This is a writeup of a recent article entitled “FOGGY-BRAINED FROM THE PANDEMIC? Six ways to stay mentally sharp, published in the Manila Bulletin, Lifestyle News.
You can retrain your brain
According to a study by the US National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), about 25 percent of Covid-19 survivors experience what’s called “brain fog,” a general term to describe feelings of being mentally sluggish, confused and pretty much “out of it”. These symptoms can last for months after a patient has recovered from coronavirus. Worse, they can be accompanied by headaches, poor memory and impaired sustained attention or inability to concentrate.
Yet struggling to focus is not only for those who have had the life-threatening disease. With a pandemic with no end in sight, the world has had to live with long-term, low-grade stress, anxiety, and uncertainty. These are the factors that cause the mind wander off, daydream, and zone out completely.
Donnabelle Chu, MD of Makati Medical Center’s (MakatiMed) Neurology Department, says that this is normal under the present circumstances. It’s your brain’s way of coping with the stress and fear of circumstances that are beyond your control, like the current pandemic.
There’s even a scientific basis for this. Dr. Chu adds that the brain’s prefrontal cortex, which processes our critical thinking and ability to focus, shuts down during a sudden, highly stressful situation. It then gives way to that primitive part of the brain to respond quickly and protect you from danger. The pandemic, while life-threatening, is ongoing and does not require a quick response. This affects our ability to focus and concentrate.
Dr. Chu adds that stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which the body releases during particularly tense moments, can also overwhelm and exhaust the brain if they stay too long in the system or come in excessive amounts.
Here’s the good news: Mental fogginess is temporary. Given the brain’s malleability (its capacity to adapt to changes and new ways of thinking), you can regain your focus and concentration in no time.
When you sense your thoughts trailing off, get them back on track by gently reminding yourself where you are at that very moment. Dr. Chu adds that thinking too far ahead of scenarios that may or may not happen is not only unproductive, it is mentally and emotionally exhausting. It is best to concentrate on what you can do in the here and now. Instead of multi-tasking, make a to-do list and check each entry as you accomplish them. This allows you to focus solely on the task at hand—rather than on a bunch of things that can overwhelm you. Listening to music also helps to relax your brain.
To see Dr. Donnabelle Chu’s credentials, click here.
Here are six ways to remind yourself where you are at that very moment:
Train your brain.
Follow Healthy diet.
1. Practice mindfulness
When you sense your thoughts trailing off, get them back on track by gently reminding yourself where you are at that very moment. “Thinking too far ahead of scenarios that may or may not happen is not only unproductive, it is mentally and emotionally exhausting,” says Dr. Chu. “Best to concentrate on what you can do in the here and now.” Instead of multi-tasking, make a to-do list and check each entry as you accomplish them. This allows you to focus solely on the task at hand—rather than on a bunch of things that can overwhelm you. Listening to music also helps to relax your brain.
2. Train your brain
Do crossword puzzles, chess, Sudoku, solitaire, and other mind games that require you to think can sharpen your focus, the doctor says, urging people to spend at least 15 minutes playing any of these brain training games five days a week. These games may enhance working and short-term memory, as well as processing and problem-solving skills. Such activities are especially helpful for older adults, who may experience more memory and concentration problems caused by advanced age.
If mental exercises jog the brain, physical exercises like going for a walk or run, dancing, or doing yoga also offer multiple benefits to the brain. Dr, Chu adds that exercise promotes good circulation, is a great stress buster, and improves the quality of your sleep—all of which contribute to better thinking and concentration.
4. Follow Healthy diet
A healthy diet has been proven to improve your brain health. Diets such as those rich in fruits and vegetables, nuts, beans, Omega 3, and whole grains can be beneficial to the brain’s ability to function well. In addition, avoid excessive alcohol intake: This will also give the brain a chance to heal and function properly.
5. Eliminate distractions
Who has not zoned out from scrolling through their social media feeds? Dr. Chu adds: If you must, check your Facebook or other social media accounts at specific times of the day only, she says. If you work from home, clear your desk of clutter and lower the volume of any music playing in the background, or shut it off completely.
Sometimes, a little time out can do wonders for your wellbeing. “Go for a walk. Take the entire day off. Give yourself enough time to sleep as it has been shown that the brain clears and eliminates toxins that affect our cognition when we sleep,” says Dr. Chu. Don’t be so hard on yourself. These are challenging times and we’re all learning to cope in the best way we can.
We hope you have enjoyed this writeup and that you will want to try the suggestions it contains. Please keep us informed of your impressions and your progress.
More brain games can be found under the heading “Brain Games”, by clicking any of the published blogs in the pages listed for the following categories:
“Brain Games For Children”
“Brain Games for Adults”
“Brain Games for Seniors”
“Advanced Brain Training”
“Optimal Brain Health”
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