There are many factors that adversely impact a person's memory. The usual factors associated with poor memory include ageing, substance abuse, vitamin deficiencies, thyroid problems, poor sleeping habits and depression.

Stress has a complicated relationship with memory, as it can improve or reduce memory.

Stress is an individual's response to a stressor the body has recognised as a threat to the individual. Stress, on its own, is neither good nor bad, as certain situations that are stressful can result in positive outcomes, such as being a motivator for completing a task.

However, stress becomes a problem when it becomes recurring, as it can interfere with how people form and retrieve memories.

How Does Stress Affect Memory?


Memory is the process of acquiring, registering and retaining various information that's later recalled when needed. Individuals are capable of storing and recalling information, but stress can influence memory in different ways.

Memories are affected by stressors. Individuals have a tougher time recalling information acquired during stress. That's because stressors interfere with the brain's ability to store information accurately.

On that note, let's have a look at how stress can impact various memory types:

Short-Term Memory And Stress

Short term memory refers to the information a person is currently thinking about or aware of. It holds small amounts of information for brief periods, like around thirty seconds. When people pay attention to information provided by their senses, short-term memory is triggered.

Stress has an unusually positive effect on this type of memory, as it aids when the memory is being formed. If the information being registered is associated with a stressor, the chances of recalling that information get improved. Individuals who experienced stress before short-term memory formation have a better ability to recall that memory than ones formed without stress.

Working Memory

Working memory refers to a person's ability to store information on a temporary basis to complete a certain task. Holding and manipulating information for regulation of thoughts and behaviour is a part of this type of memory.

This memory is affected the most by stress in both a positive and negative manner according to the limited amounts of tests conducted on this subject. The positive aspects of stress in working memory include faster information processing times, which is useful in life-threatening situations. Stress can also result in impaired working memory as a result of reduced neural activity.

Long-Term Memory

This memory is associated with storing information for long periods and the ability to recall specific information when a person needs it. Stress has mixed effects on this type of memory.

Stress improves a person's ability to recall information retained before a stressful situation, and this information is committed to memory for a long period. Stress enables greater recollection of information related to the stressor after the stressor is introduced to an individual. Meanwhile, a stressful situation impairs an individual's ability to recall things.

How To Improve Memory Affected By Stress?

If you feel your memory has been affected by the stressors in your life, you don't need to add to your stress levels, as there're several things that can be done. As the mind and body are closely related to each other, it's important to take care of them.

Taking care of your body using a regimented exercise plan, relaxation techniques, meditation and a healthy balanced diet can not only improve memory impacted by stress but also prevent any negative effects.

Memory impacted by stress can be improved in the following ways:

Practicing Mindfulness

Regular exercise can improve memory affected by stress/ Pexels Keiji Yoshiki
Regular exercise can improve memory affected by stress/ Pexels Keiji Yoshiki

Mindfulness can counter the negative aspects of stressors by reducing the amount of stress a person experiences. Mindfulness trains people to stay present and focussed so that they have a better chance of registering information. The quality of sleep also greatly impacts the level of stress a person experiences, and mindfulness has been shown to improve sleep quality.

Physical Exercise

Exercise has many benefits, including improving a person's memory. Studies show that people who don't exercise regularly face more problems related to their memory as a result of stress compared to those who exercise regularly.

Breathing Exercise

Breathing exercises are a great way for people to regulate their stress levels and deal with stressors. These exercises can calm the mind while reducing the concentration of stress hormones in the blood. Repeated deep breathing can help control stressors and focus on retaining and recalling information.


Stress is nearly unavoidable in the modern world, but that does not mean the negative effects of it on memory should be accepted. There are several things that can be done to prevent and reverse the negative effects of stress on memory.

Q. do you think your memory has been affected by stress?

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