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How Does Stress Affect Cognitive Abilities?

How Does Stress Affect Cognitive Abilities?

The American Institute of Stress reports that roughly one in three people in the United States describe themselves as experiencing “extreme stress,” while nearly eight in ten experience stress that negatively impacts their mental health. And yet, so many people describe stress as being just another part of life – “it is what it is.” But stress can impact your cognition – your decision-making, memory, peace of mind, and so much more – in ways that you might not even expect. It’s always best to listen to the cognitive signs of stress, but what if you don’t know what they are? How does stress affect cognitive abilities, and what can you do about it?


The first way that stress can affect cognitive abilities is the way it impacts the formation of memories.1 This is especially keenly felt by students who might struggle to study properly when they aren’t feeling confident, or office workers who are unpleasantly reminded of deadlines they’ve left out of their schedules.


There is actually a scientific term for the damages stress can cause to a person’s psychological or physical well-being: allostatic load.2 Ideally, your load isn’t too heavy!


Some Cognitive Signs of Stress to Keep an Eye On

The main cognitive signs of stress to look out for are fatigue, anxiety, worry, an inability to focus, and trouble with your memory. Of course, these things happen to everyone – missing a good night’s sleep and then feeling fatigued the next day, for example, is not necessarily stress affecting your cognitive abilities! 

But if you don’t usually struggle with these kinds of things and suddenly find yourself slipping, it is imperative that you take a moment to ask yourself why. If you’re sitting at your desk at work or at school and can’t concentrate on your work no matter how hard you try, there’s a reason for that – and it might just be that you’re stressed, and your brain is feeling the effects.


A student works at a desk filled with books and notes, with an eSmartr smart compression sleeve on his arm as he works.


There are a lot of good ways to reduce your stress and anxiety at work, and a lot of natural ways to improve concentration too. Make sure you’re eating healthy foods and getting plenty of sleep at night. When you do start to feel as though stress is impacting your brain’s functioning in a bad way, you can find an easy solution in eSmartr’s smart compression sleeves. The Cognitive Boost Technology embedded inside each sleeve while you study, work, or are otherwise active, helps you to focus better with reduced stress and anxiety in a completely natural way – no drugs or batteries! You can learn more about it right here.


Your brain will let you know when you are too stressed – but it is important to listen to it when it does. When you feel tired despite being well-rested, unfocused for no apparent reason, or anxious about things that haven’t previously been worrisome, ask yourself why and evaluate. From here, you can identify the sources of your stress, take a step back – and let eSmartr help you keep your stress levels low and your focus high.


1. Sandi C. Stress and cognition. Wiley Interdiscip Rev Cogn Sci. 2013 May;4(3):245-261. doi: 10.1002/wcs.1222. Epub 2013 Jan 22. PMID: 26304203.
2. Guidi J, Lucente M, Sonino N, Fava G, A: Allostatic Load and Its Impact on Health: A Systematic Review. Psychother Psychosom 2021;90:11-27. doi: 10.1159/000510696

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