Pandemic brain fog? Here’s how to clear it


Are you having trouble focusing, feeling lonely or hopeless, lacking motivation, withdrawing from people?

These are some of the symptoms of pandemic fatigue, a condition brought on by the stresses and fears of the past year, combined with having too much free time.

The hallmark of pandemic fatigue is a sense of inner weariness, says UCLA Health.

The bad news is that the pandemic will linger for a while, but the good news is that there are ways to counteract the mental and emotional toll and cultivate a new sense of intellectual vigor.

Pepsi Umberger, an assistant teaching professor of kinesiology at Penn State
New Kensington, is helping students with that by teaching a course on stress relief.

“In the past few years, the stress level in students has been so much higher,” she said. “The pandemic seemed like the perfect opportunity to implement this class.”

Clearing out some stress will leave more room for positive thoughts, she said. Those thoughts can be encouraged and reinforced through practices like meditating on gratitude and kindness; logging feelings and habits to track behaviors that make you feel better; and journaling.

“Journaling helps you empty out your brain,” she said. “The process of getting everything out is cathartic.”

Brain boosters

Once you have a little more room upstairs, you might have some enthusiasm for learning something new. And there are plenty of ways to do it from the comfort and safety of home.

For many adults, virtual continuing education programs are a good place to start, said Sylvia Detar, director of continuing education at Westmoreland County Community College.

“Continuing education provides opportunities to learn a new hobby, find a new interest and build new friendships with like-minded people,” she said. “There are no tests or quizzes, so there isn’t that pressure.

“It can help you keep in touch with trends and new technology, and it’s an opportunity to test the waters for people thinking about going back to college,” she added

“There are advantages to both in-person and virtual learning, and nothing can fully compare to the in-person learning environment, but the pandemic has shown that virtual platforms are here to stay to continue to provide flexibility,” said Patricia Hollinger, director of continuing education at PSU New Kensington. “Technology has allowed learning to continue through the pandemic, while keeping health and safety a priority.

“Depending on the platform used, there are many options for student engagement in a virtual setting, and at times, it may even allow for those students who may be more quiet or reserved to feel more comfortable and get acquainted to the classes,” she said.

Get creative

It’s not all dry academics, either, Detar said. WCCC’s spring virtual offerings include blogging and podcasting for…



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