Anxiety Tips for Learning and Memory

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What Does Anxiety Look Like?

When we feel stressed, our body can quickly move into a “fight or flight” response as our brains receive a signal that we are in perceived danger. The physiological changes we feel with this adrenaline rush may look like an increased heart rate, increased sweating, sharper senses, and sometimes shaking. This can make it harder to concentrate as our body is still processing the stress response. Anxiety makes it harder for our brains to access memory retrieval and slows our ability to process new information as we enter a “freeze” response. There are ways to slow the stress response and manage anxiety so that we may continue to learn and process new information.

How Does Anxiety Impact Learning and Memory?

Anxiety is a normal response to stress and feeling overwhelmed. General anxiety can have an impact on the ways we process information and can impact our ability to learn and retain information.

Tips for Managing Anxiety for Learning and Memory

  • Focus on deep breathing. Take a deep breath in through the nose for a count of 6, hold for 2, and let out a full breath for the count of 8. Repeat the cycle to slow down your heart rate. Concentrate on the breath to slow the mind.
  • Break coursework and studies into smaller chunks and check each chunk off a list as it is completed. Shifting focus on assignments in parts rather than the whole thing can help decrease anxiety and manage coursework.
  • Take small breaks in between sections to get up and move, stretch, talk with a friend, grab a snack, and refocus.
  • Create and follow a routine that emphasizes healthy sleep patterns, nutritious meals, and exercise. Taking care of the body physically can help the mental and emotional body while giving our brain a boost at the same time.
  • Identify the root of the anxious feeling. Can something be done or said to help work through it?
  • Engage in positive self-talk. Our minds tend to focus on the negative when we feel anxious or stressed. Redirecting to positive self-talk can decrease anxious thoughts.
  • Clean and organize a section of your room, desk, or living space. Sometimes organizing our surroundings helps us feel we have more room to compartmentalize new information cognitively.
  • Utilize your toolbox of “go-to” stress relievers and don’t give up!