Life Post-Lockdown
Your Family|June 2020
Pandemic panic, brain fog and ocd… as you get back to life un-usual, psychologist marise swart shares some advice on some common issues that may affect your mental health
Janine Collins

MARISE SWART is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Hatfield, Pretoria. She also consults at two psychiatric hospitals in Pretoria. She is a certified Somatic Experiencing Practitioner® and Brainspotting Therapist, and the only Brainspotting Trainer in Africa. Visit Marise.co.za or call 012 362 6605 for info.

Q Now that I’m back at work, I’m really struggling to focus. I find it difficult to finish tasks and flit from one thing to the next. Has my brain turned to mush during lockdown? How can I get my mental sharpness back?

Firstly, you’re not alone. Many of us share your sentiment. The reason for this brain fog might be because your brain hasn’t been to ‘gym’ for a few weeks. Memory, like muscular strength, requires you to exercise it. The more we exercise the brain, the better it can process and recall information. Here are some key ways in which you can regain your mental sharpness:

1. Push the envelope. Challenge yourself. Find an activity that allows you to start at an easy level and work your way to a more advanced level. This will help you stretch your capabilities and advance you to more dynamic tasks.

2. Healthy body, healthy mind. Exercise increases oxygen to your brain and relaxes the central nervous system. It also reduces the stress hormone cortisol in your body. Physical exercise also reduces the risk for disorders that lead to memory loss, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Having a regular sleep schedule, limiting screen time before bed, and cutting back on caffeine are essential for good sleep hygiene and memory.

3. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Chronic stress destroys brain cells and damages the hippocampus. The hippocampus region is involved in the formation of new memories and the retrieval of old ones. Managing your stress with exercise, medication, meditation, or outdoor activities will help improve your memory.

Q I’m terrified of my husband or myself being retrenched or losing our jobs. I’ve had to take a reduction in salary and this has really affected my stress and motivation levels. I’m finding it difficult to get up in the mornings.

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