable.

Stress doesn’t always lead to dementia, but it can. If someone is already showing signs, stress will only make it worse. Coping in this day and age is not easy. But it can be done. If you are having problems coping, reach out for professional help.



In honor of our founder Pat Mack, we are carrying on the tradition of caring for our residents in


"The Light Heart Way"



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