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Lost Your Spark With the Virus? Here's How to Relight It

The pandemic has been blamed, and rightly so, for the loss of many things. Loved ones, most of all, but also weddings and proms and graduations and all the little things we take for granted, but have found washed away.

The New York Times, in a stunning article yesterday, calls it disenfranchised grief, also known as hidden grief or sorrow, and it refers to any grief that goes unacknowledged or unvalidated by social norms. A miscarriage. Loss of a job. End of a marriage. These are all well-understood kinds of grief but there is no ritual to go through to get over them. And this makes this kind of griefso hard to get through because it's often minimized or not understood by others, which makes it particularly hard to process and work through.

Something else you may have lost? Your spark.

A new study reported by The Washington Post says that the pandemic may have caused us to lose focus, the ability to train our minds on what we're doing, or want to do, according to

“I have people coming to me for the first time, thinking maybe they have ADHD,” the web site quotes Roseann Capanna-Hodge, a Connecticut-based clinical psychologist. “Compounded stressors have really taken a toll on a nation that already was at an all-time high with stress.”

"For many, the lack of focus they’ve experienced during the past year stems from both physical and psychological factors, such as noise, interruptions, multitasking, isolation and the loss of healthy routines. And on top of those might be stress brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, racism, political tumult, climate disasters and a foreboding sense of uncertainty,"the article notes.

“They’re not just distracted,” says Anthony Wheeler, dean of Widener University’s School of Business Administration, a professor of management and expert on employee burnout, at The Washington Post. “People are losing the psychological, social, and emotional resources that we use to meet the demands of our daily lives.”

Whether your distractions are physical or psychological, both types can interfere with your brain’s ability to focus, notes Robert Desimone, professor of brain and cognitive sciences, and director of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, at The Washington Post.

When you attempt to write or edit a report amid intense distractions, for instance, the brain will try to filter out the distractions, but there’s a cost, the Washington Post quotes him. He adds at the site, "You’re left with less brainpower for the report."

The newspaper quotes Desimone as saying that for some people, "Focusing on work might remain difficult until more of the country is vaccinated and life starts to regain a semblance of the familiar. But there are a few steps you can take now that can make a difference."

Another big hit for the pandemic is sleep. Experts agree getting sleep is a top priority. Just as the pandemic upset our routines, it upset sleep cycles for many people. And the lack of adequate rest has major consequences, affecting everything from our mood to our cognitive abilities to our ability to concentrate, according to the newspaper.

“Filtering out distractions?” Desimone says at The Washington Post. “You’re worse at it if you’re sleep-deprived.”

Desimone says the urge to constantly seek out information or is a natural tendency in a dangerous situation. But the impulse to closely monitor for updates can hurt your work performance.

“You can’t do two things at once,” he said. “You can’t be hypervigilant for covid or the latest political unrest or the latest impeachment trial, and at the same time get that report done that you need to get done.”

The solution, he said, is to assign a time to be hypervigilant, such as an hour after work when you’ll tune into the latest news and catch up on what’s happening.

Exercise is also a good way to deal with the stress of the pandemic and reclaim your spark. It gets those endorphins going and helps relax you, or makes you too tired to stress about anything.

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