It has been more than 9 months since the COVID-19 first erupted in China. Since then it has been established that this deadly disease attacks our entire body. As COVID-19 is a new disease and vastly varies from a regular viral fever, there are not enough research studies that underline the long-term effects of this pandemic.
For some who have contracted COVID-19 disease, the road to recovery seems to be quite a long one. Not only do these people have to deal with breathlessness, fatigue and other physical effects of COVID-19 infection, but they also have to deal with the psychological impact of the disease. As per a study by the American Psychological Association (APA) published in The Lancet Neurology in July 2020 and one more published in The Lancet Psychiatry in June 2020, those who have had mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms are likely to deal with cognitive changes in the aftermath of the disease.
Apart from headaches and dizziness, diminished cognitive abilities such as lack of concentration, recognition and memory recall as well as brain fog (thinking clearly) are prone to develop post COVID-19 recovery. The WHO (World Health Organization) states that such difficulties may go away with time (within weeks or sometimes months) of you starting to recover, but for some people, these difficulties can last for a longer time. Such difficulties may have an impact on your daily activities, professional life and relationships as you get back to the road of recovery. Therefore, you and your loved ones should take these difficulties seriously.
The WHO advises that you including your family and loved ones recognise such difficulties related to memory, attention and thinking clearly, and adopt the below-given strategies to manage them.
1. Sleep Well: If you were in the hospital or at the peak of the COVID-19 infection, your sleep might have been disturbed and uncomfortable. Sleep is regulated by circadian rhythms, and getting good sleep can have a refreshing effect on your mood too. Create a healthy sleep environment and focus on maintaining routine of maintaining a sleep-wake cycle with minimum disturbances. This will offer you a better sense of control.
2. Eat well: Follow a healthy diet during your recovery period. This will help replenish the nutrients your body has lost. Sticking to a good recovery diet is vital for your overall well-being. A good recovery diet can also have a positive effect on your mood. Foods rich in minerals, vitamins, dietary fibre and antioxidants can also help regulate hormonal function in your body. This can keep mood swings at bay while protecting your overall mental health.
3. Start physical exercise: Exercising can be a challenge if you are also grappling with breathlessness and fatigue. However, introducing exercises gently and gradually back into your daily life will make you stronger – both physically and cognitively.
4. Try brain exercises: Start new hobbies or activities that stimulates your brain. Such activities or hobbies may include reading, word games, puzzles, number games and memory exercises. Start with some exercises that are achievable, then gradually challenge yourself to increase acuity.
5. Adjust your expectations: It is quite natural for you to face memory and concentration issues after being unwell, so do not get discouraged about not being able to get back to your old self immediately. Take your own time, give your body and mind a chance to recuperate.
6. Prompt yourself: Prompt yourself with notes, lists, reminders and alarms to get back to activities that you may or might have been missing out due to brain fog. These prompts can also help you establish a routine. This is one of the best ways to feel in control and get back to a normal life.
7. Pace yourself: Relax! Slow down. While restlessness In such times is understandable, you cannot rush your body and mind back into order, especially after getting recovered from a disease like COVID-19. Get into your old activities gradually. If doing regular activities seem too overwhelming, then take time off to recover or talk to a specialist.
8. Break it down: Concentrating or remembering all the steps of a complicated activity may sometimes be difficult, so break it down; break down the steps and take them one at a time. The prompts method mentioned above can come in handy here as well.
9. Let others help: Finally, please accept that taking help from your loved ones or those you share your life with will not harm you. Instead, if you have a company, it can make your cognitive difficulties less frustrating. Allow your loved ones, family and friends to help you. In fact, you can ask them to join you in creating concentration and memory games. This will not just help you overcome your issues, but will also help those around you deal with the stress.
All of these steps can help you recover and improve your mental health and in re-acclimatize with the society around you. Remember, if, at any point, your cognitive difficulties feel too overwhelming or severe, get in touch with a doctor or a neurologist to get help without delay.