Updated: Jan 21, 2020
I dare you to try and explain it while you're feeling it.
As someone who has not been diagnosed with ADHD or ADD, it can feel mildly troubling to experience cognitive… discomforts (?) like memory loss, difficulty focusing or concentrating and episodes of ‘zoning out’. I began to notice a decline in my ability to complete projects, a lack of motivation and a sense of mental fatigue. Articulating thoughts verbally and even reading an entire sentence in a book felt exhausting and impossible. Thinking about tasks I needed to complete felt overwhelming and abstract. The state of my mind gave me anxiety; how could I be productive or competitive if I couldn’t even exhaust my thoughts? Sound familiar?
The hypochondriac in me worried that I may be experiencing the ultra-rare and only-for-me condition of becoming a vegetable at the age of 23. I visited with my doctor who immediately suggested it may come from undernourishment or dehydration. It wasn’t that simple; even after nourishing myself with all of the brain foods I could think of, drinking all of the coconut water, which has been clinically proven to be more hydrating than plain water, I still experienced the fog.
While experiencing Brain Fog you may feel compelled to apologize and explain for it: ‘Sorry, blah, I just can’t talk today,’ or ‘Oh my gosh, what is wrong with my brain today! Ha ha!’
There isn’t exactly a safe word for experiencing brain fog, and you likely wouldn’t remember it anyways.
A common experience of Brain Fog involves from having difficulty simple and recent occurrences; remembering what you had for breakfast, what time you went to bed, what color underwear your wearing, and what you even DID yesterday. I didn’t touch a drop of alcohol, or DID I?
Does this sound familiar: not recalling simple words until they come to you much later and with 100% less relevancy? You work in a bank as a bank teller and somehow the word ‘bank’ is no where to be found in your mind, so you wind up playing taboo with someone asking what you do for a living. Money? Vaults? Computer? Brain fog can be incredibly frustrating, embarrassing, and, uh… what’s the word? derailing.
Not sleeping enough at night increases your risk for mental fatigue. Cloudy thoughts and difficulty focusing are common symptoms of sleep deprivation, so make sure you get the proper amount of sleep. Follow your bodies natural rhythm, some people are naturally earlier or later sleepers. Understand that you may not actually need eight hours of sleep per night. Oversleeping also contributes to fogginess (great…) so figure out your sweet spot, make and keep it a habit.
I would take melatonin on a regular basis to fall asleep at night. Though melatonin isn’t exactly a fabricated or unnatural product, the boost in my melatonin levels were making me feel groggier than usual, even when I woke up from a full night of sleep. Many medications clearly state their side effects including an inability to operate machinery, so er… brain fog. Switching to a different medication or lowering your dosage may be all you need to improve the clarity of your thoughts.
Brain fog is often the result of feeling overwhelmed about specific tasks. The best thing you can do to avoid feeling overwhelmed is to limit your multitasking. Focusing on one task at a time is a great way to let your mind do what it does best; we were not designed to multitask. Take breaks, set realistic and attainable goals that are gently celebrated. Plan your tasks ahead of time and figure out your most productive time of day. I’d highly suggest reading Daniel Pink’s When: The Scientific Secrets Of Perfect Timing. I work really well early in the morning. I’m the most calm and am at peak focus. Take advantage of your most constructive times.
Remove the clutter
A mess is stress. What helps clear my mind is keeping a tidy space made up of things that inspire and comfort instead of distracting or stimulating me. You don’t have to commit to a full Marie Kondo, but starting somewhere simple like your desk or your closet in a short burst can be incredibly therapeutic and relaxing.
Practice fine motor skills
Doing something repetitive that allows your brain to focus instinctively instead of creatively is great for when you’re experiencing an intense fog and even some mild anxiety as a result. Puzzles, sewing, weaving, drawing, painting and light organizing are great exercises that are like gentle stretching for your mind.
Be gentle with yourself
A foggy mind can cause anxiety and frustration. Remember that you may not feel clear in a snap. By addressing the causes of mind fog, getting active, sticking to a routine and mobilizing your most productive and alert times, you should achieve clarity, slowly but surely.
Exercise your mind and body
Your brain is a muscle. If you don’t use it, you lose it. Physical exercise aids your mind by increasing your heart rate which pumps more oxygen into your brain. Your mind releases hormones including serotonin which makes you happier and more present and even encourages new neuronal connections. Cell growth in the hippocampus increase and improve your ability to learn, retain, and remember. “In general, anything that is good for your heart is good for your brain.”
Mind your mental health
See what I did there? Depression and anxiety come with symptoms of brain fog. Speak with your doctor if you feel your brain fog may be associated with something greater.