We Know What Brain Fog Is — Now What Can We Do To Make It Better?
I first started experiencing brain fog in the early days of the pandemic. In the past year and half, it has come in waves, but it’s never really gone away. There’s been lots of talk about the cause of brain fog – a non-medical term for that lack of motivation, inability to focus, and general meh feeling so many of us have been experienced. Some say it’s caused by allostatic load, or the wear and tear on our bodies due to constant stress.
Others says it’s caused by Cognitive Load Theory, which says that because we haven’t been able to rely on our auto-pilot long-term memory processes as much, our working memory is tapped the eff out. Sometimes it feels like my brain gears are working so hard to deal with it all that there could be literal smoke coming out of my ears sometimes.
Then there’s the languishing. I don’t know about you, but I spend a lot of time staring out the window. I feel unmotivated to do just about everything. And my response to most things, is “who the fuck cares anyway.” See what I mean? Languishing with a capital L.
There’s been a lot of talk about the brain fog many of us (most of us?) are feeling right now. But what do we do about it? How do we get back on track? Other than, you know, getting the world vaccinated so this pandemic can freaking end already.
1. Say “Om.”
Mindfulness activities like yoga, meditation, and controlled breathing can act like a mental reset button. “Meditation allows individuals with brain fog to gain clarity, practice self-compassion, and experience catharsis through mindfulness and breath,” Dr. Leela Magavi told Community Psychiatry.
Dr. Rashmi Parmar told Community Psychiatry that one of her favorite techniques to help fight brain fog is the four-step “STOP” method.
Stop for a moment.
Take a few deep breaths.
Observe your feelings and bodily sensations. Make a quick note about why you might be feeling this way (but don’t analyze it, just take note).
Proceed with what you were doing, armed with the knowledge you learned from the brief self-check-in.
“It is a great way to defuse stress in the moment, replenish your energy and creativity stores, gain some perspective on the problem at hand, and determine the best possible action you can take next,” Dr. Parmar said.
3. Run away from it. Literally.
Okay, so maybe you don’t run. You can walk or bike or swim. Or ride the elliptical or do yoga. But get some exercise.
4. Eat good (and good for you) foods.
Doctors say that eating a Mediterranean diet filled with lots of omega-3s can improve mental clarity. I know this is easier said than done, especially when the chaos of life right now, makes you want to curl up on the couch with a tube of Pringles (just me?), but a few tweaks here and there might help your brain feel a little less sluggish.
5. Skip the late-night Netflix binge.
I know, I know. I love to decompress by binging the latest trend. I tell myself it’s self-care to snuggle up under a blanket and re-watch Sex Education for the third time. And sometimes it is. But sleep might be even more important to combatting brain fog. Start watching your show a little earlier if you can, or watch one episode instead of five (note to self).
6. Chunk up your day.
Personally, I’ve found that if I break up my to-do list into teeny-tiny chunks – 15 minutes to return emails, 30 minutes to work on a project due at the end of the week, or what-have-you – I’m better able to focus. On the other hand, when I have an eight-hour workday at my computer looming ahead of me, staring out the window becomes my default.
7. Make a date with your MD.
In some cases, brain fog may actually be anxiety or depression. If your brain fog isn’t going away or it’s getting worse, talk to your doctor. There may be medications you can take to boost your mental health.
8. Cut yourself some slack.
We’re all struggling. ALL OF US. We’re struggling in different ways and at different times and with different things. But we’re all struggling. Expecting yourself to function at tip-top shape is just not realistic. (Again, NOTE TO SELF.)
Most of these suggestions are common sense, self-care practices. But we forget to take care of ourselves sometimes. We need a reminder that these simple things are important. Very important. So consider this your Rx to get some sleep, take care of yourself, and generally just cut yourself some slack.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a window I need to stare out of while doing some 4-7-8 breathing exercises.
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