Contributed by: Rachana Arya
Recovering from a life-threatening disease like coronavirus is tough enough, without having to face the fog of fuzzy thinking and a faltering memory. Yet, that’s exactly what happens to nearly half of Covid-19 survivors.
Lingering “brain fog” is one of the least well-understood side effects of COVID-19 infection. In some cases, it can persist for months after the disease has passed. Periods of ‘brain fog’ can hit like a tidal wave, leaving you unable to think clearly for hours or days, making it impossible to perform daily tasks or hold conversations. It may lead you to battle the constant fear of an invisible threat of brain damage. The good news is that there’s no evidence that this mental fog is permanent, so you can be cautiously optimistic in the hopes that it will resolve and no complications will arise.
Let’s understand exactly what COVID-19 brain fog is — in order to better understand this emerging health concern and learn what you can do if you think you have COVID brain fog during the long recovery phase.
Defining Brain Fog
The term “brain fog” does not refer to a medical disorder with a set of diagnostic criteria. It is a form of mental confusion that can develop in chronically ill patients. This state of mind is characterized by:
- Momentary lapses in memory
- Lack of concentration
- Trouble finding words
- Problems with attention
- Being overwhelmed by simple tasks
- Lack of mental clarity
- Difficulty in the articulation of thoughts and expressions
When brain fog strikes, you can have trouble concentrating on anything, even watching TV. You may stumble over simple calculations. Your brain feels like it’s in the midst of a thick fog!
Strategies to clear ‘brain fog’ after COVID-19
Try these rejuvenating approaches to help burn away the lingering mental fog:
- Perform aerobic exercises: You would need to start slowly, with two to three minutes of exercise a few times a day. Although there is no set “dose” of exercise for improving brain health, it is commonly suggested that you aim for 30 minutes of exercise five days a week.
- Eat healthy meals: Your body needs adequate nourishment to return to good health. Try to eat a well-balanced, healthy diet. Incorporate olive oil, fruits and vegetables, nuts and beans, and whole grains, etc. in your diet so as to enhance your memory and brain health.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs: Give your brain the best chance to recover from the deadly virus by avoiding substances that can adversely affect it by causing inflammation.
- Sleep well: Sleep is an essential promoter of emotional wellness and mental health. A solid night’s rest aids complex thinking, learning, memory, and decision-making. Make sure you get ample sleep for your cognitive health and well-being.
- Participate in social activities: We are social creatures. Social experiences not only improve our moods, but they also improve our thought and memory.
- Pursue other beneficial activities: It is recommended that you keep your mind busy, whether through work or puzzles. Listen to music, practice mindfulness, and maintain a healthy mental outlook to enhance cognitively stimulating behavior.
- Maintain a list of activities: Keep regular lists of important events, assignments, meetings, and things to do – and refer to them often.
- Repeat information: If remembering information is a challenge for you, try repeating new information to yourself to help you remember it.
- Focus on a singular task: Rather than trying to multitask, concentrate on one activity at a time.
- Be kind to yourself: Stop doing any cognitively taxing tasks or behaviors before you become mentally exhausted, and don’t force yourself past your limits once you’ve identified them.
What should you do if you fail to get better after a few weeks?
If you’re still having trouble coping with the symptoms of brain fog, the most important thing to do is to see your doctor and share with them all of the lingering symptoms you are experiencing. These should include your brain fog and specific neurologic symptoms, and also problems such as shortness of breath, palpitations, and abnormal urine or stool.
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