Simple Ways to Improve and Preserve Memory
Have you ever worked on a deadline when the computer network slowed to a crawl or tried to open a file that was not saved correctly? Problems can even occur when you saved the file properly. For example, you may not be able to open the file if it was stored in a part of the computer memory that later got erased or if it was changed in some way.
In a similar way our brains can slow down, and our memory function can change. As a natural part of aging, mental function, including memory, begins to slow down.
For adults who had cancer as children, this can be even more of a problem due to the cancer or the cancer treatments. It may take longer for you to learn things, you may forget what you learned, or you may not be able to recall where you placed things.
For us to call something back up, we need to create and store a memory just as we would need to create and store a computer file of telephone numbers or other data. Below are simple ways to help in this process.
Pay Attention: You can’t recall something if you never learned it.
- Try to focus on one thing at a time.
- If you get off track easily, find a quiet place to work when you need to learn something new.
- Listen closely when someone talks to you.
- Take written notes. Repeat back what you have been told.
Tailor Information to Your Learning Style
- Visual learners acquire information best by reading or seeing (pictures, diagrams, maps). If you are such a learner, use drawings to help you remember important information.
- Auditory learners learn better by listening (use a tape recorder). Such learners often use rhymes or songs to memorize information.
Create Memory Links
- Link new information to what you already know. For example, link a friend’s address with the address of someone you know who lives on the same street. Picture the location of one house compared to that of the other.
- This technique makes it easier to recall new information because your brain has already traveled along the same pathways many times. The brain can find the locations where information is stored more quickly and more easily when the pathways are well-marked and well-traveled.
- Use address books, calendars, notebooks and electronic organizers.
- Make notes and checklists.
- Jog your memory at least once daily by looking at your lists or calendar.
- Put things you use in your day-to-day life in the same place every time you put them down (keys, glasses).
Divide and Conquer
- Break down large tasks into steps and write them down.
- If you must do something at a particular time, set an alarm. Let your computer beep you or send you a message. It can be a handy memory aid.
- Review what you’ve learned the same day you learn it and then at regular intervals (a half-hour later, then an hour later, and so on).
- Explain what you have learned to someone else in your own words. Try doing this with some new procedure you’ve learned as part of a computer program.
To learn more, go to our website: www.stjude.org/survivor-resources.