I have caught myself in the last few days and weeks walking into a room and having no idea why I am there. Was I getting a jumper? (nope, not cold) Was I getting a pen? (nope, it’s already in my hand) Was it to get a phone recharger? (nope, forgotten where I even put my phone down). Arghhhhh. This is a problem with short-term memory.
Last week I forgot to go to my own chiropractic adjustment with a fellow chiropractor. She had to call me. I had been wandering around my house thinking, “Why did I suggest my sister-in-law and I walk in the afternoon? I prefer walking in the morning.” I had forgotten that I had a chiropractic visit in the morning! This is a problem with prospective memory.
My other big memory failing has always been (not limited to this pandemic times) Where did I put my keys… bag…. book? This is a problem with long-term memory. Long term memory is any memory that is required for longer than about 30 seconds. So forgetting where I put my keys is a problem with long-term memory!
This video is a good explanation of the types of memory issues and why they are increased in times of stress – like a pandemic –
But more importantly, what can you do about it?
Here are 4 strategies to improving your memory during periods of stress.
- Get outside and walk, moving your body in the sunshine is an amazing way to reduce the stress response and its effects on your memory. I remember when I was back in university studying like a madwoman, it was exam time and I was stressed. It felt like my brain could not take in any more information. My long-term memory felt full. I could not remember anymore long anatomical names or chemical structures. But, if I went out for a walk, to clear my head, I found that when I returned, I had more space for more information. I didn’t lose the other memories, I just added more and it helped to solidify what I had already read!
- Go to bed earlier and get more sleep. Quality of sleep is vital to memory function. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night. If you presently only get about 4-5 hours just try to get to bed 15 minutes earlier to start with, otherwise you will go to bed 3 hours earlier and not be tired. Small incremental increases in sleep will still help improve memory yet also be a more sustainable long term change to your sleep habits and bedtime routine!
- If your anxiety or depression is getting on top of you, seek professional help. Beyond Blue has a free program to support your mental health. Or many therapists and doctors are using telehealth during this pandemic you can get help from them without even leaving your home. You could get a referral or suggestion for a name from your GP or a friend. When finding a counselor or therapist, I do think it is about finding someone you can relate to. If you don’t feel it is the right person for you do seek out a different provider!
- Your brain cells produce neurotransmitters that help form brain cells talk to each other and form memories. To create these neurotransmitters you need certain building blocks. These building blocks can be found in your foods. Read more here
- GABA is a calming neurotransmitter and can be found in cruciferous vegetables (think broccoli family) peas, beans, mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, sweet potato, buckwheat, valerian, st. johns wort.
- Dopamine is the happy neurotransmitter. It can be found in bananas, avocado, oranges, apples, sweet potato, spinach, peas, tomato, eggplant.
- Serotonin helps modulate behavior, eating, and sleep and can be found in pawpaw, banana, passionfruit, pineapple, strawberries, spinach, tomato, wild rice, Chinese cabbage, coffee, hazelnuts, lettuce, paprika, potato.
Yours in Health,
Dr. Anthea Holder
(Chiropractor and Funtional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner)