If you've ever wandered through life feeling like you're under water, brain fog might be to blame. Anxiety, depression, chronic pain, poor diet, lack of sleep, and more can disrupt your inability to think and make you feel disorganized and forgetful. The good news is that there are some brain fog remedies that are backed up by science that can help you effectively clear the cobwebs from your head and regain some mental clarity. If you're not sure what brain fog is, Dr. Michael Lam's blog describes it as, "A feeling of mental confusion ... It's as if there is a loss of focus, and a sensation of 'so close and yet so far.' The term 'fog' is used because it feels as if a cloud comes over your thought process [and] reduces your ability to think clearly."
Brain fog can manifest as being forgetful, though it doesn't affect your long term memory. Instead, you might not remember where you put your keys, phone, or maybe even you car. If you have anxiety, brain fog can be an unwelcome side effect of an already debilitating condition. "Imagine that anxiety is powerful energy that pulsates through the body and mind and perpetuates negative emotions and sensationalized thoughts," Psychologist Carder Stout, Ph.D., told Well + Good. "The energy may become so dominant that it overrides our normal ability to function and self-regulate." Personally, one of the medications I take for depression causes brain fog, but the symptoms have thankfully lessened over time. Sometimes I'm not able to remember someone's name, or I have troubling finding the right word. But, for me, the benefits of the medication are worth being a little forgetful. If your brain is feeling foggy AF, here are some ways clear your head.
1. Get More Sleep
You're probably tired of being told to get more sleep because, frankly, who has the time to get the recommended seven-to-nine hours of shut eye every night? And, while sleep is often touted as a simple solution to a lot of problems, it's important to get the right amount. "You need sleep to help your brain work the way it should, but too much can make you feel foggy, too," WebMD noted. "To get good rest at bedtime, you may want to avoid caffeine and alcohol after lunch and keep the computer and smartphone out of your bedroom. It also can help to get to bed and wake up at the same time every day."
2. Manage Your Stress
April is Stress Awareness Month, so it's an ideal time to take stock of your life to see what's not working for you. I know that managing stress is easier said than done, but stress is a big contributor to brain fog, so getting it under control is pretty important. Just this morning my roommate, who's been working 24/7, spent 10 minutes looking for her phone. After employing Find My iPhone, she located it on the stove. The struggle is real. Excess stress causes your body to overproduce cortisol, which is what makes you feel foggy and sluggish. Self-care can help you mitigate the effects of stress, as can talking to a therapist or counselor about reframing a toxic relationship with work, family, or other sources of stress.
3. Address Food Allergies
If you're lactose or gluten intolerant, but you're still eating an all-pizza diet, you could be suffering from brain fog as a result of ignoring your food sensitivities. "Foods that contain gluten can cause unusual reactions in the brains of those with gluten sensitivities," Dr. Lam's blog explained. "Gluten is a protein found in many grains, including wheat, rye, and barley. Any type of food allergy can disrupt the sensitive balance of hormones and chemicals in our brains." If you can't find any other cause for your brain fog, it might be time to get tested for food allergies so you can learn how to manage your triggers.
4. Stop Multitasking
While some people boast about their boss multitasking skills, science has proven that multitasking is actually pretty counter productive. "People who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory, or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time, a group of Stanford researchers has found," Stanford News reported. If you're someone who's constantly switching from one task to another, and you have a hard time remembering what you're supposed to be doing, it might be time to try doing one thing at a time. There's no shame in not being a multitasker because almost no one is good at it.
5. Set Aside Time For Self-Care
While self-care is important for everyone, it's particularly vital for people who suffer from chronic health conditions such as migraines, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and auto-immune disorders, according to Medical News Today. If you've ever been in extreme pain, then you know it can be difficult to think about anything other than getting the pain to stop. If you have a chronic health condition, it's important to make sure you're doing extra things to take care of yourself to ensure you don't get too run down and invite in the dreaded brain fog. It's OK to decline invitations — as a chronic migraine sufferer, I do it all the time. Get a massage, meditate, enjoy a nice meal, take a nap, or do whatever self-care looks like for you to help keep your head clear.
6. Exercise Your Brain
Just like your body, your brain needs regular stimulation and exercise to stay strong and healthy. The National Stem Cell Institute suggests treating your brain to online games like Luminosity or Mind Games, which are designed to exercise and stimulate different parts of your brain. They also suggest learning a second language, a new dance step, working on language or math puzzles, such as crossword puzzles or sudoku, or learning a new skill, such as woodworking or cross stitching. Basically, anything that challenges your brain is helpful for keeping the fog at bay.
7. Drink More Water
Just like sleep, water is another thing that can cure a lot of ailments, including brain fog. "Dehydration may be the top cause of brain fog. It vies for the number one spot with processed foods. When your brain does not have enough fluids, the neurons are not able to fire as efficiently and certain processes are simply shut down," the website Developing Human Brain explained. OK, I will admit I have real trouble drinking enough water. One of the things that's helped me drink more water is using a water bottle with a built-in straw. If you're someone who doesn't normally suffer from brain fog or headaches, and you start to feel foggy, you might be dehydrated. Want to feel better? Just add water. Yeah, as a human you're pretty much just a house plant that has to pay bills.
8. Eat A Varied Diet
If you're too stressed out to remember to eat your meal-prepped lunch, it can seriously affect your ability to concentrate — and that goes double if your lunch al desko comes in a bag from the vending machine. "Diet can have an impact on energy levels, and many people will recognize the feeling of losing concentration if they have not eaten for some time," Medical News Daily noted. "Eating nutritious meals and snacks regularly throughout the day can help reduce brain fog."
9. When To See A Doctor
If you get brain fog suddenly, and you're not dehydrated, haven't started any new medication, or aren't stressed or sleep deprived, it's a good idea to see a doctor because brain fog can be an underlying symptom of other medical conditions. If you're anxious or depressed, brain fog could either be a side effect of medication, or a symptom of your anxiety or depression, depending on where you are with your treatment.
The good news is that brain fog is rarely chronic, which means that once you uncover the root cause you can begin to correct the problem. "Brain fog associated with stress, poor diet, or lack of sleep should go away once these issues are addressed," Medical News Daily reported. "If problems with brain function are a symptom of a medical condition, they should improve once that is diagnosed and given proper attention and treatment." #TheMoreYouKnow