I’m guessing you can relate to some of the common complaints during the quarantine; poor concentration, exhaustion, and mostly, memory loss. You are thinking that all the napping doesn’t seem to help, neither does the exercise, the food, or the drinking! For those of us in our middle age, it may seem normal, since we already suffer from CRAFT (Can’t Remember a F*&%ing Thing)!
The truth is, I actually didn’t have great memory skills on a pre-pandemic day, so you can imagine me on a pandemic day. Not only am I the cliché who walks into a room and doesn’t know what I came for, but lately, I get so distracted that I forget I put butter in the pan and walk away, only to return to burned butter and have to start over again! My children love to make fun of me for all the things I forget I said, forget I did, forget I watched, and even the feelings I forget I had.
Oddly, I am a rock star at remembering certain things. I am a somewhat of a savant when it comes to my credit card number, for instance. (Yes, that means I use it often.) I also remember the words to songs. Lots of words, to lots of songs. I can remember choreography to pieces I danced a hundred years ago and I still remember how to tap a time step. Stomp Hop Shuffle Back Flap Step Stomp Hop! I also can remember appointments, schedules, to pay bills, and stuff like that. However, recently, I literally can’t remember what day it is or how long we have been in quarantine.
So, I did some searching.
Here’s what I learned from a little bit of research of a few sources, including the BeWell Stanford Medicine publication with an interview with neurologist Sharon Sha, M.D. dated 2/2020.
Things that matter in regards to memory:
Lifestyle practices, namely, you guessed it, diet and exercise. I am not going to discuss exercise, because I do plenty of it, and we all know how important it is. I am also a “healthy eater,” but I would like to remember which dairy free or gluten free thing I cooked last night! Do you remember what you ate yesterday?
Our specific food choices are also significant for overall health, which includes brain health. The brain is an organ, after all. There is a study mentioned from 2011, which specifies the “Mediterranean Diet” as minimizing negative affects on memory and decreasing incidence of dementia and Alzheimers. More research from the American Heart Association, mentioned in a Medical News Today article from 2018 describes the Mediterranean Diet specifically to include:
• a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains
• healthful fats, such as nuts, seeds, and olive oil
• moderate amounts of dairy and fish
• very little white meat and red meat
• few eggs
• red wine in moderation
So, basically, no surprise to any of you, I’m sure. More focus on plants, fruits, and monosaturated fats. Think legumes, whole grains, and vegetables. I also read that drinking green tea is good for your memory because it contains many antioxidants that protect against free radicals, which can damage memory brain cells. And let’s not forget our beloved flavonoids, the powerful antioxidants in dark chocolate! Yes! Yes! Yes! More dark chocolate. If only I can remember to buy it!
Plenty of sleep is critical. And getting oxygen in your sleep is also really important. So, those of us with sleep apnea need to be really mindful of addressing that during the Q. It is OK to snore, but just make sure you are breathing. If you can remember, ask your family if you seem to stop breathing when you sleep.
Laughter apparently engages multiple regions of the brain and therefore can boost memory. So, if you can’t find something to laugh about during the quarantine, just laugh at yourself! I’m sure you can find something embarrassing and personal to make you chuckle!
It is also a known fact that Vitamin D affects your memory. So, get outside during the quarantine! Get some sun! That is one thing I never forget to do.
My favorite anti-inflammatory, curcumin or turmeric, apparently is also good for your memory! A Healthline article by Jillian Kubala, MS,RD from 3/2018 talks about the buildup of amyloid plaque in the brain and its affect on memory. She writes that reducing inflammation with turmeric or curcumin may help. (Please note, however, that I have been taking curcumin for a while and still seem to have CRAFT during the quarantine!)
Chew gum! A Harvard study from 2010 showed that chewing gum can improve concentration and focus, and thus help with memory. Should I buy stock in chewing gum for the shelter in place? Maybe we shouldn’t be so worried about toilet paper anymore and stock up on chewing gum instead!
Meditate and rest. I saw a few articles about rest and uninterrupted time. Not nighttime sleep necessarily, but just quiet time, like we used to give the kids each day. So, those mid-day little naps you have been taking? They should help your quarantine brain.
Brain training and memory games such as crossword puzzles, chess, and word games are all apparently good for us, regardless of our age. Although Netflix and the Tik Tok craze have taken over during the quarantine, it is time to get the family involved in some kind of brain game.
And finally, if none of this works, and the quarantine continues as long as they are predicting, we may all be better off if we just forget the whole damn thing ever happened!