Why Our Brains Fail Us during a Crisis

And what to do about

If you feel like you're living in a bit of brain fog during the COVID-19 crisis, there's a good reason.

Dr. Allan Hamilton, a Harvard-trained neurosurgeon, neuroscientist, and best-selling author, explains that when our bodies are living in a state of fear, it can diminish our cognitive skills. Our emotional reactions tend to overtake logical thought when we are in crisis circumstances.

The brain expert has more than a decade of experience modeling pandemics and assessing their related emotional and social effects. With his wonderful ability to weave stories, he shared his insights during Haworth Connect, a series that engages inspiring speakers on a range of topics.

Dr. Hamilton said this fear reminds him of Ridley Scott’s classic film, “Alien,” which taught us the enemy that you can't see is the most terrifying of all.

“Where's this enemy? It's unseen, we're unable to control it. We don't have drugs to treat it yet. We don't have a vaccine, and the only way we can stop it is to sit and wait in isolation,” he explained.

So as we wait, how do we deal with our COVID-19-impaired brains? The first step is to decrease the demand on your brain power for a little bit. The brain—even that of the best “multi-tasker”—can only consciously think one thought at a time.

“Try to get absorbed in something and put yourself in a flow state so you aren’t thinking about COVID-19 right now. Move around, exercise, or even just change your setting from one part of the house to another.” 

Dr. Allan Hamilton
Neurosurgeon and neuroscientist

For more strategies to get your brain back on track and plenty of movie references, watch Dr. Hamilton’s full Haworth Connect presentation recording. 

Woman sitting on Cabana lounge seating
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