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Pandemic Brain Fog? Try Learning Something New

August 12, 2021

By Susan Chance, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

Are you experiencing pandemic brain fog? This may sound funny, but the isolation of the pandemic lock down has a large number of people experiencing memory loss. In fact, research by Catherine Loveday, a cognitive neuroscience professor at the University of Westminster showed that up to 50% of people are having memory issues with things such as trying to remember words when talking.

So, what is it about the pandemic that has so many of us struggling with our memory? To say it is the pandemic is very broad; there are actually many factors creating the brain fog:

  • Less social interaction – We have less conversations which can contribute to the struggle to find our words because we are using our words a significantly less amount of time.
  • Every day seems the same – So many of us are working from home, we don’t get that clear transition of going from one place to another; and no, going from the bedroom to the living room does not count as going to another place.
  • Less moving around; being confined to one room – Unless you are lucky enough to have designated office space, you are likely spending a lot of time in one place of your house for work, and then spending more time in that same room for day to day living. Moving around stimulates our memory.

According to Professor Loveday, we get “context and queues” from moving around from home to work and various places in between. We have not been going many places for more than a year, so we are not getting those memory boosters. Having a phone or Zoom conversation with someone just isn’t the same as being out and about where the sights, sounds, and even the weather help us make memories.

We have also been in what for us is uncharted territory for a over a year now. Dr. Mary Beth Ryan, a clinical psychologist, says the prolonged high level of stress we have been in can negatively impact our how we function.  “When stress and worry are high, the emotional center of our brain becomes activated, which interferes with our ability to think clearly and logically, and function effectively,” she says.

There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight yet with the variants elevating the number of COVID cases, so what can we do?

Learning something new is one of the best ways to stimulate your brain and help to improve memory. Before I came to ASE, I had been at the same employer for an extended period of time, and while I had a variety of responsibilities, a lot of it became routine after many years. I felt my memory was slipping, so I took a medical terminology class at Henry Ford Hospital in Wyandotte through an Adult Education program. I had heard that learning something completely new could help with memory, and that was definitely something new for me!

There were a lot of terms to learn and memorize, and I found that it did help my memory. As a side note, did you know that a blood pressure cuff is a sphygmomanometer? That one sticks in my head more than all the rest.

Recently I started feeling the pandemic brain fog. Luckily for me, as an ASE employee I am able to take classes to get my brain going again. I don’t know if I will learn such fun words as sphygmomanometer, but I have been able to learn a range of HR topics that I feel help to round out my experience. It is also good to give my brain some new stimulation. If you are feeling the pandemic brain fog, try learning something new.

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