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April 19: Why Am I Feeling so Forgetful?

Updated: Aug 18, 2020

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve had conversations with many people who have mentioned being atypically forgetful or feeling like they are ‘in a fog’.  Research studying stress and trauma indicates that in stressful situations people can experience cognitive challenges such as forgetfulness, disrupted concentration, and difficulty making decisions.  A couple of thoughts if you find that you are experiencing similar cognitive challenges:

· Be gentle with yourself – remember that we are experiencing an unprecedented situation and are all doing our best to cope with the uncertainty and tension.

· It may be helpful to have a phrase to repeat to yourself if you are caught in a moment of forgetfulness so that you don’t catastrophize and assume that there is a serious problem.  For example, “This is just a stress-related brain cramp - it will pass,” or “My brain is stuck, I’m going to give myself a moment to breathe and re-boot.”

· If the messages you are sending to yourself are harsh or critical, it can help to consider what you might say to a friend who made a similar mistake.  Chances are you would be kind, compassionate, and understanding.  I encourage you to practice self-compassion and treat yourself as gently as you would treat a friend in a similar situation.

· Remember that when parents make mistakes it provides a great opportunity to talk to children about the fact that everybody makes mistakes and to teach them a protocol for gracefully managing such moments: acknowledging the error, apologizing, and, if appropriate, making amends.  For example, a child might say to a sibling, “I’m sorry I knocked over your Legos.  Do you want me to help you collect all the pieces or help you re-build the structure?” 

· If you have children or adults at home who can tend to be perfectionists, it is particularly helpful to normalize and model the fact that everybody makes mistakes.  Point out your own errors to your children, talk about mistakes being made by characters in books you are reading or movies you are watching, and gently reflect on the fact that making mistakes is part of learning and growing.

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