How your brain has been affected by the pandemic

If you have been finding it hard to concentrate, feeling exhausted, experiencing memory loss and struggling with motivation then you’re not alone.

Pexels Karolina Grabowska 4197562

How your brain has been affected by the pandemic

It’s certainly been a stressful 18 months for us all as we have navigated the global pandemic and all that has brought with it. If you have been finding it hard to concentrate, feeling exhausted, experiencing memory loss and struggling with motivation then you’re not alone. This phenomenon is becoming known as ‘pandemic brain’.

If you find yourself walking into rooms without knowing why you are there, forgetting words, your mind wandering mid-way through a task and an inability to focus then it’s no surprise. Prolonged exposure to stress, of the kind we have all experienced in one way or another during the pandemic, can affect your cognition and sometimes even shrink the size of your prefrontal cortex, the part of your brain responsible for memory, focus and learning. In addition, in abandoning our traditional routine we’ve forgotten many of the things we knew before – our code to get into the office, what times the trains leave, how to operate the work coffee machine, the name of the receptionist. Our brains having to work harder to recall things that were once so familiar – which is exhausting.

The cycle of lockdowns and the long period of working from home has also played havoc with our motivation. The familiar cut and thrust and business of office life has been replaced by endless zoom calls, and it can be so hard to drum up motivation when you are sat at home on your own. Even the regular walks and exercising that kept so many of us sane in lockdown one has tailed off for some, and the constant uncertainty about the future and the ever present threat of being pinged by track and trace have meant many of us are reluctant to make plans for fear they will be cancelled. The early stress of the pandemic has been replaced by indifference and malaise.

Tips for dealing with ‘pandemic brain’

Put on some music
Listening to music is like a workout for your brain, MRI scans show that lots of different parts of the brain light up when we listen to our favourite songs, and it can help with keeping anxiety, stress and depression at bay.

Any kind of movement helps with brain function. Movement gives brain cells oxygen, promotes the production of new brain cells, and assists in creating new synapses.

Play games
Playing a game, whether that’s doing sudoku, playing tennis or learning a new card game helps our memories and complex thought processes.

Practice mindfulness
Despite the brain fog, our brains are usually overloaded. Mindfulness meditation can help reduce stress (and thus brain fog) by bringing us to the present moment.

Be kind to yourself
We’re all hard on ourselves, and it’s likely you’ll have been beating yourself up for feeling this way. Treat yourself kindly, we’ve all been through a lot and it’s no surprise it’s taken its toll.

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