COVID Brain

Got less energy than you used to before COVID? Feeling rudderless, unfocused? Having trouble sleeping well? You’re not alone. We, as a society, are basically suffering from PTSD, except the trauma keeps occurring, so we are unable to move forward. And this has been exacerbated by four factors:

  1. The loss of human touch and face-to-face connection. This is especially traumatic for extraverts, whose psyches are centered around physically being with others. Zoom is a lousy substitute for a hug!
  2. Financial uncertainty and stress for those who have lost their jobs because of COVID, especially since the $600/week federal payments have stopped. People are losing their homes, their cars, and their self-respect, again adding to their trauma, and again multiplying the PTSD.
  3. The increasingly shrill divisiveness of our election season, which is reaching fever pitch. So many different “truths”. Is there anybody or anything we can trust?
  4. The worst aspect of this entire experience is that the primary cause of our PTSD just keeps on keeping on, adding more uncertainty and stress.

A recent Insead Knowledge article explains: “In times like these, our brains tend to work differently. The prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for complex planning, working memory, and analytical thinking, is swamped with ambiguous signals, impacting our decision-making abilities. Meanwhile, the brain scours its long-term memory systems for comparable experiences. Finding few precedents for this pandemic, it looks intently outward for guidance on what to do next.

The combination of impaired analytical thinking and heightened external sensitivity creates what can be called "Covid-19 brain"–a fragile, frazzled state that keeps our thoughts simultaneously on edge and unfocused.”*

What can we do about this? The frustrating answer, which is the underlying cause, is that we can’t “cure” it. The best we can do is to understand it and cope with it. Some ways to cope include:

  • Be gentle with ourselves. View this the same way that we would view recovering from a broken leg. Expect that we will be less effective than before. And forgive ourselves for being that way.
  • Find ways to bring ourselves joy, within the new boundaries. Intentionally find and partake of activities that soothe our frazzled souls.
  • Be gentle with others. Each person deals with COVID brain differently. Some people become aggressive; others withdraw; still others become hyper focused on something (even something very minor in the grand scheme of things). Call people. Be a friend. Many people are hungry for affirmation that they still matter.

* https://knowledge.insead.edu/blog/insead-blog/battling-covid-19-brain-14626

Hang in there.

Gary

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