Let me begin with a brief story. Some of the details are changed because I can’t remember clearly, but here is the gist. I was looking over what to cook for supper and realized that I needed some chicken out from the deep freezer we have in the garage. It goes something like this: “Hey! Could one of you go into the [draws blank] the…uhm…[insert expletive] that white thing, you know, in the garage…it keeps the food cold?” Children reply, looking at me like I lost my mind: “The freezer, Mom?” YES! Freezer! Why couldn’t I think of that? This is my life. And my brain fog seems to be word related which I find amusing because writing is what I do. It does stretch out to other things. Sometimes it’s just a general fogginess or feeling like trying to access anything is like running through pea soup.
Brain Fog: often described as feelings of mental confusion or lack of mental clarity. Quite literally, it can feel like your brain is submerged in that thick, soupy mix that makes it difficult to drive home in, only it’s your brain. It is a symptom that is common in many auto-immune disorders and is by far, the most frustrating. It’s a symptom that is not addressed by doctors which often leads us, the patients, feeling like we are going a little crazy and pushes us in search of others who are experiencing it. It is here, we learn of tips and tricks to combat this most frustrating symptom. Let me share with you a few I have found most helpful. Not all may work for you, but it might be a jumping off point to giving you some ideas that would work for you.
13 Tips and Tricks to Beat Brain Fog
Don’t Trust Your Brain: I know that sounds ridiculous but I don’t mean for everything. What I mean is when you go to the grocery store to pick up those five items you really need, don’t trust your brain to remember because I promise you it won’t. It’s a bitter pill to swallow but your brain is not the efficient, infallible machine it used to be. Just accept it and move on. It doesn’t make you less of a person It just makes you human and all humans eventually encounter a struggle with memory. The sooner you accept it the better you will feel about yourself, especially when you use some of these tips and tricks.
List! List! List!: Grocery list, Things to do list, random lists of any ideas you might have for any project you want to get to, lists! I love lists. It is a simple way to keep track of things that doesn’t take a lot of time or effort. The only problem is if you get distracted and forget to put it on the list. This has happened to me before. The only way I know to combat that is writing it down when you think about it. I’ve had to tell people to leave me be for a few minutes so I could write it down right then and there. There’s nothing like staring at a list of let’s say, items you need to bake a cheesecake and knowing you are missing one thing but can’t recall what that one thing was. Maddening is what it is.
Post-it Notes: Something a little easier is the old-fashioned post-it. I love them because they are small and they can stick virtually anywhere. If I am writing and my mom calls me and I can’t break away because I know if I do I won’t remember what the heck I was doing, bam! Post-it note: Call mom! I’ve even gotten to using One Notes too, which is great, but I’m pretty slow in techie related stuff and I am very tactile so there is something for me, about the act of writing and where I am sticking the note, that I will recall everything better. Whatever helps!
Planners: Sadly, planners are not my thing. But they can be help to some people and therefore I included it. Maybe I just haven’t found my perfect planner yet? We do use Time Tree App as a family, which is a planner. Pretty basic in terms of planners but it helps everyone in the family know where everyone is going to be at a given time. This is huge because there are times I need someone to take me to the doctor or someone to pick up a sibling and know I know where everyone is. If you are managing a family and sinking into the chaos that can be when having kids and activities, give this app a try!
White Board: Yes. The infamous white board that you see as part of Dorm Room Must-Haves. It’s okay to have in your 30’s or 40’s or older. I promise no one will judge and if they do, who cares! I have been utilizing the white board since my 20’s when my kids were younger. I have a huge one in my kitchen where everything from Chores for the Day, Things I Need, and Random Notes gets slapped on there. I keep the dry-erase markers in a draw right next to where it’s hung up and sometimes even very random thoughts get written on there because it’s so handy. It is by far my most favorite item on this list. If you don’t like white boards, I know they have really cool chalk boards too! Easy DIY frame up and you have something sweet to hang up wherever you are inclined that will help you keep things together.
Memory Book: This isn’t your arts-n-crafts type of memory book, but you could definitely decorate it if you want to. It’s where you write down anything you think you might forget, however you want to write it down. So, if you’re a bullet point kind of person, go crazy! You write things like: Oct. 22 Put my keys on the shelf because I have to go out and pick up Bobby from band practice in an hour. That way you aren’t like me, and you are hearing the chime of the clock saying you have to go, and you can’t find your keys. And it works for anything. Have a meeting? Jot it down? Need to pick up eggs? Write it down? Hiding those holiday presents early, so no one will find them, including you three months later? Write it down. It can be as much or as little as you want, and as decorative as you want.
Routine: This can be difficult if you aren’t a routine sort of person. And let’s face it, not all of us are. My husband very routine oriented. His wallet and keys go in the same spot. He goes to bed at the same time. Gets up at the same time. He is a well-oiled machine and it makes me jealous. Me: It depends. I have a skeleton outline of a routine, but there is nothing set in stone. I blame my chronic illness, but maybe it’s me. I’m not the kind of girl who just decides to see a movie on a week-day because I can, because there are too many variables health-wise, but I don’t have a rigid writing schedule or work schedule or anything schedule. About the only thing that is set in stone is dinner, and guess why that is! If it works for you, great! It can help with some of the memory issues, like if you forget where you put your keys or tennis shoes, but for me, other than that it just doesn’t work.
