Feel like you can’t concentrate on anything at the moment? You’re not alone. The extra anxiety caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has impaired our working memory, experts say … What’s happening is a malfunction of working memory: the ability to grasp incoming information, form it into a cohesive thought, and hold onto it long enough to do what you need to with it.
In other words, working memory is the ability to reason in real time, and it’s a big part of what makes the human brain so powerful. But research has showed that rapidly changing circumstances, worry and anxiety can all have a significant impact on your ability to focus.
Robinson (at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London) explains that even simple cognitive processes like making a shopping list now require more brainpower. “Now, rather than thinking, ‘I’ll just run to the store’, you’re thinking about what you need, what stores are open and whether it’ll be safe to go there. Let’s say your brain can do four tasks at once. Now all of a sudden there are 10, and you can’t do any of them” … rebooting your working memory may also mean cutting down on your news consumption and considering a break from social media. But the most effective thing to do might simply be to convince yourself it’s OK to be struggling.
“Giving yourself permission to feel it’s OK to not feel OK, paradoxically, can make you more OK. If you are just fixating on it, you aren’t going to get anything done,” says Robinson. “You’re just not going to be as productive, and there’s nothing wrong with not being able to work at 100% capacity: we are still in the midst of a pandemic.”
There is some fascinating new research on how two brains interact—actually change—when collaborating with one another. In one set of work, scientists have found that when two people cooperate on a task (such…