By Ashley Stahl, Originally Published in Forbes

Public speaking.  

Two powerful words that can make or break a growing career.

I recently had a new business coaching client (we can call her Julie) come to me petrified from her first experience hosting a live event for her clients on wellness. She dedicated hours of preparation and practice leading up to her introduction speech and following talks. The importance of this moment for her career and growing business was very clear and on the top of her mind. Filled with excitement, she stepped up on stage to begin speaking. Standing there in the moment, everything went blank.

She forgot what she needed to say.

Luckily she was able to pull herself together and use her cue cards to continue. Even speaking about it after the fact Julie was still relatively shaken up. To ensure this did not happen moving forward we began to work through understanding why this occurred.

It was pretty clear that the stress and anxiety had begun to build within her leading up to that moment. Recent studies have shown a strong correlation between chronic stress and your brain’s ability to retain memory.  

When you are feeling overwhelmed, memory works in three phases: encoding, recording and retrieval. Let’s break this down. As you study or prepare you to receive new information, this is encoding. You then record by filtering through and decide what to store versus what is not important to retain. You then retrieve the desired information when the time is right. If you are feeling stressed, this can become a difficult task.

Memory is a powerful tool to use to your advantage during times of stress. Here are five best practices on how to retain and improve your memory:

1. Let’s Get Moving.

Physical exercise is essential for keeping your brain fit. In one study, physical activity helped participants build measurable increases in the hippocampus, the part of the brain that enables you to create and store memories.

When you exercise you increase blood flow to your entire body, including your brain. Get out of the office and join a spin class or take a walk with some friends. One hundred and fifty minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity is the recommended quantity to get your brain flow increased.

2. Practice Mental Exercise.

Similar to how physical activity keeps your body in shape, mental activity keeps your mind sharp. The next time you are standing in line or waiting for an appointment, do a brain game. Try the old fashioned crossword puzzles or snag a sudoku book. During a pretty awesome Impact Theory interview James Altucher suggests creating a daily 10 Ideas List. Come up with 10 ideas about something specific every day. This is a great way to bolster memory, work the idea muscle and spark creativity.  

3. Eat Fruits and Vegetables.

When you are stressed you are more likely to order the flatbread and fries on the menu as opposed to grilled veggies and simple fruits. Contrary to your cravings, antioxidants and bioactive substances — such as vitamins A, B, C, and E; carotenoids; flavonoids; and polyphenols are shown to reduce stress and memory loss.

Start to incorporate foods like grapes, blueberries, sweet potatoes and dark leafy greens, such as spinach or kale into your diet.

4. Avoid Drinking.

You have been working so hard. It is the end of a long day so a nice glass of wine or a cocktail sounds like a great way to unwind. Not so fast. Too much alcohol can lead to confusion and memory loss.

If you want to keep your memory sharp for the days to come, pick a hot cup of tea. A recent study showed drinking tea regularly lowered the risk for cognitive impairment in adults by 50%. My personal favorites are mint or chamomile tea just before bed.  

5. Rest Up.

There is a lot on your plate, so pulling all-nighters might feel like the right thing to do, the truth is this can impact your ability to recall information and stay at peak performance. Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep per night. You need to get sufficient rest to retain memory at your highest level. This is why you have to set your alarm and put your phone on do not disturb to get these quality hours in.  

Determined to never forget again, Julie has taken these tips and built them into her daily life, especially during the stressful days leading up to a live event. Biggest mistakes are often the largest lessons.

Take care of yourself, your mind and your overall health to avoid falling victim to memory loss under stressful situations.  

As the Greek Poet Aeschylus says, Memory is the mother of all wisdom.  

Get out there and be the mother of your wisdom, have the career moment of your dreams, and never forget it!

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  • I'm a career coach, keynote speaker, podcast host (You Turn Podcast) and author, here to help you step into a career you're excited about and aligned with. This may look like coaching you 1:1, hosting you in one of my courses, or meeting you at one of workshops or keynote speaking engagements! I also own CAKE Media, a house of ghostwriters, copywriters, publicists and SEO whizzes that help companies and influencers expand their voice online. Before being an entrepreneur, I was an award-winning counterterrorism professional who helped the Pentagon in Washington, DC with preparing civilians to prepare for the frontlines of the war on terror.