Improve memory, improve mood, and decrease anxiety all with the same amazing skills. Read on!

People have asked me about exercises to help improve memory for people with depression, anxiety, or PTSD.

This is an interesting question. There are a wide variety of skills that can help improve memory in anyone with depression or anxiety, like PTSD. It is important to understand that memory problems are a symptom of depression and PTSD, so anything one does to alleviate their symptoms will likely improve their memory as well.

ASSESS FIRST:

First, I encourage you to look online for a Beck Depression Inventory to complete and a Burns Anxiety Inventory. Complete them, score them, then file them away. These will give you your “baseline”, the number representing the amount of depression/anxiety you are starting with.

SELF-CARE:

The most powerful way to escape negative feelings is to dedicate yourself to self-care. You’ll need to develop a routine involving increasing your awareness of where you’re at emotionally. Then you’ll need to take action every day to bring you out of the negative mood and prevent a return to it.  It is very helpful to find a mood/anxiety tracking tool that can be used on a daily basis.  This helps to clarify what you’re feeling and what is helping.  Of course, this only works if you also track what you’re doing that could make a difference.

GRATEFULS:

I would encourage you to make a list of things you’re grateful for each day. I’d encourage you to write it down every now and then. In between, you can think them, say them out loud, or meditate on them.

EXERCISE:

Next, I encourage you to use a journal to track how much you exercise (or you can do this on the tracking sheet). Walking is sufficient. Research shows that when people experience anxiety or depression, the brain atrophies over time, making it less effective. When you go for a 45-minute walk daily, within 6 weeks you will experience brain growth, perhaps even sooner. If you can get out in nature and hike for 90 minutes, you may experience an immediate brain change. Hiking near moving water may promote an even better mood. If you haven’t been exercising, start small, just down to the end of the block is fine. Add to it every 2–3 days until you can walk for 45-minutes daily.

MEDITATION:

When you’re ready to add to this, google: UCLA marc for free guided meditations. If you don’t like these, explore options on YouTube. Meditation also helps the brain grow and has a direct impact on your mood. Again, start small if you’ve never done it before. The easiest times to start are before going to sleep or just when you wake up. If your sleep is disrupted, try meditating when you wake up in the middle of the night. Remember that meditating is a practice, not a destination. If you never feel calm, never experience an empty mind, it’s okay. You’re still meditating, still teaching that brain muscle how to relax and focus. It is the practice that matters. Once you start, increase gradually, first in days per week, then in minutes per day. (Or the other way around if you prefer.)

HEALTHY ACTIVITIES & NUTRITION:

It is also very helpful to resume activities that you used to enjoy and increase your variety. You’ll need to socialize in person with friends. Each person’s needs are different so think about what you’re doing now and increase it until you feel better. Sleep 7–9 hours per night, less can worsen your anxiety or depression, more can also worsen your depression. Eat 3 X per day and eat healthily. Reducing carbs may help some people. Some people find grains (dairy, eggs, gluten, soy, corn, caffeine, sweets, and alcohol/drugs) inflammatory and they may “inflame” your mood or anxiety as well. Caffeine and alcohol/drugs, even marijuana may exacerbate your negative emotions. Granted some strains of marijuana may help if you live in a state where it is legal, but you must be careful about which strains and not use it daily. Be careful to avoid screens the last hour or two before sleep as the blue light interferes with our circadian rhythms.

THOUGHT RESTRUCTURING:

Then look on my or another website regarding learning to do cognitive restructuring. The basic idea is to find a rational thought to substitute for any irrational thoughts you have. Any thought you have which isn’t a fact from your history and makes you feel bad is likely irrational. These thoughts can be changed to help you feel better. You’ll find complete instructions on learning this skill on my blog. If your thoughts are facts from your history, you’ll need to do grief work to cope with them. All of the other skills will help but changing your thoughts probably won’t help as much. Doing some kind of art, music, dance, or handwork is very therapeutic.

EFT (EMOTIONAL FREEDOM TECHNIQUE):

Another very helpful skill is EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique). If you’re comfortable with energetic methods, try this one. It can be very effective at neutralizing anxiety and improving mood. It may only work for short periods of time in the beginning, but with regular use, the benefits last longer and longer until your anxiety or depression becomes a rare experience. The details regarding this skill are complicated and can be found on my blog.

REASSESS:

After 6-8 weeks of working on these skills, try scoring the depression and anxiety assessments again. See if your score is lower. I expect it will be and hope that will motivate you to keep working on these skills. If you stick with these skills and make them part of your daily self-care for the rest of your life, you may stop experiencing severe depression or anxiety. Good luck!

MORE INFORMATION:

If you’d like more information about managing difficult emotions, anxiety, depression or Bipolar Disorder, please visit my website at About Erica * Erica L Hernandez