This is your brain on pandemic: What chronic stress is doing to us

Back in the 1980s, there was a public service announcement on TV that you may remember — or may have seen on YouTube.


A guy in a kitchen held up an egg and said, “This is your brain.” Then he cracked the egg into a hot frying pan, and said, “This is your brain on drugs.”


One year into this pandemic, your brain might be feeling a bit like that egg: Fried.


“Everything is so much harder,” said Stephanie Johnson, a client relationship executive who lives in Toronto. “I don’t have the motivation that I used to have. I don’t have the efficiency that I used to have.”


“Defeated” is how Vas Smountas, a freelance graphic designer, describes it. Also living in Toronto, she describes herself these days as “tired, defeated, foggy, unmotivated.”


And research suggests those feelings are not uncommon right now, as the chronic stress of the pandemic has both affected our brains — and robbed us of normal, healthy ways to cope.


Reduced cognition due to stress


Just shy of one year into the pandemic, a national survey of Canadians suggested that more than half of all respondents — 56 per cent — said they were feeling increased stress or anxiety as a result of COVID-19.  Among those aged 18-34, it was even higher, at 63 per cent.


You don’t have to be lonely or depressed — you’re just living through a pandemic. Or as Dr. Roger McIntyre describes it, “daily, unpredictable, malignant stress.”


McIntyre, a professor of psychiatry and pharmacology at the University of Toronto’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine, has recently co-authored a review on cognitive impairment in patients with COVID-19, which found prevalence of delirium and markers of inflammation.


For the rest of us, living in a world changed by the disease, McIntyre says our cognitive issues come from stress.


He describes two kinds of stress: one which is short and predictable and has an end point, and another which is long in duration, unpredictable and seems interminable.


That second one sound familiar? Yup. Pandemic.


Unpredictability upon layers of unpredictability, as McIntyre put it.


Full Article found HERE.

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