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May 15, 2020

Pandemic Brain - Does it Affect You?

Lockdown during this Pandemic can be tough. Some people thrive. They complete a book they're writing. They tackle projects that were set aside for months. They start new projects. They learn new skills or do more cooking.

Others do not fare as well. Many have trouble focusing or concentrating. They have no motivation, no urge to tackle any of the work piling up. Some are suffering severe financial pressures.

How are you doing? My husband and I have always believed in and lived, an emergency preparedness lifestyle so food-wise we are fine. Items that are hard to come by where we live are: Yeast, flour, disinfectant wipes, and some fresh vegetables. Meat is also starting to be in shorter supply but nothing extreme.

The "I Can't Focus" Camp

But we are both in the "I can't focus" camp. Every day I think about my second Janie Riley mystery I have been working on for a few years. I think about opening it and writing. But I can't.

I look at the Genealogy project I started with some excitement back in December. Now it seems a waste of time and energy so there it sits.

I have a gazillion ideas for projects I want to tackle but all I do is look at the binders I set up or the notes I jotted down. I sigh and close it all up with a shake of my head.

My Pandemic Brain

My mind is suffering what I call "Pandemic Brain" I can't focus. I can't remember what I did a few minutes ago. My mind is a jumble of thoughts. My sleep is disturbed with disjointed extreme dreams.

But I'm finally coming out of that fog a bit. Two weeks ago I decided I had to set myself one daily task and one fun item. The daily tasks I started setting and completing were small and simple. One day I made 3 loaves of pumpkin bread, another day I made a spreadsheet of all the wills I found for ancestors. That's not a lot compared to my pre-Pandemic work ethic! But I found completing the tasks not only made me feel good, it made me settle down and concentrate on what needed to be done, then making a choice.

I started expanding my tasks by making and canning dozens of jars of homemade Chili Sauce.  That was a huge job and my husband spent hours helping me. Once I did that I felt much better about things. I was taking some control again, and not giving in to feelings of helplessness.

I still have Pandemic Brain. I'm much more forgetful than pre-Pandemic. I'm not inspired or excited to start on any of the ideas I have rolling around in my mind but I am doing things. I am completing one task daily (sometimes more), I am setting up one fun thing each day, and I am walking a bit ever day.

Coping With Pandemic Brain

Many of my readers know I have physical challenges and auto-immune disorders and cannot walk more than 20 minutes on a good day. So I do what I can by walking on the cement surrounding our in-ground pool. It makes a good track for my rollator and allows me to walk more easily.

We live in a rural area and are forced to use a mobile capped connection to the internet, thus we cannot get Netflix or use Zoom or participate in any online meets, nor can we stream movies or podcasts.

So we have to make our own fun with jigsaw puzzles, card and board games, etc. I also created different areas inside and outside our home for sitting for tea or a snack. I gave them names - for instance our sunroom is the Poolside Bistro. I made a menu on a white board and we enjoy sitting there and "ordering" our food. It may sound silly but we enjoy the change of routine.

I hope all of you are coping and staying safe. What are your suggestions for coping during this lockdown?


Unknown said...

Oh man do I identify with this.
I'm an extremely "task-oriented" person - nothing makes me happier that completing my "to-do" list! But I've been walking around in a cotton fuzz, accomplishing nothing.

papillon said...

Loved this post. You talk about something I have not heard much about and it IS real! I relate to how COVID brain has affected you and your strategies for coping. I am in Ontario and although they are starting to open things up, I feel it is too soon and too fast. As an at-risk senior, I won't be coming out of isolation until I see the long term impact. Stay safe. Stay well!

Olive Tree Genealogy said...

Papillion I am in Ontario too and I'm not going anywhere for a very long time! Hang in there, we'll get through this

Olive Tree Genealogy said...

Unknown - yes that was me too but I'm not back at working on my second Janie Riley mystery so I am feeling more like "me". You'll get there, be patient. Try to complete one task a day so you don't have a zero day.

Unknown said...

Thanks for articulating this so well. I haven't had too much depression, maybe a little, and I'm sure it was associated with watching too much news. Some days are definitely better than others. One day early on, my single accomplishment was showering and getting dressed. Thankfully, I haven't had any more of those! I would like to get more done on my genealogy than I am. I'm having trouble prioritizing and focusing.

mysticat2011 said...

I am in Florida and it was difficult for me in the beginning but then I began working on what has now become my presidency of my genealogy society and I am pretty much kept busy on a daily basis. Also, keeping in touch with friends on the phone and the computer has helped. I do have some difficult days sometimes because I am alone in the house-lost my husband two and a half years ago-but after the tears stop I try to pick myself up and go back to something that helps and most times it work.

Olive Tree Genealogy said...

Mysticat, I love that you are busy with your genealogy society! That's how we can pull ourselves up and deal with this situation. I'm sorry for your loss, it would make it doubly challenging isolating alone. Good luck and stay safe and happy

Olive Tree Genealogy said...

Unknown I am glad you haven't felt too depressed. Some days I just feel lethargic and I can't get motivated so I allow myself to chill and watch TV or read or do whatever feels good. I"m with you - it's hard prioritizing and focusing on something. But it's working better for me now that I did a few weeks of "one task today" with no "Zero" days, that is days that saw nothing accomplished. I feel more in control. I hope you can find that control too

Diane said...

I know exactly how you feel. Since I generally don't deal with depression, I actually struggled to put a name to it. But you worded it exactly. I have two different blogs, a "follow your dreams" type and a genealogy blog. I could not find the interest in writing for either blog. I get things done, but I do find myself flitting from project to project. Thanks for this post! I needed it!

Olive Tree Genealogy said...

Diane, I am the same. I never get depressed but I've certainly felt unsettled, adrift even. This morning I read a Tweet that expressed it for me - every day is like Groundhog Day! If you've seen the movie you'll get the reference. And that is how I feel. It's endless Groundhog Days

Jane Neff Rollins said...

I absolutely am suffering from COVID brain! I have worked from home for 16 years and thought I could handle sheltering in place easily. But I'm also an infectious disease epidemiologist by training and experience, and I know how dangerous this disease is, especially for my husband who has 5 risk factors for COVID-19, including an immune system cancer. Thanks for articulating the problem -- it helps to know I'm not the only one dealing with this challenge. One thing that has been helping me is establishing an accountability partner. My daughter and I have a Skype video call once a week. We chat, then plan 3 things we plan to accomplish in the following week. The next week, we check in and report honestly what we have and haven't accomplished, before setting up 3 goals for the following week.