“It’s something I’m seeing clinically. Some people were okay before the pandemic and now they’re having faster cognitive decline,” says Dr. Joel Salinas, a behavioral neurologist and faculty member of the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies.
If you feel like you’re forgetting things more often after over a year of isolation, you’re not alone. A small study found that 60 percent of patients with mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease experienced a worsening of symptoms during the pandemic.
Researchers have come up with a few different theories as to why isolation and cognitive decline are linked including a lack of access to necessary medical resources, a reduction in mentally stimulating activities, and a lack of social support.
Fortunately, now that we’re beginning to see vaccination rates pick up and it’s safe to interact with other fully vaccinated people, we can use the powerful tool of social interaction to give our brains a boost.
Taking time each day to connect with someone else, whether that be in person, over the phone, or even by text, can have a big impact on your mental wellbeing. Engaging in mentally stimulating games with others, like chess, word games, or even watching Jeopardy gives you the double bonus of exercising your brain and interacting with others.
Stress is another pandemic-related emotion that can take a toll on cognitive ability. When our brains are constantly in flight or fight mode, we do not take the time to think critically, rest, and get creative ー all important factors for cognition.
Feeling in a cognitive rut? Get back into your social groove and embrace stress reduction strategies to sharpen your thinking skills and get back to the top of your game!