Coronavirus Pandemic

What the Pandemic Has Done to Our Memories and Experts' Tips to Cope

When every day seems the same and stress is unrelenting, it can affect people's cognitive skills. Experts offer coping strategies

people wearing face masks
Photo by YANN SCHREIBER/AFP via Getty Images

COVID-19 turned the world upside down two long years ago, and the omicron variant is giving us something new to worry about in the coming year. Meanwhile, the pandemic is still prompting people to withdraw from social activities, and many continue to work from home, with weekdays blurring into weekends, month after month.

With all this stress, social isolation and disruption, it’s no wonder if you’ve been feeling the effects, even being more forgetful or absent-minded. Maybe you’ve found yourself unable to remember a common term, what day it is or why you walked into a room. Experts say prolonged stress can affect people’s everyday memory and cognitive skills.

“If we’re under a lot of stress, sometimes it can very negatively impact retrieval of information,” said Daniel Schacter, a professor of psychology and director of the Schacter Memory Lab at Harvard University. He's also the author of “The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers.”

Just as people are affected differently by stress, individuals also vary in how they cope, said psychologist Alison Holman, a stress researcher and professor at the University of California, Irvine.

Thankfully, experts say, there are various strategies — from enjoying your weekends to writing to-do lists — people can try to help reduce pandemic stress and sharpen memory skills.

Read the full story on NBCNews.com here. 

Nelson Mandela’s death in prison, Sinbad’s movie “Shazaam” and the beloved Berenstein Bears are all things you may clearly remember. There’s just one problem: none of those memories are accurate. NBCLX storyteller Cody Broadway talked to experts, and even Sinbad’s children, about the so-called Mandela Effect and why our memories can sometimes play tricks on us.
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