Feeling More Disoriented Lately? Here’s How to Center Yourself

By Mary Ann Williams-Butler, MA, CCC-SLP, CBIS

Are you frequently asking yourself, “What day is it?” While many are confined to their homes without an established schedule during the coronavirus pandemic, it is common to feel more confused, distracted, and forgetful. Be reassured, there are reasons you are feeling this way.

“It is a perfect storm between changes in environment, loss of social anchors and increases in cognitive stress,” said Elissa Epel, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. “And then on top of that, most of us are not getting the quality sleep that we used to.”

Some of the contributing factors toward these feelings include:

  • Routines are disrupted, including waking and sleeping times, regular commute schedule, set mealtimes, or access to weekly religious services.
  • Boundaries are less established while we are working from home.
  • When going out, more cognitive energy is needed to remember to wear masks, sanitize surfaces, and maintain social distancing.
  • The loss of social contacts and interactions can be lonely.
  • New responsibilities of homeschooling children or caring for elderly/sick family members can lead to increased pressure and stress.
  • Chronic stress with the uncertainty, risk, and constant news surrounding the pandemic.
  • Poor sleep can add to reduced stress tolerance, cognitive fog, and distractability.

However, there are ways to build resiliency at maintaining a stable and healthy level of cognitive and physical functioning during the pandemic.

  • Establish a daily routine of waking and sleeping at the same time. Set an alarm if needed to maintain consistency.
  • Plan activities each day, set time frames, and book on the calendar like an appointment to ensure follow through.
  • Plan healthy meals and snacks so junk food is not your first “go to” food. Try out a new recipe!
  • Plan breaks from work-related tasks each day. Breaks may include walks, hikes, gentle stretches, yoga, exercise, puzzle, or dancing to your favorite song.
  • Limit news consumption to once or twice a day.
  • Schedule video calls with family and friends as a way to connect socially.
  • Arrange a book club discussion through online meetings.
  • Place a notebook and pen at bedside. If your mind is racing, write down your thoughts. Then you can let go of them until morning.
  • Decrease alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine consumption and large meals before bed for a more restful sleep.
  • Complete any planning an hour prior to bedtime so your brain can start to relax.
  • Dedicate ten minutes to relaxing bedtime rituals such as playing soothing music, writing appreciations, gentle stretches, or a warm facial wash or bath.

Mary Ann Williams-Butler, MA, CCC-SLP, CBIS, has more than 35 years of experience as a speech/language pathologist and is a certified brain injury specialist through the Brain Injury Association of America. She is the supervisor of the speech/language department in Emerson’s Clough Family Center for Rehabilitative and Sports Therapies.