Perhaps you have experienced some psychological changes in how you perceive your brain is functioning and can’t explain why. I don’t know about you, but I have noticed it in some of those who are typically very intact in their executive brain functioning becoming incapable to do the tasks that they used to manage easily. Sometimes they forget important matters, struggle to focus, become disorganized or simply can’t think in a linear fashion.
We jokingly refer to the idea of Covid brain as somewhat of an excuse. Although this idea has been used humorously it is something that is now being understood neurologically as a real phenomenon. In an article in INC. Jessica Stillman writes about this idea as understood by neuroscientist Hilke Plassmann. Here is a quote from the article.
….. many people are feeling fuzzy-headed and emotionally fragile at the moment. Frantically trying to figure out how to keep our heads above water despite the huge changes in our lives is one obvious reason for that. But according to Insead neuroscientist Hilke Plassmann, the trouble goes deeper.
You’re not just sleep deprived and stressed, you’re experiencing the effects of very real brain changes brought on by the trauma and uncertainty of the pandemic. In a recent Insead Knowledge article, written together with her Insead colleague Benjamin Kessler, Plassmann dubs the phenomenon “Covid brain” and explains its physiological roots:
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.
I think this understanding should help us all have a little more patience with each other and not make judgements of those folks around us who are struggling psychologically. It will probably take a bit of time for us to recover from this pandemic on so many levels. A bit of understanding and support can help us not feel so inadequate and it gives us permission to understand that this season of life is a phase of brain fog that we eventually will overcome. We all need that hope as we navigate Covid brain.