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Is Stress to Blame for Your Memory Lapses?

Help keep your mind fit with these 5 easy strategies for de-stressing

1. Get to know your stress response

Before you can tame tension, you need to understand what triggers it. But getting at that isn't always as simple as it sounds. Thanks to a mix of genetics, hormones and cultural factors, stress affects everyone differently: Something that ratchets up your stress level may not faze your best friend. Gender also makes a difference.

A man's blood pressure spikes more sharply under stress than a woman's, though she may feel jolts of stress more often, and about more things.

Also, stress symptoms can be so subtle — a knot in the stomach or a tightening of the throat — that you may not even register them as such, especially if unaddressed stress is a constant in your life.

Tip: Do a personal body scan. Does your heart race? Do you struggle with a pain in your gut that antacids can't quell? Do you often forget or misplace things, or find yourself barking at people for no good reason? All of these may be signs of stress. Try to home in on what might be triggering it: a call from a sick parent? Another spat with your spouse? Keeping a daily log can help you spot patterns, and be sure to consult your physician to rule out serious health issues.

Next page: Do you exercise? If not, get moving! »

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