I was struggling with brain fog during the first month of COVID-19 quarantine. It was harder for me to think clearly and even replying to emails took much longer than usual. I suspected that some of it was probably due to a certain level of anxiety that must be running in the background even if I’m not aware of it. After struggling with it for the first month without it getting any better I decided to take control and take action.
First thing I did was to introduce exercise into my daily routine. Before the quarantine I used to kickbox twice a week, play soccer once a week and go for long hikes at least three times a week. In the last month the only form of exercise I had done was walking my dog for half an hour a day. My fiance and I started to exercise to workout videos on YouTube and used jars and water bottles filled with water as our weights. I felt fantastic after each workout but getting started was always an ordeal. Routines need between 1-3 months to take hold depending on the complexity of the task you’re trying to achieve, so to make sure we don’t lose momentum we became each other’s accountability partner.
Next I set a goal to write one 500-700 word article every single day for the next 20 days. This was to challenge my brain to continue formulating logical thoughts no matter how long it took or how poorly organized those thoughts were. Again, I asked my fiance to help me stay on course. She is brilliant at not letting me get away with tasks! Writing was exceptionally hard at first. I sat at my desk every morning and after an hour or so finally had a topic to write about and started typing. The writing process was slow and took most of the day to finish a short article.
Just when I thought I had my ducks in a row, the extended periods of sitting resulted in lower back pain. I have never had back pain in my life and now I was chronically in pain and discomfort. Giving up on the plan wasn’t an option so I had to find a way to move past the pain. I added hip and back stretches to my exercise routine and created a standing desk using propped books and furniture I could find in the house. Writing while sitting was hard enough as it was and this extra challenge of thinking while standing up added a new barrier for my brain.
Eventually I got used to typing while standing up, and after the tenth day, I started to see improvement in lifting the mental fog. I was thinking more clearly and words came out faster and easier. For the last three days I have even managed to write two articles a day and still have extra time to read, answer emails, or listen to music. This is my 15th article and I have five more to go to reach my goal. I am more or less back to my old self and these articles have been a great distraction from the outside world.
This process was a fantastic reminder for how important goal setting and creating daily routines and disciplines are. With so much uncertainty and panic in the world, creating structure becomes the key tool to help us in our daily challenges. And although it’s tempting to do nothing and watch TV all day long for who knows how long, it’s necessary to keep pushing in the face of adversity. The rewards are definitely worth the effort.