The dangers of Coronavirus are everywhere. Infection warnings and death toll updates are constant, leaving us uncertain and fearful. There are 3 key reasons Coronavirus is bad for our brain’s ability to think effectively – and it has nothing to do with raised temperature or infected tissue:
- Safety First
Our brain has evolved over thousands of years and has five times more circuitry dedicated to processing threats, than for processing rewards. The current global pandemic strikes a heavy blow on our brain’s highly sensitive fear dashboard causing us to think more about staying alive, and less about getting our job done. We’re listening for more bad news, ruminating on how we may catch the virus and what we need to do to avoid it. The impact? Loss of sleep, loss of productivity, fearful behaviour and reactive decision making.
- Dire Predictions
Like a massive prediction machine, our brain tags all incoming information. It tirelessly processes 11 million bits of information per second -all without our awareness. Only about 40 bits of data are processed consciously. During uncertain times, our brain conserves energy by taking thinking shortcuts – using embedded beliefs and behaviors to guide our decision making. We hunker down into familiar ways of thinking and doing. Provocative stats and updates hold our attention rather than informative, and often more accurate reports on what is actually happening. Our brains are seduced by easy to process predictions – even if they’re of doom and gloom.
- Enemy Focused
Our socially wired brains make us highly susceptible to the opinions of people in authority. We are influenced by global health organizations and national news programs – their status keep us tuning in to, and heavily influenced by their messaging. Mass anxiety is already evident, inflamed by ‘threat’ words like ‘outbreak’ ‘pandemic’ and ‘death toll’ lighting up our fear circuitry. Racism flares as our reactive brains label countries and certain nationalities as unsafe, and we view our neighbors with suspicion. At a time where we need to collaborate and work together, we do the opposite.
The solution: take care of your brain and build your immunity against COVID-19 by sleeping well, eating well, calming anxiety, using meditation and whatever you do, wash your hands! All these things we can directly influence, giving us a reassuring sense of control.