Hi, and welcome to What’s your problem? How’s your day been so far? Have you done all the things you planned? Kept all your appointments? Oh – and did you remember to send your mother a birthday card? If so, good for you! If not – well, you’re not alone. Many of us in the busy twenty-first century are finding it more and more difficult to remember everything. Once upon a time we just blamed getting older for our absent-mindedness, but now experts are blaming our modern lifestyle. They say that we have become ‘the forgetful generation’ and that day after day we overload our memories.
Last year I finished university and I got a job in the same town, Canterbury. And one day, for some reason, rather than go to work for 9 o’clock, I got the bus and went to the university for an 11 o’clock lecture. I was sitting there, in the lecture room, and I thought to myself, ‘Why don’t I know anybody?’ Then suddenly I remembered that I’d finished university and that I was two hours late for work!
I’m studying law in London now, and, erm, at the end of last term I packed my suitcase as usual and went to King’s Cross station to catch the train home. I was sitting reading on the train, revising for my exams, and the inspector came to check my ticket. He looked at it and said, ‘Thank you, sir. We’ll be in Newcastle in about an hour.’ Suddenly I thought, ‘Newcastle!?! I don’t want to go to Newcastle. My parents live in Plymouth!’ You see, when I was a child I lived with my parents in Newcastle, but we moved to Plymouth when I was ten. I couldn’t believe it. How could I be so stupid?
Sometime ago I got dressed, ready to go to work. I put on my smart black suit. I’d been working at home the night before – preparing for a very important meeting the next day, and I remembered to put all the right papers into my briefcase. I left home and walked down to the bus stop. Just before I got on the bus, I looked down, and I was still wearing my fluffy, pink bedroom slippers!
P Stories of forgetfulness like these are familiar to many of us, and experts say that such cases as Ellen’s, Josh’s, and Fiona’s show the loss of memory is not just related to age, but can be caused by our way of life. Alan Buchan is a Professor of Psychology and he explains why.
A One of the problems, these days, is that many companies have far fewer employees. This means that one person often does several jobs. Jobs that before were done by many people are now done by a few. If you have five things to do at once, you become stressed and forgetful. I think many people in work situations, at a meeting or something, have the experience where they start a sentence and halfway through it, they can’t remember what they’re talking about, and they can’t finish the sentence.
P That’s happened to me.
A It’s a terrible feeling – you think you’re going insane. I remember one patient who came to me so distressed because at three important meetings in one week, she found herself saying, mid-sentence, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t remember what I’m talking about.’ This was a patient in a new job, which involved a lot of travelling. She also had a home and family to take care of and she’d recently moved. She had so many things to think about that her brain couldn’t cope. It shut down.
P I can see the problem but what’s the solution? How did you help that lady?
A Well, part of the solution is recognizing the problem. Once we’d talked to this patient about her stressful lifestyle, she realized that she wasn’t going crazy and she felt more relaxed and was able to help herself. But do you know one of the best ways to remember things, even in these days of personal and handheld computers?
P What’s that?
A It’s a notebook, or just a piece of paper! At the beginning of every day write yourself a list of things you have to do – and it gives you a really good feeling when you cross things off the list as you do them!
P Well, there you have it! Thank you very much Professor … er … er … Oh – Professor Alan Buchan!