Do you stumble through life feeling as if you're on a heavy-duty antihistamine, even when you haven't taken a single pill? Brain fog can significantly impact everything from your energy levels to your career trajectory.Everyone experiences the occasional day when they feel off. Your alarm doesn't go off, and you start the day on the wrong foot. Perhaps you have a touch of a head cold, and you spend more time counting tissues than adding up expense account figures. However, if you've noticed an ongoing pattern of not quite feeling like your old self, it's time to take action.
When Do Symptoms Become Severe?Brain fog itself isn't a medical condition, but it shows up as a symptom of a host of other ailments. If you have fibromyalgia, for example, you're probably familiar with fibro-fog, a type of cognitive dysfunction common among those with the disease. Even prolonged stress can leave you feeling unable to focus on the task at hand.
The question of whether your symptoms are severe enough to warrant intervention depends on the degree to which they impact your overall life. Let's take a closer look at each issue associated with brain fog and when you should ask for help.
Lack of ConcentrationOne bad day doesn't devastate a career in typical cases, at least as long as you don't participate in any extreme or outrageous behaviors. However, over time, brain fog can lead to repercussions in the workplace. If you were previously a top performer, but you've fallen back to the middle of the pack, it's time to do some soul-searching. Is it your inability to concentrate that is causing the issue, or are you feeling dissatisfied with your career in general? If it's the latter, it's time to dust off your resume. However, if it's the former, it's time to take action.
This rule goes double if your employer puts you on a performance improvement plan. If you get fired, you could find it challenging to locate alternative employment. The financial ramifications of this can leave your mind reeling even more. Ask for help before you face the firing line.
Memory FailingsEveryone walks into a room now and then and has no clue why they went in there. However, memory failings can cost you considerable money and gas if you have to keep running back to the grocery store and other places for forgotten items. Additionally, if you find yourself struggling to keep track of significant events like anniversaries, birthdays or even important appointments like the dentist or the doctor, you need to make changes. Do the same if you can't keep a mental list of more than two items straight.
Aches and PainsSometimes, your brain fog stems from physical factors. For example, migraines are the third most prevalent disease in the world and cause considerable difficulty with focus. Millions of Americans also suffer from chronic lower back pain or other ailments. These warrant a trip to the doctor when they create negative consequences in your daily life.
Excessive FatigueFinally, brain fog can make you feel like you're continually spinning your wheels and getting nowhere. This situation is exhausting, and it's no wonder you always feel tired! However, if you find that you can't get out of bed in the morning, or you toss or turn all night, take action.
What to Do to Combat Brain FogYou've decided that your brain fog is severe enough to warrant intervention. What are your next steps?
See Your DoctorThis tip is particularly crucial if you've skipped your annual checkups of late. You could have an underlying medical condition contributing to your brain fog, and the more quickly you start down the road to diagnosis, the sooner you can find relief. Millions of women have endometriosis, for example, but it can take years to receive a diagnosis, let alone get treatment. When you speak with your physician, tell them that you've been feeling out of it — often. They may ask probing lifestyle questions to identify habits you need to change.
Get Regular ExerciseExercise improves blood flow to your brain, bathing your neurons in vital oxygen. If the blood isn't flowing to this organ, it increases your risk of everything from developing depression to committing crimes.
Most experts recommend you take 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous activity weekly. That translates to approximately 30 minutes per day. They also advise that you do strength training exercises twice per week. You can invest in inexpensive dumbbells or resistance bands to use during commercial breaks while you watch TV. There's no need to pay for a pricey gym membership.
Improve Your DietYour diet can impact your mood and ability to focus. Even something as simple as dehydration can affect your concentration. The most significant dietary culprit is ultra-processed junk food laden with fat and sugar. Because manufacturers strip these foods of their nutrients, your body turns to the sugar for energy. Once your metabolism burns through all of this fuel, you experience a crash.
To prevent this effect, strive to eat foods as close to their natural form as possible. Also, aim to fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables at each meal. Limit the amount of white flour and processed foods you consume. Learn how to meal prep on your days off so that you have grab-and-go goodness ready for the workweek.
Practice MeditationMindfulness meditation builds your awareness of the distracting thoughts that so often impact your behavior. It gives you the ability to become fully present in the current moment. Scientific evidence suggests you can restructure your brain's anatomy by regular practice. Best of all, you don't have to spend a dime to get started on a mindfulness journey.
Find a place where you can sit quietly. Begin by focusing your awareness on your breath, inhaling for a count of four, pausing, then exhaling even more slowly. As distractions enter your mind, observe these thoughts neutrally. Remind yourself that the time you set aside to meditate is to benefit your health, and resist the urge to act when you remember you left laundry in the dryer. It will still be there when you finish — promise!
Remodel Your BedroomFinally, if a lack of restful slumber contributes to your brain fog, take a look at your sleeping environment. Do you live in an urban area or work unconventional hours? Hang blackout curtains so that flashing neon lights or outside sunlight doesn't disturb your rest. If you don't like how dark they make your bedroom, you might try finding a canopy that you can drape around your bed to block light.
Take a look at your bedroom furnishings as well. Do you have a computer or a TV in your room? Do you use your cellphone as an alarm? Scientists theorize constant exposure can halt the production of melatonin, a critical sleep hormone. Invest in a traditional alarm clock and ban all gadgets from your sleep chamber.