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Perception of Time Has Shifted During COVID-19, New Survey Reports



Community Psychiatry’s Moe Gelbart, Ph.D., and Pavan Madan, M.D. were featured in Verywell Mind discussing how our perception of time has shifted during the pandemic.

Perception of Time Has Shifted During COVID-19, New Survey Reports

Why Time Is Passing So Strangely

We also have our memory to thank for this strange passing of time. According to Dr. Pavan Madan, M.D., a psychiatrist at Community Psychiatry, the more new experiences we have, the longer time feels. For example, time seems to pass slowly when you’re on vacation exploring new-to-you cities or interesting tourist attractions.

Over the last several months, he says there has been a significant drop in novel experiences like eating at a restaurant or going for a trip. Even small experiences, like stopping at a gas station, occur less often, which Madan says can make time go by extra slowly.

“The more emotions a situation generates, the more we remember it,” says Madan. And since many of us are not leaving home, he says we are experiencing less range of emotions, which also reduces the landmarks of time stored into our memory, skewing the perception of time.

Additionally, Madan says the transition from weekdays at work and weekends at home is no longer the same. “As the hallmarks of our workweek change, it makes it more difficult to feel the amount of time that has passed.”

What This Means for Your Brain

The concerns about time are about both sides of the coin, says Moe Gelbart, Ph.D., psychologist and director of practice development, Community Psychiatry.

“Some people feel that time is creeping along, while others feel it is whizzing by at lightning speed. But mostly, I hear both from the same person: That day to day time all feels to be in slow motion, but larger chunks of time, like looking back at a week, go by fast.”

Our brain is trying to process a pandemic, which makes the concept of time confusing since most routines are not the same. Adding to this confusion is the uncertainty of the future, and not knowing when this will end.

“Anxiety comes with fear of the unknown and coping with job and economic loss, concern over whether our children will go to school, and apprehension about whether we can stay safe and healthy,” says Gelbart.

As we struggle to find a ‘new normal,’ Gelbart points out that our brains are in the process of adjusting — and needing to do so with little certainty. “Since we cannot rely on old patterns to fill our days, each day requires new thought and planning, which can make the day feel like it is creeping by.”

Include Meaningful Events in Your Day

Whether these events are new experiences or old traditions, Gelbart says having purposeful and intentional life behaviors helps to normalize our sense of being and time.

Practice Mindfulness Meditation

A solution to combat this weird situation regarding time, says Madan, is to start by practicing mindfulness. “Try to introduce 15 minutes of a mindfulness activity each day—this will help you be more self-aware of your emotions and judgments, and to help you stay calm about the passing of time,” he says. He also suggests introducing new landmarks in both your weekdays and weekends, such as a Tuesday morning coffee walk or Friday evening Zoom happy hour with friends, so that they can set the tone for time passing.

Click here to read the entire article on Verwell Mind.