We all know that Covid itself can cause long-term cognitive problems in some patients, leading to weeks or months of brain fog and memory problems. That's a tragic medical truth, but it doesn't explain the rest of us

Even for those who have been lucky enough to dodge a Covid infection, recent research shows large numbers of people are complaining about vague but persistent symptoms of "brain fog." Infections may, mercifully, be declining, but our collective inability to find our keys, think through complex problems, or remember the name of that customer we were supposed to email continues. 

What can we do about it besides hope it eventually passes like the weather? UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center helpfully combed through the research recently offering a handful of helpful tips to start to clear your mind so you can think straight about your business and your life once again. 

1. Get your news addiction under control. 

I thought I'd learned my lesson about how bad doomscrolling was for my mental well-being back at the beginning of the pandemic. Then Russia invaded Ukraine. Suddenly once again I am watching endless news and spending too much time on Twitter. This bad habit is doing my brain fog no favors.  

"Whether we're trying and failing to make plans, keeping up with the ever-changing recommendations around Covid, or doomscrolling about climate change or the war in Ukraine, it's hard to avoid anxiety or catastrophizing about the future. That's going to impact our brains," explains Greater Good. "Repeated exposure to crises wreaks havoc with our well-being and can lead to bad decision making." 

The article suggests common sense steps like limiting your news or social media consumption to set periods and taking short "digital detox" breaks. I personally found this blogger's story of trying to put the internet (metaphorically) "back in a box in the basement" inspirational. I've also written before about other approaches to establishing a sane relationship with the news (this is obviously a perpetual struggle for me).  

2. Get moving (preferably in nature). 

Experts suggest that one of the biggest root causes of many of our pandemic-related memory problems is simple sloth. Many of us moved less over the past few years and that impacted our brains negatively. 

The happy news is that reversing this trend is also simple: Move more. Particularly outdoors in nature, Greater Good suggests, as "research confirms that being out in more natural settings is helpful for our well-being and has positive effects on our cognition above and beyond those coming from exercise alone."

3. Stay connected to others. 

Another big cause of our collective decline in cognitive sharpness is isolation. Research  shows that being cut off from other humans harms our memory, concentration, decision-making, and learning. And that being around others improves them. 

"A recent review of many studies (pre-pandemic) confirms that socializing is important for keeping yourself cognitively fit. It also found that loneliness increases people's vulnerability to cognitive decline, especially among the elderly. So, it's a good idea to try to find ways to be with others--safely, of course--to keep your brain functioning well," insists Greater Good. 

4. Try new challenges. 

When it comes to breaking out of mental funks, action often precedes feeling. You don't do something because you feel better, you feel better because you do something. Which is true of cognitive sharpness, too. Push yourself to learn something new, even when remembering where you put the remote seems like mission impossible, and you might just find your brain rises to the occasion. 

 "Whether there's a pandemic on or not, using your brain in new, challenging ways is good for neural health, and will help your brain stay healthy," Greater Good reminds readers. "Noticing opportunities to incorporate new things into your everyday routines--even taking a new route on your walk or trying out a new recipe--could give your brain a fun workout without adding more to your to-do list." 

5. Be kind to yourself. 

If you're suffering from brain fog at the moment, you are far from alone. So don't beat yourself up about it. Not only is that irrational, it's also unkind ... to yourself. "We are living through extraordinary times, and so we need to practice a little self-compassion," Greater Good reminds us all.