Post COVID Brain Fog

Post Covid Brain Fog: What Everyone Should Understand

Kristine Keane, Psy.D.

Are you feeling an overall mental fogginess that is making it harder to remember things? Have you been asking yourself, ‘what was I supposed to be doing?’ or ‘why did I walk over here?’ or ‘where did I put my keys?’ more than normal? Are tasks that once took you five minutes to do taking substantially longer? Are you getting distracted easier or are you not able to recall information like you usually do?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions you may be suffering from what we call “brain fog.” Brain fog is not a technical medical condition, rather it is a state of cognitive dysfunction that makes the brain processes slower and less efficient. Brain fog can impede many of the brains functions which include but are not limited to memory, processing and understanding new information, the ability to do mental math, organizing, problem solving, and the ability to concentrate and focus. 

Memory loss due to brain fog is commonly seen in concussion and elderly patients, but ever since the pandemic more and more people, of all ages, have been reporting similar symptoms. This is because brain fog and memory loss can have the same underlying causes as conditions such as stress, lack of sleep, and medication use.

Brain fog largely affects memory and, as a result, the ability to store and recall information, a task that normally seems second nature, becomes increasingly harder. We may feel tempted to attribute these changes to other things such as a concern of undiagnosed ADHD or anxiety, when in reality it is probably just brain fog. (However, if you do feel symptoms that are unmanageable or overwhelming don’t be afraid to contact a neuropsychologist or your primary care physician.) The presence of Covid-19 has altered our lives in many ways, particularly our stress levels, our ability to stay on a sleep schedule, as well as a possible increases in the medications we take. All these changes can increase brain fog, negatively impacting our memory. 

For most people, there are small changes that can be implemented in everyday life that can greatly increase memory retention and clear away some of that fog.

Tips to fight memory loss:

1. Pay attention.

Most memory lapses are caused by inattention. Without taking a moment to think about and pay attention to new information it is easy to confuse memories or never fully form the memory in the first place. Take parking your car for instance. Many times, people forget where they parked their car because when the memory was formed, they were not paying enough attention to it. Most people need to register a landmark or something familiar in the area in order to remember where they parked their car. Slow down, pay attention, and give your brain time to think about information you are trying to store and remember—pick out a landmark if you need to.

2. Repetition, repetition, repetition.

Regardless of your age, repeating information helps you remember it. Memories that are called upon frequently are more likely to be remembered, and memories that you don’t think about as often are more likely to be forgotten. When you repeat something in your mind over and over, you create a well-worn path of neurons that will take you directly to that memory with more and more ease each time. When you want to remember something, encode it with as much meaningful information as possible. Instead of trying to memorize just a word, learn as much as you can about that word to truly understand it. The golden rule is, use it or lose it! New information can knock out old information on an as needed basis. 

3. Cut down on multitasking.

Due to the explosion in social media, the technologies available to us, and the excessive amount of time we have sitting in front of a computer or next to our phones, many of us find ourselves extremely distracted by multiple sources of stimulation all day long. Memory interference occurs when we have multiple things to remember at the same time. You might be able to remember one event, or one piece of information, but if you keep adding to this mental list, you are bound to forget something. For example, even though you put everything in a calendar you may still find yourself late or forgetting appointments. At some point in our lives, the number of things we can think about and do simultaneously is reduced. 

The common misconception about multitasking is that it allows us to do multiple tasks at once flawlessly, however what we are really doing is splitting our attention in half and only giving each task half of our attention—when we add a third task to the mix it becomes too much for the brain to handle and accuracy drops considerably. If you cut down on the amount of tasks you are doing at once, you can really pay attention to what you are trying to remember—this gives the brain a chance to encode properly and create a new memory. 

4. Agendas, alerts and reminders.

Much of the things we think about and try to remember during the day are influenced by our moods, biases, beliefs, experiences, expectations and physiology at the time. A bad day, an argument, or even an exciting mood can distract or distort how we encode information. To save your memories from being impacted by your mood, place alerts and reminders into your phone or electronic device immediately upon receiving information. Not only will this help encode new information correctly, but it can also eliminate forgetting things that you never encoded in the first place. If you write things down, your brain does not have to work as hard to remember.

5. Create a memory box.

One of the most common complaints about forgetting involves losing everyday things we carry often like keys or cell phones. It is completely normal to lose things and spend some time looking for them. One recommendation is to keep a memory box or basket near the front door or where you place things like your wallet or your keys when you come into your home. By consistently placing items in the same place, you reduce the need to look for them. Routine and organization are great memory aids.

Brain fog and memory problems are not relegated to patients that have had a concussion or the elderly, it can and has been affecting those at every stage of life. Don’t stress even more or jump to the conclusion that there is an underlying issue, instead, take care of your brain by helping it with the tips above as well as getting enough sleep.

That being said, brain fog is a rare but possible symptom of many medical conditions such as MS, depression, anemia, diabetes, and hormonal changes, so if it is persistent and becomes overwhelming do not hesitate to contact your doctor. Additionally, if you suspect you may have abnormal memory issues, such as memory loss, you should contact your primary care physician, neurologist or neuropsychologist. You can consult with a neuropsychologist who can administer objective tests to determine whether your memory loss is age related or whether it is inconsistent with your same aged peers and needing further evaluation.

Dr. Kristine Keane, a clinical and sports neuropsychologist, is widely recognized for her profound expertise in brain health. Drawing on extensive experience, she is passionately committed to enhancing cognitive and emotional well-being.


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