The benefits of relaxation
Being in a relaxed state has a positive effect on your ability to learn as well as recall. Relaxation puts your mind at ease and helps you to record and access the information you need when you want it.
The impact of stress
We all know that stress and anxiety can interfere with our ability to remember. How often have you forgotten the answer to a test question only to remember it later after the pressure is off? Or prepared for a speech only to give a mediocre presentation because you were too nervous?
These examples serve to show the effect stress and anxiety can have on our mental performance. Fortunately there are many ways to alleviate these issues and improve our mental ability.
Stressful situations that can have a negative effect on us include:
- Pressure to perform well
- Having lots of people watching you
- Anywhere physical danger or pain is involved
- Situations where you are worried (these tend to have the biggest impact on memory)
- Any kind of stressful situation that gives rise to strong emotional arousal including negative emotions such as anxiety, fear, embarrassment, or nervousness.
Even having a personally stressful event in your life can influence your memory such as divorce, death of a loved one, or loss of job.
Benefits of stress
Not all stress is bad. Moderate amounts of stress and anxiety can motivate us to achieve new things and inspire us to overcome problems. The key is to not let the stress become overwhelming. Ideally you should feel enough stress to motivate you to perform your best, but not so much that it has the negative effects described above. When the stress becomes too much you can use the ideas that follow to help manage it.
Anticipating and preventing stress is one of the best ways to manage stress. If you can avoid stress then you don’t need to get rid of it. The best way to avoid stress is to be well prepared. The more you prepare for an event such as a test or a performance, the more confident you will be. The more confident you are the less stress you will likely feel. If you are unprepared you will be nervous and not perform well.
To properly prepare requires extensive practice and over learning through repetition. It is also helpful to learn effective skills for managing whatever task you are attempting. For example, if you are preparing for a test then learn and apply studying and memory skills. Also organizing your time and setting goals can help.
To manage stress you need to learn to use relaxation techniques such as meditation or muscle relaxation. These techniques must be learned and practiced regularly before they start to have an influence in your life.
We can’t will ourselves to be relaxed if we are not familiar with what being relaxed feels like. To do this we must practice relaxation techniques and develop a familiarity with the state of relaxation. When we have become accustomed to being relaxed it will be easier to use this ability in stressful situations when we need it most.
Getting around mental blocks
Stress is a frequent cause of mental blocks. Abandoning the search for a while has been known to help. When you return to thinking about it you may get the answer right away, or, the answer may pop into your head by itself.
Pictures vs. Words