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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

5. Fret less

The worst stress is triggered by situations that leave you feeling powerless, whether it's a demanding job with lots of responsibility but few rewards, a tanking economy that takes a big chunk of your retirement savings, or caring for an ill spouse. But just fretting itself can decrease physical and psychological well-being.

Researchers at Ohio University in Athens found that dwelling on upsetting events ratchets up levels of inflammation throughout the body, leaving you more susceptible to age-related diseases, including dementia, and making you more vulnerable to future stressful events small and large.

Tip: Chronic worriers have a perpetual ticker tape of anxiety running through their minds. If you're one of them, schedule a worry break: Set aside 15 minutes a day to actively dwell on problems and concerns. When that time is up, though, tell yourself to STOP (or picture a large red stop sign).

Or try keeping a "worries" journal for one week. You may be surprised by how many of the things you lost sleep over never happened.

Meanwhile, do what you can to take charge of stressful situations: Anxious about finances? Consult a financial planner. Nervous about the outcome of a medical test? Pass the time until you get the results by going to the movies, reading an engrossing book or exercising. Or talk to people who have had a similar situation turn out well.

Finally, instead of allowing your to-do list to take over your life, reconsider what's on it and prioritize. Must you pick up the dry cleaning today or can it wait until tomorrow? Do you really have to prepare your famous lasagna for the church potluck or can you pick up a rotisserie chicken at the market on your way over?

Honestly, no one's keeping score.

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