Covid-19 Australia: UNSW psychologist reveals why memory loss increases during lockdown

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Psychologists have revealed why the monotony of lockdown takes its toll on our focus – and how yoga and phone calls could be essential in regaining focus.

Although there is little or no data on the effects of Australia’s current closures, a study of 4,000 Italians subject to strict stay-at-home orders for about two months in 2020 showed a significant increase in distraction, daydreaming and forgetfulness.

The study suggests that our short-term memory deteriorates during lockdown because we experience a sort of repetitive “groundhog day,” which makes it harder for our brains to record memories and retrieve them later.

Professor Brett Hayes of the UNSW School of Psychology analyzed the research and found that the most common problems are forgetting where you left your phone, remembering tasks, and losing your focus while reading books or watching movies.

Professor Hayes says memory fog can be reduced by maintaining a certain level of daily exercise, especially dance and yoga, and staying in touch with friends and family through phone calls or social media.

Psychologists have revealed why the monotony of lockdown takes its toll on our focus – and how yoga and phone calls could be essential for regaining focus (stock image)

The link between confinement and distraction

Professor Hayes says lockdown causes mental hardship because we face the same scenarios day in and day out.

“What we know about human memory is that context is really important,” he explained.

“You might be doing a home job, chatting with a friend or watching a movie… but your brain actually codes a lot of other things just by chance, like where it’s happening, where, where and when it’s happening. past .’

For this reason, Professor Hayes says it’s much easier to record memories when the background changes, as we move around and visit different places at different times every day.

Why do I feel forgetful during confinement?

Studies suggest that our short-term memory deteriorates during lock-in or isolation because we experience a sort of repetitive ‘groundhog day’, which makes it harder for our brains to record and recall memories. recover later.

Professor Brett Hayes of the UNSW School of Psychology analyzed the research and found that the most common problems are forgetting where you left your phone, remembering tasks, and losing your focus while reading books or watching movies.

Getting daily exercise, keeping in touch with family and friends via phone calls or social media, and making small changes to your routine, like taking different routes or cooking unusual meals, can help reduce fog from your home. memory, according to Professor Hayes.

But when our world gets smaller over an extended period of time, it becomes more difficult to separate one experience – and therefore one memory – from the other.

“When you are locked out, your opportunities to move around the environment and participate in different activities are very limited,” added Professor Hayes.

“The days tend to get confused because we have the same context for each day. “

Professor Hayes noted that distraction and memory loss are worse for people with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and chronic stress.

How can I improve my concentration?

UNSW School of Psychology Professor Brett Hayes (pictured) says exercise and staying in touch with friends can reduce memory fog

Professor Hayes says there is a strong connection between mental capacity and physical activity, which means that getting regular exercise is a good way to keep your memory and rational thinking in good shape during lockdown.

“There is some evidence that even if you are really limited, even doing something like playing online exercise games where you look at a screen and jump has some benefits,” he said.

Staying in touch with family, friends and colleagues through phone calls or social media is another way to improve your focus, according to Professor Hayes.

“Complete isolation is very bad for our cognitive functioning, but if we can maintain that interaction to some extent with anyone who is in our house or online, it appears to be good for our cognitive functioning,” he said. .

Italian research also showed that those who had conversations in the past three days maintained better cognitive health during long periods of lockdown than those who didn’t speak to anyone.

Women exercise in Sydney’s eastern suburbs on August 11, 2021, midway through the port city’s seventh week lockdown

The good news

A study published in the 2021 volume of Applied Cognitive Psychology on a two-month lockdown in Scotland in 2020 found that participants had difficulties with memory, decision-making and maintaining attention.

But once restrictions were relaxed and social interaction resumed, their abilities quickly recovered.

“While there hasn’t been time to research the long-term effects of blockages on memory, the evidence so far shows that as restrictions are relaxed, cognitive problems are expected. improve, “added Professor Hayes.

New South Wales is halfway through its seventh week of lockdown, as Covid continues to spread from its epicenter in western and southwestern Sydney with 344 more cases recorded overnight.

Of the newly acquired cases, 101 were in the community for part or all of their infectious period – while the isolation status of 100 cases is still under review.

This means that up to 201 cases did not self-isolate when they were contagious.

Police talk to a group of bathers as they patrol Bondi Beach to enforce Covid restrictions on Tuesday August 10

Newly locked down residents of Byron Bay tried to cheer up with this sign

NSW Health said 112 of the new cases were found in southwest Sydney, along with 110 infections in the city’s west and 43 in the Blue Mountains region of Nepean.

Byron Bay has also been plunged into a week-long lockdown after Covid-infected Sydney man Zoran Radovanovic, 52, drove there from Rose Bay last month.

Ms Berejiklian also confirmed earlier reports that Dubbo will enter a weeklong snap lockdown from 1 p.m. Wednesday after two cases were discovered in the regional city.

NSW Health Director Dr Kerry Chant said it was a young child and a woman in her 40s.

Further south in Victoria, Prime Minister Daniel Andrews extended Melbourne’s lockdown for an additional seven days until Thursday, August 19, after the city recorded 20 more cases overnight.

Meanwhile, the locked Queenslanders will be released on Wednesday at 4 p.m. after the state recorded just four new cases.

Masks will remain mandatory in Cairns and throughout South East Queensland for the foreseeable future.


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