For the last two weeks, it’s taken a monumental effort for me to do the most basic things…Empty the dishwasher. Fold laundry. Matching my socks (I’ve given up on that because who cares?).
And when it comes to work things like writing articles, sending out newsletters, making new workouts, cleaning out my email…forget it. I feel like I have a burst of creative energy where I do a lot of stuff, only to completely fall apart the next day.
For those of you working at home, taking care of kids, dealing with lockdown, your burden is no doubt much heavier.
But, here’s some good news: You Are NOT Alone.
Science is here to explain and, once you understand, you’re going to feel better about yourself. It’s not your fault, y’all.
What we call brain fog is, to smart people, called ‘Cognitive Dulling. It’s basically what I just described – Things like — it taking 3 days to put a pair of shoes away. Or losing your shit because you just printed out an article 3 different times and it came out with 3 different sized fonts that were impossible to read and what is wrong with this printer?! (i.e., what just happened to me about 5 minutes ago).
Here’s what the mental health experts at the University of Texas Health and Science Center at Houston have to say about it.
“Cognitive dulling is a form of mental fatigue that leads to difficulty concentrating, decreased productivity, and a decline in emotional health.”
What Causes Cognitive Dulling
- Being in constant survival mode for more than a year.
- Enduring heightened stress levels (how do I get tested? How do I get a vaccine? Is there a polite way to tell someone to wear their mask OVER THEIR NOSE?).
- Changes in routine and environment.
- Being stuck at home with your entire family 24/7 which causes you to sit in your car sometimes to eat Cheetos and drink wine all by yourself in the garage. Please tell me you do that too.
- The notion that we thought the pandemic would be over in a few weeks and it’s been over a year.
- Worries about jobs, the economy, pandemic variants, mass shootings, the clean sheets I have yet to put on the bed.
- Every single damn thing that’s happened since January of last year.
- Getting your first AARP membership form in the mail – maybe that’s just me. They can suck it.
- No boundaries between work and home life.
- Video conference meetings (please make them stop).
- Emotionally processing the loss of life in the world and in our own families.
One of the worst side effects of Cognitive Dulling is decision fatigue. Just this morning I asked if my husband wanted a smoothie or eggs. This decision took him a Very Long Time. I can’t wait to ask him what he wants for lunch.
There are so many things we worry about that we never had to worry about before – Can I meet this friend for a drink? Is the bar even open? Are they wearing masks? When will this godforsaken shit ever end?
Okay, so we’re all here in Cognitive Dullsville. Where do we go from here?
Combatting Cognitive Dulling
- Self-Care – This is THE most important thing we need to do to deal with this crap.
- Give yourself a break – Being home all the time means we’re trying to do stuff ALL THE TIME. And that is impossible. Set an alarm every hour and take a walk or move around. Set aside an hour of no electronics. Give yourself a time limit on how much news you consume. Just…breathe for sec.
- Forgive Yourself – If you feel way less productive than usual, or you’re very productive in some ways (like when I work on something mindless like diamond paintings — weird but totally addictive) and totally unproductive in other ways (making my bed, folding laundry, getting out of bed), that’s what this is all about. We’re dealing with A LOT. Forgive yourself and know this will pass.
- Schedule Breaks – Take a walk, do a meditation, pet the dog, work on your diamond painting or whatever. These things are very important. Do them.
- Check In With Yourself – Say no to things that are draining you of energy. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a minute. Listen to some music or a podcast. Chill for a minute. You will get things done. Just not all of them. Focus on the important things.
- Pick ONE Part Of Your Life to Control Stress – You can’t control everything and really, what we need more than ever right now is to feel empowered and feel some kind of normal. Maybe you’ll work on organizing your closet, work more on your relationships, learn how to meal prep for a healthy diet. One. Thing. The rest can go suck it.
- Lower Your Standards – As a perfectionist, this is really hard for me, but I’ve had to do that a lot this past year. Instead of writing an article every week, I’m shooting for every 2 weeks (if that). Instead of making perfect meals (not my strong suit anyway), I just fall back on old favorites, even if they seem boring. It’s okay to not be fabulous right now.
- Get Rid of Some Decision-Making – Do some meal prep…get a roasted chicken and cut it up so it’s ready to throw in a salad. Prep your smoothies for the week. Get your clothes ready the night before so you don’t have to think about it. Stop matching your socks…no one cares.
- Ask for Help – It feels good to admit you’re struggling. It’s a relief to get all that worry out. Whether it’s a therapist or a friend or me (you can always email me, y’all – I’m not a therapist but I’m a good listener), it helps.
Here’s the thing: We’re all experiencing this and even the hardiest of souls are having to dig down deep to find a way to cope. I hope these ideas will help all of us. Are you struggling? How are you coping? Leave a comment and give us some ideas.
“The Mental Fatigue You Feel Is Called ‘Cognitive Dulling’ and You Are Not Alone If You Are Experiencing It.” https://www.newswise.com/coronavirus/the-mental-fatigue-you-feel-is-called-cognitive-dulling-and-you-are-not-alone-if-you-are-experiencing-it.