Anxiety and Memory: Emotional Management as You Age

Blog Category: Health

Self-care is vital in every stage of life. But, as we get older, taking care of our whole self (mind, body, and soul) can take on new significance. This is particularly important for individuals over 60. Leaving your stress or anxiety untreated can have serious effects on your quality of life. Anxiety and memory are both connected to the way we perceive experiences. Meaning if gone unchecked, your stress can alter your ability to manage your emotions properly.

To learn how stretching can reduce stress, read this article.

How Memory Works

The way your experiences interact with your emotions and memories is a complex system. Furthermore, there are several different parts of the brain responsible for storing memory. 

Long-term memory helps us remember information, events, and feelings from the distant past. This could be a matter of hours or years and usually occurs with processing the content of short-term memory.

Short-term memory is the vetting stage for long-term information and is constantly at work behind the scenes. Information is processed in experience groups of 15-30 seconds. During that time, everything happens automatically. Each experience is classified as either important and stored in your working memory. Otherwise, it is categorized as unimportant and almost immediately forgotten. Have you ever asked someone what time it is only to immediately forget? That’s your short-term memory-making subconscious decisions about your experience. 

The third type of memory is working memory and it is vital for solving problems as they occur in real-time and managing your present experiences. It is responsible for the ability to complete tasks throughout the day, concentrate for long periods, and manage time. This means that if there is a problem with this step in the memory process it can lead to making mistakes while driving, forgetting important things, and the inability to complete tasks.

And your working memory is the stage most influenced by stress.

How Anxiety and Memory Influence Your Experiences

Anxiety is a state of heightened vigilance causing uncertainty, worry, nervousness, and unease. This psychological state increases sensory sensitivity and often influences brain function to obsess on negative stimuli. As a result, Anxiety makes us more aware of the things around us with a focus on negative experiences. Causing a higher likelihood to classify memories as negative, which further interferes with cognitive function.

According to The National Library of Medicine, anxiety has a direct effect on an individual’s ability to function. Memory Health Check goes on to analyze the connection between long-term anxiety, the rise of cortisol in the body (stress hormone), and how that combination completely rewires psychological function. 

As a result, stress changes how we perceive experiences. At its core, it’s all a big feedback loop that builds upon itself. 

Breaking the Anxious Cycle

So, what can we do about this? Learning effective stress and anxiety coping mechanisms are essential for mental health and cognitive function. 

And we have good news for you.

If you’re here you’ve already taken the first step in breaking this potentially harmful anxious cycle. Although, awareness of how your stress and anxiety can affect your cognitive performance and ability to remember things accurately is how you begin to break the anxious cycle that interferes with accurate experience retention. This issue affects about one in three American adults, meaning it’s something many people experience. Whether this has been an ongoing problem or something that has begun recently due to a life event, knowing some ways to manage stress and anxiety is helpful.

  • Exercise can be a great way to manage stress and anxiety. For a quick breakdown on beginner basics to yoga, check out this video.
  • Stay engaged in your interests. However, pushing ourselves to get back into the things that make us happy can serve as an effective way to snap yourself out of the cycle. Learn to Get Motivated and Stay that Way.
  • Everyone knows your diet can have an enormous effect on your mood. To kick start a healthy new lifestyle, check out some healthy snacks to help keep you on track.
  • Build a strong social group so when you hit hard times you already have a support system in place. Building a social group as you age can be a delicate endeavor, but is much easier if you are part of a senior living community. 

Learning good emotional management to handle stress and anxiety better significantly improve your long-term and short term memory. However, more importantly, it can affect how you emotionally experience your present and lead to happier life experiences in the long run.

Looking for some other new secrets to living a healthy lifestyle? With this FREE A-Z guide on Living and Aging the Way You Want you can learn the ABCs of aging successfully. Download your PDF and start living the lifestyle you want.

Twin Towers is a continuing care retirement community in Cincinnati, Ohio, offering patio homes, apartments, rehab services, and more. For more information, contact Twin Towers online or at 513-853-2000.

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