Psych Central

Did you remember to pay your bills on time? How about making that appointment with the dentist? Do you need more gas in the car this week or will it wait until the weekend? Is that parent teacher appointment next week or the next? Did you make up that list of questions for the teacher? How will you ever find time to look up a new recipe and get to the store before your friends are coming over for dinner?

If you have a life full of responsibilities, like many people you feel stressed out at times. There are many details that adults have to juggle. Chronic stress can lead to disorders such as anxiety or depression. But stress can also interfere with optimal brain function, especially memory. These lapses of memory caused by stress actually increase stress by making people forget to do some daily responsibilities.

For example, most people misplace objects from time to time. They put something down (such as keys) thoughtlessly and a few hours later have no recollection on where they put them. Then their minds start spinning unhelpful thoughts such as, “I must be really stupid,” or “I wonder if I am becoming demented?,” or “What’s wrong with my brain?”

When people misplace everyday things and start to have thoughts like those above, guess what? Their brains get filled with negative, distorted, thinking and then their body responds by increasing the hormone cortisol. Once cortisol gets involved, the brain gets ready to fight or flee. Well, finding keys or something similar is not the same as fighting off a dragon. Too much cortisol causes impairment in the very areas of the brain that are required to remember.

The same thing happens when people forget someone’s name or what it was they were going to the store for. Negative thoughts about forgetting make the brain less able to call forth what certainly is already stored somewhere. That’s why people often recall what they seem to have forgotten at a later time; for many people that recall happens in the middle of the night. Great.

So how can you prevent those moments of forgetfulness? Well, forget that; those moments will certainly happen from time to time. Accept that your brain is not always perfect. Be forgiving; we all have those moments.

Meanwhile, try to take a load off of your brain. Keep memos and reminders in one place (such as a running to do list on your phone or computer). Check your daily calendar, set your phone with an alarm to notify you when something needs to be done. When you meet new people or have to memorize something important, try to use multiple senses to help your memory.

For example, use your eyes and identify noticeable traits, use your hearing to become aware of unique sounds, associate things you need to remember with stories you have heard in the past. And again, forgive yourself. Even juniors have senior moments.

Stressed out mom photo available from Shutterstock.



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    Last reviewed: 28 Mar 2012

APA Reference
Smith, L. (2012). Remembering Anxiety. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 20, 2014, from


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Laura L. Smith, Ph.D. and Charles H. Elliott, Ph.D. are authors of many books, including Overcoming Anxiety for Dummies and Child Psychology & Development for Dummies.

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