Post COVID-19 care: Seven tips to help recovering coronavirus patients manage brain fog, memory and attention issues
For those who’ve contracted COVID-19 infection, the road to recovery can seem quite a long one.
For those who’ve contracted COVID-19 infection, the road to recovery can seem quite a long one. Not only do you have to deal with fatigue, breathlessness and other physical effects of the disease, but also grapple with the psychological impact of it. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), a study published in The Lancet Neurology in July 2020 and another published in The Lancet Psychiatry in June 2020, even patients who’ve had mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 are likely to grapple with cognitive changes in the aftermath.
Dizziness, headaches, diminished cognitive abilities like lack of concentration, memory recall and recognition and brain fog (thinking clearly) are likely to show up. The World Health Organization (WHO) says these difficulties may go away within weeks or months of you starting your recovery but for some people, they can last for a longer time. These difficulties can have an impact on your relationships, daily activities and your professional life as you get back to it, so you and your loved ones should take them seriously.
The WHO recommends that you and your family recognise these difficulties related to attention, memory and thinking clearly, and adopt the following strategies to manage them.
1. Adjust expectations: It’s quite natural for memory and concentration issues to come up after being unwell, so don’t beat yourself up about not being able to get back to your old life and abilities immediately. Take your time, give your mind and body a chance to recuperate.
2. Brain exercises: Start new activities or hobbies that stimulate the brain, like puzzles, word games, number games, memory exercises and reading. Start with exercises which are achievable, and gradually challenge yourself to increase acuity.
3. Prompt yourself: Lists, notes, alarms and reminders can prompt you to get back to activities which you might be missing out on due to brain fog. These can also help you create a routine, which is one of the best ways to feel in control and get back to normal life.
4. Physical exercise: Exercising may be difficult if you’re also dealing with fatigue and breathlessness, but gently and gradually introducing them back into your daily life will make you both physically and cognitively stronger.
5. Break it down: Remembering or concentrating on all the steps of a complicated action might be difficult, so break down the steps and take them one at a time. The prompts mentioned above can come in handy here too.
6. Pace yourself: Slow down. Restlessness in times like these is understandable but you can’t rush your mind and body back into order, especially in the aftermath of a disease like COVID-19. Get into your old activities gradually, and if it feels too overwhelming, then take time off to recover or talk to a specialist.
7. Let others help: Accepting help from those you share your life with won’t harm you. Instead, it can make the recovery process easier and the cognitive difficulties less frustrating if you have company. Let your family and friends help you. In fact, ask them to join you in creating memory and concentration games. This will not only help you overcome your issues but also help those around you deal with stress.
Remember that if at any point, your cognitive difficulties feel too overwhelming or severe, connect with a doctor or neurologist to get help.
For more information, read our article on A Complete Guide to Post COVID-19 care.
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