Updated: Aug 19
“I was in lockdown, but my brain went on vacation”- Let’s talk about Pandemic Brain.
Do you find yourself waking up with a sort of brain fog, despite getting adequate sleep the night before? Are you unable to focus at work, forgetting tasks & struggling to concentrate in conversations? Trust us, you’re not alone. In fact, these feelings are completely normal symptoms of the phenomenon known as “Pandemic Brain”.
So what is “Pandemic Brain” & why do I have it?
The term is used to describe our state of mental deterioration over the course of the pandemic as a result of stress. Us Sydneysiders are now in our 8th week of lockdown & have become used to this “new normal”. The sudden change in our daily routines; working from home, outdoor workouts, cancelled holidays, lost jobs, lost lives… It’s no wonder most of us have experienced a huge spike in cortisol, our body’s primary stress hormone. Unfortunately, as lockdown continues to be extended, our cortisol levels remain elevated which leaves us at risk of developing serious health problems such as heart disease, sleep disruptions & even mood disorders like depression & anxiety. In an article published by Women’s Health, Jessica Campbell writes how, as a result of the chronic stress caused by the pandemic, our cognition takes a hit as it’s been proven that stress can kill brain cells & shrink the size of the part of the brain responsible for memory, focus & learning.
“I forgot to swipe my Opal card on the bus & I couldn’t remember my best friend’s birthday…”
In an article published by The Atlantic, Neuroscientist Tina Franklin explains how our brains are “good at learning different things & forgetting the things that are not a priority.”
As the pandemic has taught us new habits & made old ones obsolete, our brains have essentially put actions like trying on clothes in a store & going to restaurants in deep storage & placed social distancing & packing a mask in our pockets near the front of the closet. When our habits change back, presumably so will our recall.
Prolonged boredom is, somewhat paradoxically, hugely stressful, Franklin claimed. It wreaks havoc in our brains. “What’s very clear in the literature is that environmental enrichment—being outside of your home, bumping into people, commuting, all of these changes that we are collectively being deprived of—is associated with synaptic plasticity,” the brain’s inherent ability to generate new connections & learn new things.
So how do we regain clarity & mental focus & get our trusty pre-pandemic brains back?
There are several ways we can reduce stress, limit boredom & improve our mental health during this time. According to Prof Andrew Scholey, the Neuroscientist behind Ārepa, there are also foods that can help with focus, including a diet rich in foods containing compounds called flavonoids. These tend to be brightly coloured fruits and vegetables. A recent study of over 75,000 people found that those who eat more of these foods are at a lower risk of mental decline.
Just because the gyms are shut, doesn’t mean you can’t sweat it out! Grab your flatmate, partner or neighbourhood friend & go for a coastal jog. Book in with a PT for a 1:1 outdoor session or do one straight from your living room! (Check out our client Chloe’s online Pilates classes here). Scientific research proves that exercise increases neuroplasticity – or, the brain’s adaptability to experience & change – which may help in preventing future neurodegenerative conditions like dementia, in addition to fast tracking our brain’s bounce back from recent circumstances.
2) Incorporate Health Supplements into your diet
Our client, Ārepa have a naturally Nootropic drinks range, which are clinically proven to enhance mental clarity, improve focus under mental fatigue & support physical performance. With over seven years of research & development, the patented formula focuses on plant-based ingredients with years of robust scientific evidence proving the safety & efficacy on human brain function. Working from home is still a relatively new concept & many find it difficult to self-motivate. Drinking Ārepa is a great way to help maintain concentration levels & is best consumed 20 minutes before your most important task of the day.
3) Practise Mediation & Mindfulness
Our mood is closely tied to cognitive function & therefore mindfulness & meditation have been linked to improvements in both. Conscious breathing & guided meditation can redirect attention, increase focus & help release feelings of panic. Our client, Athina Bailey offers a range of courses designed to help people find peace with themselves, connect with their own spiritual abilities & reawaken their soul purpose. (Check out her full range of services here).
While we may not know when we can officially be set free from the restrictions enforced by lockdown, we can certainly use this time to improve in ways we never had time to before. This period of quiet allows us the opportunity to look inwards and improve our physical & mental health through exercise & mindfulness. Until the day we can hug our friends in a crowded café, let’s look after our bodies & brains & lavish in the “me time” we once longed for.
For now, we recommend getting your hands on Ārepa to keep you feeling sharp! No pandemic brain over here. You can check out their range here.