Asia Minute: Studying Pandemic Stress and Solutions

Sep 7, 2020

If you're working from home these days, this may be an unusual Labor Day for you. Not going to a workplace is just one of the changes for many people during this pandemic. But what about changes to the way your mind is working? That's a question that researchers in Australia are tackling.


If you’re feeling stressed these days, you’re not alone. In fact, the impact of stress under the pandemic is the topic of a number of studies — including several in Australia.

The country’s second largest city of Melbourne is still under what the government calls a “stage 4 lockdown.” Limited movement for residents has made it sort of a working laboratory for behavioral scientists.

The Australia Broadcasting Corporation quotes a neuroscientist at the University of Tasmania as saying the prolonged stress of the pandemic and the changes it forces to routines can interfere with functions of the brain’s prefrontal cortex. Among other impacts, that can lead to difficulty in understanding the perspectives of other people, which in turn can lead to reactive behavior and quicker tempers.

Monash University in Melbourne is involved in a multinational study of the link between the pandemic and vivid dreams. One researcher on the project says when we’re under stress, our brains produce higher levels of hormones from adrenaline to cortisol. And at night, processing those hormones can make the brain more active than usual — interfering with the quality of sleep.

There is some positive news from the research front — neuroscientists say items that can help with pandemic stress include exercise, vitamin-D, and exposure to sunshine.