Covid Invades Washington. Should We Be Worried?
Paul Gigot interviews Dr. Marty Makary on the pandemic’s status
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If you aren’t a senior, but still experiencing ‘senior moments,’ you are in good company, according to recent Wall Street Journal report.
“Our brains are like computers with so many tabs open right now,” said Dr. Sara C. Mednick, a neuroscientist and professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Irvine.
“This slows down our processing power, and memory is one of the areas that falters.”
‘Senior moments,’ otherwise known as fleeting bursts of forgetfulness, are becoming more commonplace, according to memory experts.
Sometimes we might find ourselves struggling to remember the name of our friends, co-workers, words that usually roll off our tongues or how to perform tasks that are usually instinctive, per the Journal.
Experts recommend recommends deep breathing for at least ten minutes every day, talking a nature walk or connecting with a loved one to help focus the mind better.
It’s a time of great transition for many as they return to work and settle in new routines, but add the uncertainty of the war in Ukraine, it’s not surprising our brains are on cognitive overdrive, per the news outlet.
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The brain consumes energy just like other cells in our body and it’s much more than we think, according to neuroscientists.
Stress is a big culprit, in part because of the pandemic, but also because research shows those who have experienced “recent life stressors” have memory issues, according to Dr. Grant Shields, an assistant professor in the department of psychological science at the University of Arkansas, who has done research on the subject.
Stressed businessman sitting at his desk.
Stress reduces our attention span and sleep, but chronic stress can damage the brain, resulting in memory issues, Shields added.
Because our brains are getting cluttered with so much information coming from a variety of sources, like constantly being on our phones, neuroscientists note it’s harder for our mind to crystalize memories.
And the routine created by the pandemic isn’t helping.
“Memory benefits from novelty,” says Zachariah Reagh, a cognitive neuroscientist and assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.
“When all of our experiences blend together, it’s hard to remember any of them as distinct.”
As we get older, our memory will suffer, but there’s no set time because everyone’s brain ages at different rates, per the news outlet.
But if you are concerned about your memory, it’s always a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor – especially if other people notice it as well, per the Journal.
Here are some expert tips to help your memory, according to the Wall Street Journal.
If you can’t remember, don’t push it because we will often get frustrated, which means the emotional part of the brain overrides the part of our brain that retrieves memories, said Dr. Jennifer Kilkus, a clinical health psychologist and assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine.
Instead, calm the brain because that strengthens the frontal lobe, which is the part of the brain that helps encode memories and regulates stress, Mednick said.
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She recommends deep breathing for at least ten minutes every day, talking a nature walk or connecting with a loved one, but also reminds us to get a good night’s sleep because it cleanses the toxins in our brain that can ‘clog’ our mental processing.
And put the phone away and try doing only one thing at a time, giving more attention to those activities we don’t think about, like brushing our teeth.
“When you practice paying attention in those moments when it doesn’t matter, it will become easier in those moments when it does,” Kilkus said.
Lastly, try to be present when talking to other people too, which means turning off the television and focusing on what our loved ones are saying, said Dr. Jeanine Turner, professor of communication at Georgetown University.
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“We need to approach each conversation intentionally,” Turner said. “If we don’t have a deep connection, how can we ever expect to remember what happened?”