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How to Overcome Memory Block

By Dr. Usmarah Hussain

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How to Overcome Memory Block

Have you ever found yourself in the middle of an exam, with a blank piece of paper in front of you as you desperately try to think of something to write? No matter how hard you try, there are many situations where nothing seems to come to your mind. If you have been feeling slow, foggy, and particularly “stuck” lately, know that you are not alone.

What you have been experiencing is what scientists call a “memory block.” Researchers have a good reason to believe that we are now experiencing more memory blocks than ever, experiences when we randomly forget the simplest things or struggle to perform routine acts. In your personal life, these mental blocks may seem annoying, but in a workplace or school, they can prove to be a nightmare.

So what can you do when a memory block strikes you? Keep reading this article to learn more about this phenomenon, why it happens, and how to bounce back.

What is Memory Block?

In simple words, consider memory block as an inability to continue a train of thought. It’s just like “writer’s block,” except for the fact that it hits all aspects of your life. If you have ever struggled to stay focused, were unable to find the right words, or felt stuck when trying to decide or solve a problem, you have experienced this phenomenon.

Mentioned below are some common signs that you are already hitting a memory block:

  • You are making constant minor errors, even in tasks you have already mastered
  • You struggle to make decisions
  • Your brain has been feeling slow and sluggish
  • You find it difficult to come up with creative ideas or think outside the box
  • You always try to avoid difficult work
  • You are stuck in a loophole, thinking about the same problems again and again

If ignored, memory blocks can quickly become a serious issue in personal, professional, and academic life. This is particularly true for those who are in a leadership role or at a critical academic step in life. But before we can learn how to tackle these memory gaps, it is crucial to understand what causes them.

The Main Causes of Memory Block

There are plenty of reasons why you may hit a mental block, such as:


Do you have too much on your plate? The additional burden of work and responsibilities can easily cause your brain to freeze and your memory to lapse.

Collaboration Overload

You are at a much higher risk of hitting a memory block if you are juggling the needs of others with your own need to concentrate.


Focusing too much on doing everything perfectly can reduce creativity and trigger a memory block, especially when things go sideways or do not end up exactly as you planned.[1]

Indecision and Self-Doubt

A leader always picks a direction and moves towards it. But if you stay back constantly, second-guessing yourself, you will only get stressed and stuck.


Researchers believe that the memory ability in humans peaks in their 20s and slowly declines later. Therefore, if you have been feeling a bit blank lately, factor in your age.

Unclear goals

The vaguer your goals, the harder it is to focus on them and decide what to do next,


Consider memory and sleep as best friends. If you aren’t giving yourself enough time to sleep and rest, you are going to hit more memory blocks.

How to Overcome Memory Block: Tips to Avoid Getting Stuck

If you frequently face a mental block at work or school, there are many ways to improve your output and focus. The list mentioned below explains a few tips that you can do to handle any task at hand without losing any concentration.

Break down the project

One of the best ways to avoid hitting a memory block is to break down your big project into smaller activities and tasks. A big task can easily overwhelm anyone and make them go blank. But when you divide it into smaller and easily achievable tasks, it’s automatically going to get better for you to handle it.

Declutter your workstation

Whether it is your office or a small desk at home, keep your work or study place free from clutter. The cleaner your surroundings, the better your performance and thinking.

Give yourself a break

Have you been tirelessly working through a memory block but to no avail? Maybe it is your body’s way of communicating that it needs a break. So stop whatever you are doing and try unrelated activities, like washing dishes, talking to a friend, or reading a good book. A break will reset your mind and help it connect the dots. You may try napping to boost your memory in your free time.

Get an outside perspective

Many times, a memory block is a consequence of limited thinking. To break out of this cycle, expose yourself to new ideas and develop new perspectives. How? Try talking to others, reading articles, or simply doing some internet surfing.

Keep your inner monologue under control

Pay attention to your inner monologue and look for any thought patterns that might be blocking your memory process. Is it fear, a constant need for perfectionism, or maybe imposter syndrome? When you recognize these destructive thought patterns, managing them on your own or through professional help becomes easier.

Improve your skills

One of the biggest causes of a memory block is feelings of inadequacy. Also known as imposter syndrome, many people believe that they are unprepared for something and end up experiencing memory blocks because of this thinking. Try overcoming this fear by taking time to research, learn, and practice any skills you think you may be lacking.

Using your Body to Sharpen Your Brain: Nutrition and Lifestyle Factors to Consider for Memory Blocks

All systems in the human body are interconnected and more or less dependent on each other. So if you are hoping to get around mental blocks, try preparing for it mentally and physically. Here are a few tips to help you pass an exam or succeed in a project:

Eat healthily

Processed foods, carbonated soft drinks, artificial sweeteners and sugar, and junk food only boost your stress levels and make memory blocks more likely.[2] So avoid them, especially when you are working on something important.

Stay hydrated

Don’t forget to keep your body well-hydrated. If you are about to sit an exam, feel free to take a bottle of water with you and keep drinking throughout. Research believes that water consumption can alleviate anxiety and positively affect thinking functions, leading to improved performance.

Smile more

If you believe that your memory blocks stem from high levels of anxiety, smile more often. Smiling can lower heart rate and manage anxious thoughts in a better way.[3]

Try progressive muscle relaxation

Relax your body and clench both your fists while trying to squeeze them as hard as you can. Do it for a few seconds, followed by releasing all the tension. Repeating this simple exercise will signal your brain to calm down and avoid any memory blocks due to high-stress levels.

Prioritize your sleep

Try to get a good night’s sleep before you take a test or go for an important presentation. It will boost your concentration and brain power and keep you focused on the task while reducing the risk of going blank right in the middle of it.

Do not skip your workouts

Regular physical exercise not only keeps your physical body in shape but also improves your brain functions, making it easier to overcome memory blocks.[4]

Pop a supplement

The market is currently filled with a variety of brain boosters that claim to improve memory and avoid any lapses. While most of them lack research to support their claims, there are a few you can try after consulting with a doctor. These include any supplements containing omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, acetyl-L-carnitine, and Huperzine A.

Concluding Remarks: We All Get Mental Blocks

Mental blocks are quite common and they certainly don’t discriminate. Throughout your academic and professional life, you will encounter a vast array of information and material that you may not understand right away, or which may seem too difficult to process. But remember that any new conquest seems a bridge too far until it is finally conquered.

Using a mix of different tips described in this article can truly help you overcome these mental blocks and get the most out of your brain. Don’t stress if these tricks don’t work for you right away. Keep trying and don’t overthink it, and you’ll soon be breaking down these barriers in no time.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I identify memory blocks?

You can easily identify memory blocks by paying close attention to your recurring behaviors and thought patterns. Keep an eye out for the ones that directly hit your confidence levels and keep you from fully focusing on the task at hand. With time and practice, you will become better at realizing the situations that trigger mental blocks, such as when you are confronted with a new problem or when you are trying to do something for the very first time.

Does napping make memory blocks worse?

While many people may consider napping as a destructive habit for cognition and memory, research recognizes it as a beneficial way to improve memory processing. Experts now believe that taking a nap during the day may, in fact, help individuals overcome their mental blocks. Additionally, it also tends to improve reaction times and vigilance while enhancing thinking and processing.

What type of exercise should I target to overcome memory block?

Regular aerobic exercise has been shown to significantly reduce memory blocks by boosting the size of the hippocampus, a part of the brain associated with learning and verbal memory. To make the most out of this benefit, aim for exercises that get your body sweating and your heart pounding.


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