Even if stress, burnout, or sleep deprivation cause short-term memory and learning problems, long-term stressors like these can increase the risk of dementia. “The energy it takes to cope with certain feelings or life stress, whether acute or chronic, can get in the way of feeling as sharp,” Bahrman said. “Similarly, excessive stress can overload our minds, thereby causing distraction and cognitive dulling. Naturally, it is very challenging to recall something when one was not paying attention.” She adds that even if we experience stress-related forgetfulness, it’s unlikely it can affect our long-term memory.
If you notice some problems with your memory, Bahrman recommends finding if some biological issues such as hypothyroidism, alcohol use disorder, or vitamin deficiencies are the cause. It’s also important to investigate if your mental health might be contributing to your memory issues. “Whether that is seeking psychological or psychiatric intervention for depression or anxiety, grief, or stress, or change in one’s behavioral techniques to better manage these concerns, it is imperative to address what is causing the emotional stress/distress and memory challenges.”
She adds that managing stress, improving sleep, eating a healthy diet, and spending time outdoors can also improve your mental health and quality of life.