One of the most common issues at the clinic is a client’s poor and reducing memory. Often it’s not the reason they’ve come to see me but one of a range of symptoms. Their primary issue is always anxiety-related and they may be consulting for anything from phobias or health worries to self esteem or lack of motivation.
I’m, also a Cognitive Stimulation Therapist, working with people who are living with mild to moderate dementia I’ll receive one call most weeks from someone worried they might have the beginnings of dementia because their memory has become so bad. They rarely do.
Problems with memory make us feel very uncomfortable. They can lead to embarrassing half conversations, to forgotten appointments and unfulfilled promises. Breaking up our thought patterns, leading to frustration and, ironically, worry.
If you’re suffering memory problems right now I may have some good(ish) news for you.
What you’re experiencing is the equivalent of low power mode on your phone…
Low Power Mode
Think about the end of the day, when you’ve really been heavily using your phone and the dreaded low battery message appears.
When you hit low power mode on your phone it stops updating background apps to reserve the limited power it has and to make sure you can still take and receive calls and texts.
Your mind on low power
Your brain does exactly the same. It reduces power to selected functions, to keep you safe and carrying on as best you can. You don’t need to remember that actor’s name or where you went for dinner on your 12th anniversary, but you do need to know how to get home and to remember to feed yourself.
Our nervous system is one of the parts of our body affected by anxiety and stress. It plays a primary role in many of our basic functions; memory and learning are two of those. Long term anxiety is very strongly related to memory loss.
Long-term affects of persistent anxiety
Worldwide figures suggest that almost 30% of adults will be affected by persistent anxiety at some point in their lives. How long this goes on is key.
The International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry published a study showing that long term anxiety is “interrelated and inseparable” to loss of memory. The study also suggested that anxiety is likely to be an early predictor of future cognitive decline and possibly future cognitive impairment. This is because, not only does long-term anxiety affect memory retrieval but it also disrupts the processes necessary to collect and store new memories. So long term anxiety not only impairs memory short term but might also damage memory and cognitive ability later.
Long term anxiety has some nasty knock-on effects too; overeating (weight gain), insomnia, mood swings, impatience, anger, reduced performance, loss of sex drive, drinking more than usual, to name a few. Not to mention health issues such as high blood pressure, skin flare ups, headaches, aching muscles and digestion issues (constipation and IBS)
What can you do?
Learning to manage anxiety, to reduce it’s level, duration and affect is the answer to both the short term and long term. Easier said than done, you might think, but you can be taught to manage, reduce and compensate for the issues in your life. To think in a way that’s more helpful for you and to turn down the anxiety, if not turn it off.
Anxiety is all about “what if” What if your partner leaves you, what if you’re made redundant or your business fails. What if your health really is at risk, what if you are being judged by those around you, what if you can’t pass that test or hold your own in that meeting. Most of these you know are fears based on little or no fact, but the more you dwell on them…brood about them, the more real they seem. Learn to see them clearly, to sift the fact from the fiction and life will seem infinitely easier.
Your options for change
You can go to your doctor and he/she will most likely prescribe you anti-depressants (which you may be ok with in the short term) They can also refer you for counselling or CBT but you’re likely to wait for somewhere between 4-6 months for an appointment. The sessions may be by telephone or in a group, when you do reach the top of the list. For some people this is acceptable, for others, not so.
That’s where The Relaxed Living Programme comes in. 6-9 weeks (dependant on the issues we’re dealing with) to learn new thinking habits. We’re not going to be delving into your childhood and past issues. Rather you’ll be learning how to flat-pack the past, plan only for what is needed in the future and learn to live in the present. Without the “what ifs” getting in the way.
You’ll have individual sessions, at a time to suit you and your wait will be days rather than months
Time to see your life, your choices and your potential clearly?…perhaps for the first time.