Cognition

Cognition means someone’s ‘thinking skills’. People can experience a range of difficulties with their thinking skills post-COVID-19. These difficulties include memory, attention, information processing, planning and organisation.

A common symptom experienced is Brain Fog. Brain Fog is a term used to explain a number of symptoms that affect someone’s ability to think. This involves feeling confused, disorganised, having memory problems, finding it hard to focus and having slower processing of information.

Brain Fog is often made worse by fatigue, meaning the more tired a person is, the more they notice increased difficulty with their thinking skills.

To support your thinking skills consider the following:

Minimise distractions:

Try to work in a quiet environment with no background distractions. You may find it helpful to:

  • Wear ear plugs
  • To let people know that they should try not to interrupt you
  • If you are distracted when reading text, block off parts of the text using paper, or use your finger as a market

Complete activities when less fatigued:

When completing a task that demands your thinking skills, plan this for a time when you are less tired. For example if you tire as the day goes on – then do the task in the morning.

Say things out loud:

By saying things out loud like ‘what should I be doing now?’ or ‘Stay focused’ or by reading instructions out loud you can help yourself to stay on the right track.

Take frequent breaks:

If the problem is made worse by fatigue, work for shorter periods of time and take breaks. Use “little and often” as a guide and pace yourself.

Set yourself targets or goals:

Having something definite to work towards will help you stay motivated. Setting deadlines like “I’ll do that task at 10 o’clock”, instead of “I’ll do my work later on”.

Best time and apply structure:

Work out when your best time of day is for doing this kind of work. Try to set up your daily/weekly schedule to take account of this. It may help to plan activities ahead of time. Establishing a daily and weekly routine can also help. Keeping a record, or breaking things down into manageable parts can help, so then if you get distracted you can pick up where you left off.

Use incentives:

When you achieve a target or goal reward yourself, try something very simple such as a cup of tea or coffee, letting yourself watch a TV programme or going for a walk.

One thing at a time:

Concentrate on one thing at a time, do not try to take in too much information at once, as this can lead to mistakes. Do one task then move on to the next.

Don't rush things:

You may find that you have a tendency to rush everyday tasks and end up making mistakes. Take your time and pace yourself.

Self-monitor or check and double check your work:

Do this with everything you do. It will be slow and hard at first, but it will become a habit as you get accustomed to it. This is the only sure-fire way of picking up on your own errors.

Gain control:

If in everyday conversation you feel you are being ‘overloaded’ and you cannot attend to all the information, ask the person who is talking to you to slow down and/or repeats themself. Be assertive and say something like ‘Excuse me, I think you have lost me, could you repeat that please?’

Aids:

Using list, post it notes, diaries and calendars can all help support your memory and routine.

Repeating things:

Immediately repeating something can help.