I noticed it decades ago. So did my family. It seemed that my memory wasn’t as sharp as it should/could be. I always suspected that rheumatoid arthritis played a part in this. What I have learned in my role as Auntie Stress is that chronic stress alters your brain function. Life with a chronic disease can be stressful, so it seems that it’s a double whammy.
In How chronic pain disrupts short-term memory, the author mentions the prefrontal cortex (PFC). The PFC is known as the “Executive Centre” and is responsible for decision-making, reasoning, problem-solving, and together with the hippocampus, establishing a link which builds temporary memories on spatial information. To quote another article, stress breaks the loops that hold short-term memory together.
As that article pointed out, stress is a great distractor. Rather than focusing on what you are doing, you focus on the stressful feelings surrounding the event in which you may find yourself. It’s a cycle that continues, one that you tend to practise – unintentionally, until you learn otherwise.
When stressed, a hijacking occurs, although there’s no ransom note that appears in the mail. Much like in a real hijacking, you or your friends and family will notice an absence – the gaps in your memory. When under-going stress, the routing in your brain changes, thanks to your prehistoric programming. The PFC is bypassed so that your body can prepare for flight or fight. When in danger, there’s no time to mull things over, to consider options – the body, in an effort to self-preserve, undergoes a number of physiological changes, including an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, dilated pupils and much more, which you can read about here.
So, how do you jump off this less-than-merry-go-round of feelings. First, be aware of this cycle. Practise adjusting your lens – zoom out to look at the bigger picture. Get curious about your perceptions and what is really going on. Secondly, learn about stress and its effects. Thirdly, practise, practise, practise pleasant and easy-to-do techniques that arrest the hijackers and allow you to strengthen those PFC connections, build resilience and enjoy a long list of other reported benefits. (In 5, one-hour weekly telephone or Skype sessions I can teach you how to undress your stress. Please email or call 604-507-9970 for information that does not include a high-pressured sales pitch.
Undress your stress, feel better - emotionally, mentally and physically. Oh, and that memory thing? That’s better, too.
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