Archive for April, 2013

I don’t really like the phrase ‘stress management’. I don’t know…it sounds so lifeless and stale. Not a big fan of that phrase. But yet we can’t run away from the fact that stress needs to be ‘managed’ somehow if not it may develop into some kind of physical or mental ailment which would be harder to treat. And stress is so much an inevitable part of life especially for you guys who are studying for your A levels exam.

Back in 2009, I wrote a 4 part series on ‘The thing about stress’. Notice how even back then I steered away from that wretched phrase. Anyways, I’m putting a link here for you so you don’t have to click through the archives to find it. Here’s the introductory part I and further to that there’s abit of historical rambling on how this whole ‘stress’ thing came about. I’m a very inquisitive person by nature so knowing where things came from is important for me. And then I wrote about stress triggers and some tips for somehow managing the stress. Also, check out this very amateur video that I made a couple of years ago on YJC students and how they cope with stress. Hope this will be helpful for some of you.

Power up! your memory

Posted: April 29, 2013 in memory, neuroscience
Tags: ,

boost-your-brain-power-7-tips-for-improving-your-memory_w654I just had my birthday a couple of months ago. I try to tell myself age is just a number but really, it’s not. I used to be able to remember telephone numbers, do mental arithmetic in a flash, remember the faces and names of people I met and never ever needed a grocery list because I could remember everything I needed to buy. Not anymore. Now I need my phone to remind me to buy things which I will forget to buy otherwise, a calculator app so I don’t have to do mental math and I’ve become very good at pretending that I remember your name when I quite frankly don’t. In the zynga scramble world of which I’ve gained quite some ‘fame’ as a scramble addict, I can opt for ‘power ups’ which would give me extra ‘freeze’ time, or ‘inspiration’ for words when I run out of ideas etc. If only there are equivalents of these ‘power ups’ for our ability to remember stuff – our memory.

So I turned to neuroscience (the study of our brains) to see if there are ways to make my memory better. And see if this may help students remember the stuff they studied better. Cos I guess nothing is more frustrating than spending many hours memorizing the math logarithms and chemistry stuff (I’m no good at chemistry so I can only call them ‘stuff’) only to not be able to recall when you most need to. What I discovered was super interesting and opened my eyes to a whole new world of how our brains work and I hope this will be helpful for you.

How we remember stuff

When we learn something new (names of people we’ve just met, math equations and chemistry stuff etc) a neural pathway is formed in our brain. Our brain categorizes memory into 3 main types – the immediate, the short term and the long term. Say you learn during Math lecture the consine rule that   a2 = b2+ c2 – 2bccosA. As you’re copying down the formula, you’re using your immediate memory. You may use the formula to answer some tutorial questions the next few days and that’s when it’s in your short term memory. The next week, the teacher moves on to a different topic on differentiation but because you’ve been a really good student and have been revising previous topics you still remember the cosine rule. 🙂 That’s when you’re tapping on your long term memory.

Whatever is stored in our long term memory can be retrieved easily when needed and is resistant to fading. Immediate memory by contrast is only there for the moment and short term memory is probably good for only a couple of days. Our goal therefore in remembering important stuff needed for exams is to move it into our long term memory. If we can succeed in doing that, then last minute cramming is a thing of the past because it’s all already there! But question is HOW do we do that? Read on.

I mentioned earlier that I read that a neural pathway is formed in our brain whenever we learn new information. Neuroscientists have found that this pathway is very important in terms of helping us to recollect information learned. The stronger the pathway, the better the recollection. Experiments were done on groups of people where one group was asked to rehearse the information (memory) a few times and the other group just once. MRI of their brains were taken and they found that the neural pathway or connection of the people who rehearse the information more were stronger than those who did it less frequently.

ID-100145416Also, everytime we rehearse the memory, the short term memory part of our brain (the hippocampus) and the long term memory part of our brain (the pre frontal lobe) plays ‘ping pong’ with the memory and with time this memory becomes lodged in the long term memory part and is more resistant to fading.

So I guess the point is to recap and recap the information you studied? Which I guess is not a new revelation per say but one proven rigorously by neuroscience. An important point to note is that it’s not just reading and re-reading the notes, but recapping the information in different sensory ways such as listening to it being taught in lectures,  reading about it, then reading it out loud, then taking notes of it, then testing yourself etc.

In the next post, I will write about the relationship between sleep and memory which I think is the most fascinating of the lot! Is sleeping less the best way to learn more? To sleep or not to sleep?

Images courtesy of bplanet/freedigitalphotos.net

photoHello JC1 students! I’m so glad you clicked into my blog. 🙂 My name is Joan and I’m the School Counsellor here at YJC. Most students call me Ms Joan. Usually I get a slot during orientation to introduce myself to new JC1 students but this year the orientation programme was so packed I didn’t get a chance to so here I am! Click here to find out more about me and why I became a school counsellor. I love dessert so the picture to the left is me enjoying my iced cocoa made by my barista friend who runs a cafe in Japan. 🙂
 
This is my 5th year at YJC and I’ve been writing this blog for quite a few years now. Over the course of doing counselling, I get alot of thoughts about mental health, family, love and young people so it’s great that I get to write it down and connect with YJC students at the same time. Many of your seniors in JC2 would have met with me because I run guidance programmes for every class every year. By guidance programmes, I mean workshops like building your resilience, learning to manage your stress, navigating conflicts in relationships etc etc. So I’ll be seeing you guys some time in Term 3 this year.
 
Of course I also see students for individual counselling.  Some of you may be wondering whether students actually do come and talk to me and what we talk about. Because I’m so friendly and approachable (haha…and shameless) alot of students do come and look for me to talk about a number of stuff bothering them which may include family conflicts, friendship issues, stress from school work, issues with procrastination, not sure what they want to do after JC or more serious issues like feeling depressed or anxious and addiction issues etc. Ths list goes on which makes my work really interesting because every student is unique. You can click on the ‘FAQ’ tab to find out more about how counselling works. I have a Masters degree in Social Science (Professional Counselling) so I’ve learned tried and researched ways to help people deal with their problems and thus far students have often found it very helpful to talk to me (again the shameless thing). 🙂
 
The counselling room is in the student resource centre. The door curtain has changed so it’s no longer pink but a more gender neutral white. It’s opposite the IT room and you would have walked by my room if you came to register your fingerprint for e-attendance. I look forward to meeting you guys over the course of the year and supporting you in whichever way I can. My number is on the student handbook (for those of you who still knows where your handbook is!) under ‘Useful Helplines – YJC School Counsellor’. Because this site is public I can’t post my number here. My email is low_dar_fen_joan@moe.edu.sg so you can also drop me an email if you wish. See ya!