Stress Reduction: Reducing the Demands on Your Memory (Anxiety, Depression)

One of the most stress-reducing and time-saving things I’ve done in the last year has been to stick up a plastic 3M hook that I hang my keys on when I walk in the front door of my house. I would guess that this has saved me literally hours of searching for my keys and a “priceless” amount of stress. The hook is positioned in my line of sight when I walk in/out the door.

Something else I have done for years is to keep $20 in the glove box of my car so when I forget to take my purse to the supermarket, dairy etc, I don’t have to return home to get it.

If you are suffering with depression or anxiety, it can be especially helpful for reducing how stressed/tired you feel to reduce the demands on your working memory. Working memory is the type of memory involved when someone tells you a phone number and you try to remember it long enough to dial it. Working memory is like your “mental workspace” – the information you are trying to hold online in your head. Using working memory is high cognitive load and this load typically feels even more exhausting than usual when people feel depressed or anxious.

Try strategies like the key hook or using a to-do list to empty out your working memory. Or, if you need to do a task that requires multiple steps – jott down what the steps are (the will reduce the cognitive demands of planning and organizing in your head). Pick strategies that directly target your particular sources of stress.