Does your brain feel like this image? If so, your working memory may be overloaded. What is working memory, and what is it's job? Our working memory is part of our executive functions and is where information is taken in and processed. We retain a small amount of information that is meant to be easily accessible for retrieval. Our working memory can typically hold about 5-7 pieces of information. Author Peg Rosen at Understood puts it this way, "Think of working memory as a temporary sticky note in the brain. It holds new information in place so the brain can work with it briefly and connect it with other information." An example would be someone giving your directions to the local coffee shop. You walk away, get in your car, and try to remember the streets and turns explained to you. (https://www.understood.org/en/articles/working-memory-what-it-is-and-how-it-works) How can anxiety, stress, and Neurodivergence impact working memory? If you are Neurodivergent, overwhelmed with several tasks/projects, and/or experiencing a lot of anxiety, you may find that processing and encoding information is challenging. Anxiety works against us when trying to focus and retain information. If you have that ongoing, “I-wish-I-had-8-arms-to-juggle-all-the-plates.” feeling, you may be asking a bit much of your working memory. Therefore, it's important to be kind to it. The more we overload it, the more we worry we are going to forget something, which means we’re increasing stress and anxiety with each item we add. What can I do to be kind to my working memory? Demands on your time, energy, and memory are high and never ending. It's important to keep working memory free to do its job. There are a number of tools, apps, and software out there to support you. You could also grab a piece of paper or your phone and make a list. Free up some space in your working memory. Be kind to it. Set it up for success. I invite you to pause, take a breath (or two) and think about the strategies and systems you have in place. Are you supporting your memory and setting yourself up for success? If not, how might you do so?
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