One impact COVID-19 has is on the neurological system. Brain fog has been one of the many symptoms that patients have reported. Because of the newness of the virus, there is not years of research and study on long term effects coronavirus may impose on our health. Luckily, brain health has been studied for years and we can correlate some of those findings with what we are seeing in COVID-19 patients.
I have been treating concussions for many years and one of the complaints from patients is brain fog. Brain fog can consist of trouble concentrating, slower thinking, or difficulty remembering and learning new information, or the feeling of inability to keep up.
For patients with concussions symptoms may come and go (typically based on fatigue level) or they may be immediate and somewhat always apparent after their initial injury. As your brain heals and takes in the world around it (constant stimuli), it slows down to adapt. Think of a browser on your computer. If you have multiple tabs open, it can do well for a while, but will start to slow down as it has so much input. That is just on a simple level of what your brain is processing at any given moment.
For COVID-19 patients it is impossible to predict how severe someone’s case of brain fog will be. It depends on the brain reserve and severity of the illness. A healthy younger person (for ex. In their 20s), have many healthy brain cells that can take over and in essence pick up the slack to help recovery. Another example, someone in their 70s with history of a brain injury, may have lower reserves and experience longer lasting neurological effects.
Multiple things can factor into brain fog, so keeping a journal of when the brain fog occurs can help us know what is impacting the fog and if we are able to curb the huge deficits.
Some things to watch for:
- Hours of sleep at night
- Water intake and healthy foods
- External factors (noise, lights, overstimulation)
- Vitamin B-12 deficiency or anemia
- Hormonal levels
- The busyness of the day without resting the brain and “brain breaks”
- Other pain and symptoms (Has, body temp, neck tension). As our brain will focus on the pain and have a decreased ability to focus on other things. Ex. Body temp is regulated by the Autonomic nervous system and if that gets out of whack difficult for the rest of the body to process properly
- Mood levels (depression, anxiety)
- Fatigue level
- Stress levels
What can I do to combat brain fog?
- Journal: figure out your triggers and go from there
- Record your sleep: Everybody is different on need for sleep, but after sickness try for at least the average of 6-8 hours a night. Typically, people need more while healing.
- Follow a routine: Fewer choices, means your brain doesn’t have to process or have as many “tabs” open. Try picking out your clothes the night before or having the same breakfast to cut down on so many choices.
- Avoid noisy and crowded spaces (easier now during the pandemic…here’s one positive)
- Exercise: our body’s need movement to survive. Even a simple 10-minute walk can help. Your autonomic nervous system controls heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature and breathing. If any are off in any way, can cause your body symptoms. Physical therapists are specifically trained in this area to figure out a good level to allow your body to move, without throwing it in a tailspin and “paying for it later”.
- Proper nutrition: what we fuel our brain with is important for healing.
- Relaxation: try meditation, yoga, closing your eyes at work at the start of the hour for even a few minutes can help reset and shift your brain.
- Rest your eyes: we stare at screens a lot! Vision requires a lot of brain functioning, so take a break, rest your eyes, or work in shorter spurts to build up your endurance
COVID-19 has had reported symptoms of brain fog and fatigue as it affects the neurological system and causes dysautonomia. Because of the newness and constantly changing findings, it is hard to know the exact process COVID-19 has on the body. It is an innovative time we are living in as WE ARE the research.
What we learn and study today, will have an impact in the future and will hopefully benefit other generations and their knowledge of the brain.
So, rest up, take care of yourself, and be well!
Have you recently recovered from COVID 19? Contact us for a Post COVID assessment.