Each and every one of us faces stress in our daily routine life, like driving on a busy road, getting late for school or work, a surprise test or coming across to your foe. No one can avoid the stress factor, instead, we have to face it, go through it and overcome it. But does it have any effect on our body or specifically on our memory and how it can be minimized? Well, that is the question of the day.
First, discuss how memory works and which type of memory is affected by stress the most. Memory basically is the name of the inter-communication of our brain cells. We remember, learn and recall things in the form of messages (neurotransmitters) sent from one brain the cell to the other. Any piece information or stimulus we get from our environment like a phone number makes its way to our short term memory which only lasts for about seconds or minutes. Then comes the working memory which just like STM is temporary but involves the working on that information like dialing that number. And at last is the long-term memory, which is created when an STM or WM is repeated or rehearsed again and again.
When we are in a stress situation, our body releases some hormones (like Catecholamine and cortisol) and some neurotransmitters. These hormones or NT’s are meant to prepare the body to overcome stress. But being over-released, these may damage the brain cells, which ultimately affect our memory (STM, WM and spatial memory in particular, very little effect on LTM).
1) Meditation: To avoid the side-effects of stress the best thing you can add up to your routine in meditation. A daily meditation 20 minutes can greatly decrease your stress level and also helps you in focusing. Focusing is a must in dealing with stress because if your thoughts are just running in arbitrary directions you won’t reach to a solution. Moreover, it is also found that meditation can reduce the aging effect on the brain (several parts of the brain get thinner with age), helping you with memory problems. All you have to do is find a comfortable seat at a peaceful site, place your hands in a comfortable posture and focus on your breathing (inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale)
2) Regular exercise: “A sound body has a sound mind” is a proverb taught at primary level, but actually, is very deeply related to our problems. Running releases endorphins, which make you feel more relaxed and unwound. Running along with swimming, hiking and team games like volleyball and football can relieve stress, reduce depression and improve your brain abilities. It is found that submerging your body in water for some time washes away all the stress and tiredness. Another exercise to adopt is Tai-Chi, which is basically a type of Chinese martial arts, including gentle and slow flowing movements. In recent researches, Tai-Chi is found to increase your brain volume and also your ability to do a job. Tai-Chi also improves your agility, strength, balance, and calmness.
3) DHA supplements: Docosahexaenoic acid is an omega-3 fatty acid and is one the major building blocks of the brain and is necessary for optimal brain functioning at every stage of life. DHA supplementation reduces the chances of certain memory diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, Dementia etc. DHA is also found helpful against the inflammatory effects of Cortisol and plague build-up in the brain. 600mg of DHA taken for 6 months increases the brain efficiency up to three times. (NEVER TAKE ANY SUPPLEMENT/DRUGS WITHOUT CONSULTATION OF A CERTIFIED MEDICAL EXPERT)