What Will Our Brains Look Like After COVID-19?

What Will Our Brains Look Like After COVID-19

He works six to seven days a week, but when he comes home for dinner with his family, Thomas Yadegar, MD, before entering takes a few minutes to assemble. Sometimes it breaks down. The 20 doctors he directs at the ICU at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center in Los Angeles and at West Hills Hospital and Medical Center tell him that they too “stop going home and cry, ”he said. They all have nightmares. He says, “I don’t see how a human being who has lived and witnessed what we have could not be radically and fundamentally changed.” He hasn’t had a second to prepare for the impact of more than 14 months on the deaths of COVID-19 patients.
Many of us experience our own traumas, wondering when we can come back to ourselves, emotionally, psychologically and socially. Or if our brain can. This organ between our ears is constantly evolving – a quality called neuroplasticity, in which the 200 trillion connections between the 86 billion neurons in our brains transform to adapt to new situations and environments. “We can never go back to being who we were before,” says Eagleman because we can never relive what we’ve been through.
I do not see how a human being who has lived and witnessed what we have could not have changed the drama.
“It decreases your motivation. When we get back into society there will be a lot of fear in the short term, ”she says, including a reluctance to touch others.
There is also a serious mental health component. Given the continuing challenges of the pandemic, many are plagued by issues like anxiety, depression and OCD – either for the first time or with worsening symptoms. Studies of past pandemics and epidemics show that some may experience psychological distress, such as burnout, insomnia, anxiety and depression, for up to two years later.
Those who have experienced dramatic financial turmoil are also vulnerable. Pike says, “Severe economic stress may be associated with an increased risk for substance use, mood disorders and suicide.” She also highlights how this pandemic has hit women harder than men, affecting their mental health.
Even if you are able to bounce back, it may take a while to feel truly connected again, especially if you live on your own. And we experience mourning – the individual and collective mourning of deceased souls and the loss of our past lives, our livelihoods and our selves.
Lord, can we help this re-entry? It’s like a healing boost: it changes the chemistry of the brain and sends a message to your body as well. Cortisol levels drop and the heart begins to function better; we respond incredibly well to a little push of hope. She has developed a five-step process for “managing your mind” which she has proven in clinical trials “to increase your control of anxiety and depression by 81%, with no drugs involved,” which is described in his new book, Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess, and on his Switch and NeuroCycle apps.
Swart suggests journaling – or voice or video journaling – to help release disturbing thoughts and reinforce positive mantras, so that negativity-carrying neurons don’t connect. For people living alone, she says, a hot bath can trigger oxytocin, which we miss. And to help the brain reverse negative thoughts, make sure you get enough sleep, drink water, exercise, meditate, and eat healthy foods.
Pike explains one of the ways our brains may have changed for the better: post-traumatic growth.
Another ray of hope is new simplicity. We can ask ourselves what is really worth our time, says Eagleman.

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