Ravindra Ganesh, M.B.B.S., M.D., Medical Director, Post-COVID-19 Care Clinic, Mayo Clinic Post COVID syndrome is new to everyone around the world. It can be overwhelming and frustrating. Research continues and hopefully new treatments will be developed. Currently, many experts think symptoms of post COVID syndrome could be due to how the COVID infection affected the central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord. Changes on how the central nervous system processes pain, fatigue, or other signals can lead to a variety of symptoms. The intitial infection has heightened how the brain and nerves are responding to signals, increasing the fight or flight response. In other words, the body has turned up the volume on signals, making them stronger and sometimes distorting them. This can cause a wide range of symptoms, including physical, emotional, cognitive and behaviorial.
One of the main things that can help is to calm down the central nervous system and how it interprets signals, sometimes called retraining the brain. There are many strategies for retraining the brain. Most help the brain move from the fight or flight response to the rest and relax response. This helps rewire how the brain receives signals.
Strategies that can help include biofeedback, mindfulness, tai-chi and yoga. These strategies combined with physical activity or exercise and diet can be very helpful.
Biofeedback can help you become aware of your body's automatic responses. Learning to control those responses may lessen your symptoms. Armed with information from biofeedback, you can better understand how your body reacts in certain situations and what you can do about it.
Mindfulness is about paying attention with intention and purpose and without judgment to what is happening around you in that moment. It's about being present and accepting the moment as it is. Mindfulness can help you relax and react less to stressors or signals. Mind and body practices such as yoga and tai-chi can also help relax your body and your mind. Gentle intentional movements connect to the mind and body and can help make moving easier and more comfortable, reducing chronic symptoms and increasing energy.
Being physically active or having a structured exercise program can help as well. When your brain relearns that movement is safe, you will feel less fatigue, pain or other symptoms.
Eating healthy can support your recovery. Having the needed nutrients to help fight off other infections, increase muscle mass, and decreased risks of other conditions can help you feel better and manage symptoms.
There is no quick fix, but the strategies I've explained here can help you work towards feeling better.