The short answer to the question “Does stress impair memory?” according to scientists is yes. However, seeing the signs, realizing the implications and having a plan to de-stress can help counter the long-term effect that stress has on our memory and cognitive skills.
When we are stressed, a hormone called cortisol circulates through the body to help deal with the situation, along with another less well-known stress hormone, corticotopin. This second hormone is known to affect how our brains collect and store memories while cortisol can prevent the brain from creating new memories or accessing exiting memories.
Unfortunately when we are in a stressful situation, such as a job interview, is when
we most need to think quickly. Stress and panic can cause the brain to freeze and the memory to blank. Understanding stress will hopefully lead to new discoveries in science to counter the affect that stress has on memory and long-term mental health.
Long-Term Stress and Memory
Research clearly shows that stress, particularly over a long period of time, impairs brain function. An intense or sustained amount of stress can be harmful, affecting communication skills, making concentration difficult and slowing down the thought process.
In tests, doctors at the Douglas Hospital Research Center found a clear connection between high levels of cortisol and poor memory. They found that those who had been exposed to stress for three to six years had impaired memory and learning abilities compared to those who lived with low levels of cortisol. Unfortunately, even when the stress abates, the negative effects remain. This may explain why some seniors have poor brain function and impaired memory while others perform well into their old age.
How do you lessen the stress of everyday life?