Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Keeping the Brain Alive – Or Why Did I Walk In this Room?

By Rose Strong

They say elephants never forget. I used to have the memory of an elephant, but no more.

Have you ever walked into a room and forgotten why you’re there? Do you ever say, “My mind is like a sieve?” In the midst of conversation, do you find you can’t recall a specific name or place or word? Do you worry that perhaps dementia or another old-timers’ memory thief may be creeping up on you? Don’t fret. It happens to all of us. As we age, our brains literally become full and need time to recall events, words and thoughts.

Our lives are busy caring for children, home, spouse, working a paying job, volunteering, being caregivers to aging parents, all while trying to carve out time for ourselves. These day-to-day duties all play a part in our occasional forgetfulness.

While researching this blog topic, I took this test to see how good my memory is right now.  Try it for yourself. You don’t have to tell anyone your score! Click through and see the hints on how to keep your memory from fading.

Distractions, multitasking and everyday stress can cause us to forget little things, like stopping at the store for milk on the way home from work or recalling where we filed away those important tax papers we’d need in a few days. They can also make us forget the big things, like an important client meeting, forgetting a deadline on a project or not remembering it was your turn to pick up your child from an afterschool program.

According to Harvard Medical School’s Health Publications, unless forgetfulness becomes extreme and persistent, being forgetful is a normal part of aging. This article “Forgetfulness – 7 types of normal memory problems,” explains different types of memory problems that are considered normal and not a sign of a medical condition.

With our client roster here at Furia Rubel, we have many, many deadlines, so we are all about lists. Without some way to manage our projects and deadlines, we wouldn’t be as successful as we are. We’re very task oriented in completing our assignments for our clients.

Not only do we all manage tasks through our Outlook calendars, but we also use a project management system that specifies each step of a project. Some may seem like minutiae, but without this system, I don’t know where we’d be in getting our projects completed.

The National Institute on Aging, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, offers insight on its web page, Forgetfulness: Knowing When to Ask for Help. Besides giving a rundown of normal age-related and other not-so-normal reasons for memory loss, it offers a nice list of tips on ways to keep your memory sharp.

Personally, I use a combination of old-fashioned and tech-savvy methods to remember things I need to do.

Trusty pencil-written sticky notes on my desk or my computer screen  help remind me to take something home. Stapling a piece of paper around the handles of my tote bag also works just fine.

My reminders on my Outlook calendar pop up all day long, since I have a multitude of jobs here at Furia Rubel, from taking mail to the post office, to keeping calendars for my associates, issuing press releases and monitoring media clippings, proofreading to minor account management, ordering office supplies, and even watering the office plants.

Here are some approaches other members of the Furia Rubel team use to remind them of the important details and appointments in their lives.

Gina F. Rubel, president and CEO of Furia Rubel Communications has similar methods of using her online calendar and the project management system, but in lieu of those, she sends herself emails to be sure to remember something important.

Gina explained, “If I don’t have access to my calendar or project management system, I simply use my cell phone or iPad to email myself  items I wish to put on either of those places when I get to the office.”

Our Chief Marketing Officer, Laura Powers, has all her tasks listed in the project management system and prioritizes her jobs with a list in order of importance each morning.

“At home, we use a weekly whiteboard on the fridge that everyone's activities get put onto each Monday from our other calendars all around the house, including my husband’s, mine and the family calendar,” she said.

Sarah Larson, our Vice President of Public Relations, turns to tech for organization, making her iPhone the “Mission Control” of her work and home life. Calendars from Outlook, Google and iCal all sync to keep her work and family schedules straight. She uses the Paprika app for meal planning, grocery shopping and recipe organization, an “Errands” app to keep track of tasks to complete and even a “Sort It” app to track her ever-expanding collection of books.

“I used to make lists, but I’d write them on various pieces of paper or envelopes and they were never where I needed them, when I needed them,” Sarah said. “Now, everything is in my phone – which is great, unless I forget to charge it.”

Furia Rubel’s account manager, Kim Tarasiewicz is a self-proclaimed “list lady,” and finds it rewarding to check things off as they are completed.

“I also find that putting things on a list take them out of my mind temporarily so I can focus on what I’m doing at that moment while still knowing it’s written down so it will get done. On weekends I keep a list on the counter of what I want to accomplish,” said Kim.

Looking for a few apps to help tame the forgetful blues? There are plenty out there for both iOS and Android. I don’t currently use any app other than my calendar for appointments, bills or other important reminders.  I also use the Notes, which mostly comes in handy for grocery lists as I often find my brain isn’t working much when I get out of work and simply wander the aisles in the store.

If you’re looking for ways to help your brain stay supple and  alert, memory specialists recommend several tactics. Learning something new, such as how to play an instrument or how to sew or knit, helps keep the brain engaged, as does any craft or hobby. Doing word puzzles and even playing video games also can help to keep the mind sharp.

Along with ideas to help improve memory function, this article has a list of health-related symptoms and guidelines for when to seek medical help for memory loss.

Although it’s sad and often frustrating for me when I forget things, it’s nice to know that my elephant memory wasn’t supposed to last my entire life, and that I’m not alone and I can work at keeping my brain charged! How about you? Do you have any funny or memorable stories about not remembering something? Share in the comments! I’d love to hear about them.

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