Feeling foggy lately? If you’ve been worrying a lot about the coronavirus, and you’re experiencing anxiety, fatigue, and scattered thoughts–you’re not alone. This feeling you have is commonly referred to as “brain fog,” and it is a protective measure that often happens to people after a traumatic or very unusual event–like a global pandemic. According to assistant professor of neurology at the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School Priyank Khandelwal, “The constant worry over the coronavirus has scattered our brain power, making us feel that our thoughts are all over the place.”
Chronic stress can lead to a slew of other symptoms, but people experiencing “brain fog” usually feel distracted, have very low energy, and are anxious. In serious cases, people may even have an abnormally fast heart rate and experience sleeplessness and tense muscles, according to Molly Colvin, Ph.D., a developmental neuropsychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School. Further, Dr. Colvin said about “brain fog” that, “It keeps us from taking on too much or from trying to move too fast in uncertain times. It allows for cognitive resources to be held in reserve, so that capacity can be quickly employed to learn new and adaptive skills.”
The good news is that the “fog” will lift when you are fully able to come to terms with your new reality. Studies show that this pandemic may be here for a while, so it is important to create a “new normal” that you are comfortable with. Dr. Khandelwal says that accepting the current situation would help to clear the mind of disturbing thoughts, and that focusing on the basics–diet, exercise, and sleep patterns–would help to clear the fog. Additionally, psychologist Laurie Santos, PhD, who is a professor of Yale’s virtual happiness course, recommends remembering your favorite people, games, and food to move forward. It sounds like a starting point to launch yourself out of the fog and into the new.