By Angela Hughes (Writer and Editor for Anapol Weiss, a personal injury law firm)
In the pre-COVID era, most people longed for more time at home, but if there’s one thing that 2020 has taught us, it’s that too much of a good thing isn’t always good.
The pandemic pushed people inside and away from family, friends, and co-workers. Although necessary, unstructured time at home can lead to boredom, stress, and mental health issues. Brain fog may set in and cause a decrease in memory and cognition.
The good news is that there are healthy ways to cope with COVID fatigue and keep your mind sharp wherever you happen to be.
Create a Healthy Routine
During uncertain times such as these, it’s important to feel like you maintain some control over your life. You can do this by maintaining your healthy habits and creating a routine that works for your situation. Doing so will help give you a sense of normalcy and ease anxiety.
In an article for Healthline, clinical psychotherapist Erin Wiley notes that, “In order for our minds to function at maximum efficiency, we must have order and stability, and right now it’s harder than ever to have either. Simple habits that we may have previously done — making the bed, blow drying our hair — are simple activities we can do to remind our brain that life is still going on despite the interruptions we are facing.”
Your routine may not look exactly as it once did, but you can establish a new one that’s similar. Set your alarm and wake up at the same time every day. If you showered before work before COVID or worked out afterward, maintain those habits. You can also create checklists to help you stay organized and power through work tasks.
Use the Internet Mindfully
It’s easy to hop online and scroll through social media for hours, but to keep your mind sharp, consider using technology to inspire and educate yourself.
Stimulate your mind by taking an online course, learning a new language, following guided meditations, or taking virtual tours through a museum. You can find everything from gallery tours and library collections to podcasts and wellness resources for free.
If you’re feeling digitally fatigued, you can also keep your mind sharp by reading books and playing offline games. According to a study published in JAMA Psychiatry in 2018, people over age 65 who participated in intellectual activities, like reading and playing card games, had a significantly lower risk of dementia.
Stress affects brain cells and wreaks all kinds of havoc on your life. If you’re not getting adequate sleep, feel anxious most of the time, or are stressed out about work and life in general, you could find yourself physically ill, depressed, forgetful, and irritable. Additionally, you could be at a higher risk of getting into car accidents.
Even if you’re not driving as much as you used to or taking the long commute to work, you could still end up careless behind the wheel and in car accidents. The Association for Psychological Science says that a history of stress may contribute to anxiety while driving, leading to accidents.
One of the best ways to target stress is to practice mindfulness and breathing techniques. Meditation has a lot of research behind it, and it’s been shown to reduce anxiety and depression and increase certain areas of the brain. You can find various meditation videos online to suit your preferences: guided, visual, music only, etc. Experiment with different kinds to see what works best for you.
You can also incorporate deep breathing exercises into your daily routine. For five to ten minutes a day, breathe slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth. Research has shown that slow, controlled breathing calms the mind. A peaceful mind can make decisions more easily and respond to outside events in a calmer manner.
Keeping your body strong and healthy also keeps your mind sharp. Exercise boosts blood flow to the brain and increases the part of your brain (hippocampus) associated with learning and memory. The best part is, a little bit of exercise goes a long way, so you don’t need to run on the treadmill for six hours daily to see the benefits.
Try walking or cycling three times a week or workout to an online video. It’s also beneficial to include resistance training into your physical activities. Brush off those dusty hand weights and start building a little body and brain muscle.
You may not always know what will happen in the future or control how this pandemic will pan out, but you do have the power to control what’s happening in your mind and how you respond to uncertainty.
Keeping your mind sharp and your body healthy will help you navigate daily life, even in the post-COVID world. Whether you end up using the internet mindfully or lower stress from potential risks like car accidents, these tips above can help you stay sharp.
Angela Hughes is a writer and editor for Anapol Weiss, a personal injury law firm. She writes about driving safety and personal safety tips to keep the world a little bit safer.