Chronic stress takes a toll on virtually the entire body. Usually, the first place stress is noticeable is in your brain. Specifically, your cognition suffers. According to Wikipedia, cognition is “the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.”
So, having stress can affect your thought process, making you an inefficient worker. However, you can do things to restore your mental prowess.
Suffering from the cognitive deficits resulting from chronic stress? Read on and see how you can reduce chronic stress burden and reclaim your brain.
They say that women are multitaskers, while men are not; and to an extent it’s true. However, as a species, we are all poor at multitasking. Travis Bradberry wrote an article stating that several studies have shown that multitasking is less effective and may actually be damaging the brain.
He has a book, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, that discusses how to discover and manage the different emotions you experience.
Multitasking requires split-brain processing to multitask effectively. You may be able to wash the dishes while cooking because they only require light mental work. But, you may not be able to do calculus and write a novel at the same time, because you need to dedicate yourself to one skill at a time.
It is similar to having a computer running numerous processes at the same time. The memory is split. Individual processes lose efficiency and run slower than if those processes ran alone. Under stress, this is more pronounced. I know for me, it’s like having multiple windows open at the same time, all of them blinking for attention. It can be so distracting.
Stress already induces changes in the brain that reduces learning and focus, and instead prioritizes emotional responses. Don’t attempt to work on multiple big projects when under a lot of stress. Instead, prioritize and complete one task at a time.
Work Early in the Day
Chronic stress does not eliminate our ability to focus or remember things, but it does make it harder. One way to combat this is to perform your most complex tasks early in the day. Upon waking, your mind will be much more capable of doing tasks efficiently. So, study for an exam, complete work, write a few pages; whatever it is that you deem most important.
Find the time that works best for you. It may be early morning, late morning, or even the evenings. But the majority of people are most effective in focusing on tasks in the morning.
Mental overload, coupled with a heavy stress burden, will lead to a rapid decline in cognitive abilities. You should take a step back and analyze. This is harder to do when you are under stress. When you are overloaded, meditation can offer great help.
Meditation in every sense seeks to toss out thoughts as opposed to dwelling on things. There isn’t anything you can do about most situations at a specific moment in time.
Practice mindfulness meditation, be thankful for things you have and don’t obsess over things that may or may not even happen. Meditation will also have the end goal of helping you focus and concentrate on a single task, thus improving your efficiency.
Keep a Journal
More and more people are seeing the benefit of keeping journals. Not necessarily a bullet journal, but just a way to put your feelings on paper to purge them from your mind. If nothing else, get a spiral composition notebook or just plain paper and write.
Having negative thoughts? Write them out. Stressed over a specific situation? Write it out. Releasing the thoughts is therapeutic.
You could also keep track of your stress level each day. Then you can start to notice if certain triggers are causing more stress than others.
As mentioned earlier, when you are under chronic stress, remembering things can be difficult. Keep sticky notes around to be able to write down things you want to remember. I have a stack in my bedroom and the den by my chair. Set up a time, either daily or weekly, to review your notes.
A daily planner helps to organize your tasks for the day. Referring to it often will keep you on track and help you stop multitasking. There are apps for your phone, Google calendar for phone or computer, and your basic hardcopy planner. Mention our planner?
One of the main symptoms of stress is insomnia. Not getting enough sleep each night can cause even more strain on your brain. A research study by Yaffe, Falvey, and Hoang showed a link between lack of sleep and cognitive impairment.
Setting up a healthy sleep routine is important for everyone, especially if you are suffering from stress.
For more information, you may be interested in reading our posts, 7 Rules to Reduce Stress and Improve Sleep, Do You Have Anxiety? It Could Be Affecting Your Sleep, 7 Healthy Methods of Coping With Chronic Stress, and 11 Unhealthy Methods of Coping with Chronic Stress.
Chronic stress affects many people. Get enough sleep. Perform your hardest work in the morning and don’t multitask. Keep a journal, make lists, and use a daily planner. These little things go far to help reduce stress load.