Mental Health

Mandy Kloppers

How Quarantine Affects Mental Health and Memory

Let’s face it: These last two years have been, well, difficult. We’ve endured the worst public health crisis in more than a century. And on top of the fear of the COVID-19 virus itself has come a range of other crises, from global economic recessions to the profound impacts of prolonged lockdowns and social isolation.

 

It’s little wonder, then, that enduring quarantines should have taken such a toll both on our mental health and on our memory. But what is the connection between quarantine, cognitive functioning, and overall psychological wellbeing? And what can be done to protect both our mental health and our memory as we emerge from quarantine?

“COVID-Brain” Isn’t Just a Myth

You may not have heard of “COVID-brain,” but chances are, you’ve experienced it in some form. Researchers are increasingly finding that the mental funk that so many of us have fallen into in the wake of the pandemic isn’t just our imagination. It’s a real thing.

 

And it’s not difficult to understand why. First, and perhaps most importantly, months of quarantine signify months of unremitting stress. And when your brain is exposed to such prolonged periods of anxiety, that is going to induce significant changes in the brain’s ability to produce, circulate, and absorb essential hormones and neurotransmitters, from dopamine to serotonin.

 

But that’s not all, because these changes in brain function will also have a marked impact not only on your mood but also on your memory and overall cognitive functioning. This is linked not just to the effects of chronic stress and anxiety, but also to the behavioural changes that are a hallmark of life under quarantine. For instance, life under lockdown has been strongly associated with poor quality of sleep (either sleeping too much or too little), poor nutrition, and excessive drug and alcohol use.

 

In addition, studies show that brain fog and other cognitive and mental health changes can be a relatively little discussed symptom of the virus itself. That means that if you’re experiencing COVID-brain, it might not be just about the anxiety and the lifestyle changes brought about by the lockdowns. It may also mean that you’ve been infected.

 

This is one important reason why, if you are experiencing changes in mood or memory, it’s a good idea to book an appointment at your nearest urgent care clinic. Even if your symptoms don’t appear to indicate an emergency, you can receive essential laboratory tests, including blood work and certain x-rays, at the urgent care centre. This way, you will have the reassurance that your mental symptoms aren’t an indication of undiagnosed coronavirus.

Overcoming COVID Brain

In addition to having yourself tested for the virus, there are also several things that you can do to help you overcome the effects of quarantine on mood and memory. The first and perhaps most important thing is simply to take steps to cultivate your mental wellbeing.

 

The good news is that many tools in the mental wellness toolbox will help you emerge from the pandemic a healthier, happier, more mentally fit you. For instance, spending time in nature can significantly elevate your mood and give you the sensory stimulation that can help improve mental alertness and memory.

 

It’s also imperative to pay attention to diet, exercise, and healthy sleep. Cultivating your physical health will enable you to feel stronger in body, which then helps you to feel safer, stronger, and better in mind and spirit as well.

 

Above all, as the world begins to embrace a post-pandemic new normal, you will need to take the process slowly, supporting your family and seeking support in returning to the rhythm of life (somewhat) as we once knew it. If you have teenagers, for instance, they may need a bit of additional support as restrictions begin to ease. So the key is to keep the lines of communication open with the entire family.

 

Life has changed, after all, in the wake of the pandemic, and it’s to be expected that there would be some fear and uncertainty as the entire family begins to adapt to the normal. So lots of family conversations, lots of family activities, as well as time for Mom and Dad to take care of themselves and each other will help overcome the mental health and memory impacts that quarantine has wrought.

The Takeaway

Life under quarantine has not been easy. We have faced fears for our own health and the health of the people we love. We have experienced financial uncertainty. And we have endured loneliness and isolation. It has been a lot and it has taken its toll on our mental health and our memory. The good news, however, is that these impacts do not have to be permanent. With a bit of effort and some gentle lifestyle changes, you and your family can emerge from quarantine better than ever before.