IS THE PANDEMIC "FOGGING UP" YOUR BRAIN?
Experts say that prolonged stress of the pandemic has had an effect on our cognitive functioning. Good news is, there are things that we can do to about it! Find out how you can stay alert and get rid of that brain fog.
Brain Fog isn’t a medical diagnosis, it is a general term used to describe feelings of being mentally slow, fuzzy or spaced out.
Commonly associated symptoms of brain fog include:
• Memory Lapses
• Decrease in Mental Alertness
• Poor Concentration
• “Not feeling it”
Most of us have experienced “brain fog” occasionally, typically when we’ve slept poorly or not at all or when we are under overwhelming stress over an extended period of time. With the prolonged pandemic starting from 2020 and stretching well into 2021, many have expressed increased frequency in their experience of brain fog.
Disruptions in our physical activity and daily routines, coupled with the decrease of social interaction in this ‘new normal’ can lead to fatigue, anxiety and stress that leave an impact on our brains. Experts say that prolonged stress of the pandemic has had an effect on our cognitive functioning, which is responsible for memory, focus and learning.1
Some possible contributing factors of brain fog include:
• poor sleep quality
• feelings of loneliness
• increased stress or anxiety
• decreased physical activity
• side effects of certain medications
Good news is, there are things that we can do to get rid of that brain fog! Here are some ways to help improve our ‘pandemic’ brains:
1. Sweat it out
As the saying goes, ‘healthy body, healthy mind’. The pandemic has led to us to staying in more than usual, causing us to not move as much as we used to. Studies show that exercise and physical activity improve parts of the brain that controls thinking and memory (the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex). Exercising helps to increase blood flow to the brain allowing our brain to get the nourishment it needs while getting rid of unnecessary waste products. This improves our ability to focus and increase our memory retention. 2
2. Write it down
Writing things down might seem like a no-brainer but the fact remains that writing things down, especially with pen and paper, can help us to remember better.3 This is because the process of writing allows us to process ideas for a longer period of time, allowing us to be able to fully absorb the information. It is important to rephrase information in your own words to reinforce your understanding and help you remember it better.
3. Add variety into your life
By being at home most of the time, our brain loses the stimulation that it usually gets from going out and interacting with the world around us. A study has found that if people’s lives become more confined and repetitive as they age, their use for the hippocampus, which plays a major role in learning and memory, decreases.4 Adding a variety of activities into your life injects something different into your routine which can help stimulate your brain. Working on some crossword puzzles, picking up a hobby, learning a new skill or even deliberately reflecting on your day can help.
4. Give yourself a break
Staying at home most of the time can warp our perception of time and make everything seem like it is merged into one, and that can be overwhelming. Taking short breaks between tasks gives your mind and body the much needed time to relax. Even if it is just taking 5 to 10 minutes to call a friend for a quick chat or singing along to your favourite tunes or dancing around the room - anything that enables you to shake some stress off can be beneficial to your brain. Doing this allows you to come back to information with a fresh outlook and can actually increase your productivity and creativity. It also gives your brain the much needed processing time and keeps exhaustion at bay.5
5. Catch those Zs
Sleep plays a fundamental role in our ability to memorise information. During sleep, the brain organizes and consolidates information for long-term memory. This allows your brain to recover and remember information more effectively. Good sleep refreshes and relaxes the mind, enabling us to concentrate better, and thus be better able to commit more information to memory. Sleep deprivation on the other hand not only impacts our motivation and mood but also our memory retention, creativity, problem-solving abilities and critical thinking skills.6 Not able to get restful sleep? Here are some tips to help you achieve that peaceful slumber.
6. Feed your brain
Fueling the mind is an essential element in order to increase focus and concentration. Try adding more blueberries, salmon, avocado, freshly brewed tea and dark chocolate (yum!) to your daily diet as they help promote brain health. Herbs like Ginkgo Biloba and DHA are also known to be natural brain boosters. For optimal brain functions, opt for supplements like LAC Brainspeed® which are specially formulated for peak mental performance.
We hope these tips provide a light at the end of the (foggy) tunnel and help you improve your brain health. Stay home and stay safe!