You are in the middle of a project or conversation and feel like you completely lose your train of thought, as if your brain pressed the ‘refresh’ button on it’s own. You space out. Perhaps forget words. You just do not feel your best or most sharp self. Brain fog is a term to describe mental fatigue.
The condition can vary in intensity depending on factors but what is sure is that it can affect your mood, how you feel about yourself and certainly your performance at work or school. Our goal is to live our best lives and brain fog is just frustrating because you know you can do better, but your brain is not being supportive of this.
In medical terms, brain fog is used to describe the collective symptoms of chronic mental fatigue, difficulty concentrating and cognitive dysfunction. One may feel the opposite of being level-headed, calm, optimistic and motivated. If left unmanaged, brain fog can stall you from inspiration and happiness and make you susceptible to anxiety and depression.
Let us look at the four main symptoms:
- Lack of Concentration - You cannot seem to concentrate, get easily distracted and keep missing the marks of what needs your attention. Regardless of how hard you try and get yourself into the zone, your mind takes off on an adventure of its own making completing any task quite a big feat.
- Forgetfulness - Forgetting information or items - big and small - whether at work or around the house.
- Chronic Fatigue - Being tired after a long shift at work is not what we mean. This type of fatigue is one that is characterised by extreme, never-ending tiredness and low energy; one that does not seem to get better with a good night’s rest or caffeine.
- Not Feeling Yourself - Instead of feeling like yourself and ready to take on the day or a variety of projects and challenges, you feel “off” or in a “rut”. You are unmotivated and sometimes it may seem like you are even depressed. This could blur your tasks and even days together, making life seem like it is in slow motion.
These symptoms can surely affect our work and home life and certainly extend to affect our relationships too. Let us now look at what causes these symptoms so we know why they arise.
- Lack of Sleep - How are your sleeping habits? You are sacrificing sleep over completing work? Or maybe Netflix-ing into the wee hours of the morning? These habits come at a price, of course. Without the seven of eight hours a night, your brain will not run at an optimal level which results in lower cognitive function. Needless to say, your days will be groggy and slow.
- Lack of Exercise - When we deprive ourselves from exercise, we reduce blood flow and oxygen to the brain. Exercise, especially aerobic exercise helps improve sleep, memory and reduces stress. It also reduces our risk of countless ailments. Without exercise, our brain become inactive and stale which creates more of the ideal conditions for brain fog.
- Stress - We are sure the news of prolonged stress being harmful to your system is not something new. But exposing yourself to constant stress (even low-level stress) sets on the “fight or flight” hormone, which increases cortisol levels. Excess cortisol levels induces the same symptoms as brain fog, sending you into an endless loop.
- Poor Diet & Dehydration - If you binge on foods that are heavily processed, high in refined carbohydrates or contain a lot of sugar, you are robbing your body and brain from the nutrients it needs to replenish and fuel itself. Similarly if you do not give yourself enough hydration, your body and brain will also not be able to get what it needs.
- Water & Good Food - Imperative for cognitive function. Hydrate throughout the day and give yourself a lot of brain food - i.e. foods high in healthy fats an a variety of fruits and veggies. When your brain has what it needs to sustain itself, it will perform at optimal levels for you.
- Manage Stress - Firstly, by accepting you are affected by stress and need to better manage it. Set boundaries with people and tasks based on priorities. If it all seems a bit overwhelming, reach out to someone you trust for assistance.
- Exercise - You will want to flood yourself with feel good hormones. This will also drive blood and oxygen to your brain which can help alleviate symptoms of brain fog.
- Reset - Find your escape. Maybe take on a hobby. Basically provide “me-time” where you can unwind and switch off with something you enjoy. A time for less thinking and more flowing.