Sleep: Here is another that you shouldn’t go crazy over if you can’t do it, but having a set time to go to bed and set time to wake up where you are getting your allotted 8-10 hours of sleep, is great for you and your brain fog if you can manage it. Me, on the other hand, I have begun telling people I am on Cthulhu time. Or possibly on Australian time zone. I never know when I might go to sleep, though I tend to wake up early no matter what. I’m sure this exacerbates the ol’ brain fog, but I have found it drives me nuttier if I try to be like my husband and retire at 8:30 and fall asleep at 8:35. It just doesn’t work.
Unplug: Do it for an hour. Do it for a day. Be daring and do it for an entire weekend. It may take a little getting used to, after all, we live connected. But if you look at how we are connected, it’s not in the healthiest of ways. I do see the benefit to being connected, unlike some. Many of us live isolated from the world because we aren’t able to get out and if we did, we don’t have the friends to do it with because we lost out friends when we got sick. Social media is how we stay connected and how we maintain relationships outside of our immediate family. Still, I don’t think any of us can say we haven’t gotten angry at our social media, or been harassed or degraded by some troll. This can have a huge impact on our brain fog because if we are in a tizzy over what someone may have said, or something we’ve read, what little focus we have goes out the proverbial window. Do yourself a favor and try and unplug for at least an hour a day. Listen to your favorite music, read, or partake of your favorite hobby. You’ll be surprised how by giving yourself a little time away from things can really improve your focus.
Multi-tasking, it’s over-rated: This is the reign of the multi-tasker. How to get the most done in the least amount of time, which, to the proponent of multi-tasking, equates to being more efficient. But hit the brakes for one moment and ask yourself a question. Is multi-tasking doing what it claims it can do, for you? Some people thrive on doing eleven different tasks at once. I am guilty of it. I may even live under the illusion that I do well at it. I have often joked that my brain functions like a laptop with ten different tabs open, two are unresponsive and I have Spotify and Pandora playing at the same time. In other words, chaos. I know that when it’s just me and my writing and maybe some instrumental music in the back ground, that is when I perform the best. You can apply this to all parts of your life. If you are running around, trying to do laundry, pick up around the house, get some play time in with your kids in between loads and vacuuming and watching that latest episode on Netflix, you are going to forget in-between, half of what you were trying to do. Streamline your life a little bit and you may find it helps with the fog.
7- minutes to a less foggy day: Exercise is known to boost oxygen and blood flow and therefore boosting your brain power. All it takes is 7 minutes. That’s it. This is not a 30-minute workout condensed into 7 minutes where you feel like you ran the Empire State building 3 times. You do what you can, within your ability and capability, to where you feel like you’re revitalized and call it done. It can be stretches in bed- yes, I mean it, right from your cozy comforter and heating pad. You can sit on the edge of your bed and do some leg lifts, some stretches, anything. I’ve started doing yoga again. I was a yoga instructor. Then, my body failed and I felt like I’d never be able to do it. Then it occurred to me that the whole joy about yoga is doing it for yourself. Not doing it because I want a better physique, or because I want to be able to contort myself into a pretzel. For me and for the pleasure and peace and balance it brings me. So, I started again, and it’s slow, and I hurt but I did it. At my speed and with my modifications and that is my 7 minutes.
Zen your way to less fogginess: Meditation is good for the soul and good for your brain and good for the fogginess. I know, it’s hard. But you don’t have to cartwheel into 20-minute meditation periods. Start with 5 minutes. Seriously. Meditation is about being present and being aware and not about thinking about the casserole you have in the oven while you are meditating. Take some time out, where nothing and no one will disturb you and meditate. There are plenty of books, plenty of places to start with simple meditation. My favorite jumping off point is candle meditation. It gives you focus and you can work on length of time. Do it a few times a week and jot down if you notice differences in your brain fog.
Food Triggers: There is a lot to be said for food that triggers brain fog, however, I have not done enough research to understand who or what the culprit maybe. There are a whole range of auto-immune disorders that can cause brain fog as a symptom and depression can also have the symptom of brain fog, as well as other mental disease. But looking into what and how you eat is important so I’ve included three foods which are guilty in causing or worsening brain fog.
1.) Gluten: I know, everyone is hatin’ on the gluten, but in all honesty, even if you don’t have celiac disease, gluten can be a huge issue. You see, over time consumption of gluten can lead to low or even high levels of inflammation. This can greatly impact brain functions and one of the symptoms is brain fog. I’m not saying ditch the gluten entirely, but ditching it maybe 50% of the time can make a huge difference in how you feel.
2.) Refined sugar and carbs: As with gluten, long term and chronic intake of carbs “white flours” and refined sugar and corn syrup, this can lead to glucose problems as well as systemic issues. The yeast over growth can cause symptoms like fatigue and brain fog.
3.) Caffeine: The dangerous pick me up that we all crave. It can lead to brain fog as you spiral into a habit of more and more caffeine to give you the same pick me up as it did the first time. Ever have a caffeine withdrawal headache? Talk about a bad day… If you are consuming more than 100mg of caffeine a day you should try to break the habit. Look at how much sleep you are getting first off. You are more likely to fall into this vicious cycle if you are not getting at least 7 hours sleep. If you just like the taste of coffee, for instance, try blending caffeine and decaf until you can go completely caffeine free and also try a darker roast for a more satisfying cup.