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Here’s what you need to know about lockdown brain fog
By psychologist Nancy Sokarno
Are you feeling absentminded, can’t concentrate, or just generally forgetful? You might be suffering from lockdown brain, which refers to a phenomenon where people experience a sort of brain fog during periods of lockdown or isolation.
Lockdown brain is the term given to the way people are experiencing forgetfulness or feeling mentally slow during lockdown. It’s feeling constantly forgetful, confused, absent minded and even mentally tired. It also refers to how people are having difficulty concentrating, struggling to focus on tasks and just generally feeling fatigued when it comes to thinking. Lockdown brain could be as simple as walking into the kitchen and forgetting why you’re there, or something more concerning like forgetting to do an important work task.
The main reason is because our brains are currently feeling overwhelmed! We’re constantly being inundated with information about new ways of living, Covid cases, Covid exposure sites and therefore needing to make adjustments in our minds (and life) to accommodate.
Many of us are also experiencing stress and anxiety due to the current circumstances, whether that be obvious stresses or underlying stress. That in itself is enough to make our brains feel fatigued, thus not allowing much mental energy left for anything else! Science has proven that stress changes the brain regions that control executive function, learning, and memory. Put simply, our brains need a break!
Then if we look at the fact that we’re not getting the kinds of social interaction that we as humans require, you’ve got the perfect storm for mental fatigue. Humans have an evolutionary need to socialise as it can help to keep our minds agile and improve cognitive function. A lack of social contact and levels of loneliness has been shown to affect the brain negatively because the reduction of human contact means we’re missing out on conversation or repetition of stories (which can help with memory). So those casual conversations at the water cooler at work or during your gym workout that you’re now missing out on are actually beneficial to your brain!
Accept that right now we’re all experiencing a difficult time and it’s OK to give yourself a break. Try not to put pressure on yourself to remember things or rely too much on your brain – that might mean writing a to-do list or reaching for the calculator when you’d normally work it out yourself. Be kind to yourself right now and do whatever you can to give yourself a break!
While setting goals might sound counterintuitive right now, it can actually be beneficial to our mental health. Goal setting can help us to feel motivated, alleviate some procrastination and make us feel as though we are achieving things (even if it doesn’t feel that way sometimes).
Put away your social media apps and make an effort to connect with people on a positive level. Yes, social media can be a great outlet for staying in touch, however it has a lot of negative implications on our mental wellbeing. Plus, it doesn’t fulfil the kinds of deeper connections that we as humans require. Instead, try calling a friend on Facetime.
With many of us stuck working from home, it can be easy for the lines between home life and work life to become blurred. The risk means you can be working around the clock and not ever giving your brain a break. Set clear boundaries around the hours you work and your downtime. Setting clear boundaries can help ensure that you are getting the mental rest that you need.
Unfortunately, lockdown can feel a little bit like Groundhog Day sometimes. While having a routine can be helpful in times of unpredictability because it gives us a sense of control, it can also negatively impact our brain’s functions. When each day seemingly rolls into one, it’s easy to forget what day it is, let alone forget other things you need to remember. Try to break up the monotony by mixing up your routine. This could be a simple as drinking a tea instead of coffee in the morning or having a bath instead of a shower at night. It might not sound like much, but it helps make things feel a little bit more novel.
It is important to recognise that we are all experiencing incredibly challenging times (some more than most), but you don’t need to suffer in silence. If you feel comfortable, talk to friends and family about how you’re feeling.
Otherwise seek the help of a professional that can arm you with tools to get you back on track. Places like Beyond Blue and Lifeline offer free over the phone counselling, and services like Lysn offer appointments with a psychologist from the comfort of your own home.
Nancy Sokarno is a psychologist at Lysn. Lysn is a digital mental health company with world class wellbeing technology which helps people find their best-fit professional psychologist whilst being able to access online tools to improve their mental health.
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