How to overcome brain fog

February 17, 2021

How to overcome brain fog

In this article:

  • Brain fog vs. just a hectic day
  • What causes brain fog?
  • How to treat brain fog so that you slowly return to yourself

What's the difference between brain fog vs just another hectic day?

A lot of people pass off their forgetfulness as a sign of aging, or just the result of a crazy day with a lot on their minds. Also called mental fatigue, the symptoms of brain fog can range in severity, but usually include memory problems (usually short-term memory loss), trouble concentrating, difficulty focusing, and a general lack of mental clarity or haziness, hence the "fog".

Mental fog can affect your job performance by making you feel scatterbrained, disorganized, or forgetful. This can also spill over into your personal life, making hobbies and connecting with others problematic. Especially now, mid pandemic, people are experiencing brain fog like never before. Lack of structure, isolation, easy access to distracting phones, and staring at a screen all day can definitely contribute to a sense of cognitive impairment. For those who have contracted the coronavirus or are dealing with other health problems, brain fog is a clear and persistent side effect. If you are experiencing symptoms that last for more than six months, this could be chronic fatigue syndrome. A call to your physician is recommended.

​What causes brain fog?

There are a host of things that can bring about brain fog, some short-term and some long-term. No matter how severe your brain fog seems, it should not be ignored. In order to properly treat brain fog, we have to get to the root cause:

  • Stress: It's no surprise that stress can send our bodies out of whack. When things start piling up, chronic stress can increase blood pressure, weaken the immune system, and trigger mental fatigue and exhaustion. This can also lead to depression and anxiety that further impair our mental health and decision-making abilities.
  • Lack of sleep: Sleep is just as important, if not more important than diet and exercise especially when it comes to cognition. If you notice you're feeling a bit out of sorts, try to make a point of getting 8-9 hours of sleep a night.  Taking naps to reduce sleep shortfall is highly beneficial.
  • Diet: Your nutrition, and consequently your gut health, has a huge influence on your mental health. Vitamin B-12 is known to support cognitive function and a lack of it may lead to brain fog or cognitive dysfunction. In addition to getting your daily recommended amount of vitamin B12, eating a healthy diet full of fiber and fermented foods can support your gut health and eliminate worries about corresponding cognitive issues.
  • Hormonal changes: When the hormones estrogen and progesterone are not regulated, (common during pregnancy and menopause), short term cognitive problems may arise.  Similarly, thyroid problems resulting from the thyroid gland not producing enough hormones (AKA hypothyroidism), can lead to brain fog.
  • Medications: Certain medications, both prescribed and over the counter, are also known to be the cause of cognitive symptoms associated with brain fog. Many people experience brain fog after receiving cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy. If you've noticed any cognitive impairment since using a new medication or medical treatment, discuss it with your doctor in order to treat it rather than suffer through it.
  • Medical conditions: There are many different medical conditions that are accompanied by brain fog. Some examples include: ADHD, anemia, Alzheimer's disease, COVID-19 (more on that below), depression, diabetes, and dehydration. Autoimmune diseases such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, lupus, and multiple sclerosis also affect the central nervous system.
  • COVID-19: Brain fog is another documented side effect of COVID-19. Many people have reported that even after recovering from the virus, they still experience short-term memory loss, confusion, an inability to concentrate, and a general feeling of being "out of touch". Experts in neurology have concluded that COVID-19 is neuro-invasive, meaning it can invade the brain and nearby nerves. Currently, about one-third of all COVID-19 patients have reported brain fog.

How to treat brain fog

Diagnosing and treating brain fog can be tricky and will require the help of a healthcare professional. In most cases, the actions listed below can help restore your mental clarity. In more severe cases, especially in those with chronic fatigue syndrome, a doctor will need to provide detailed, personalized, medical advice to help you once again fire on all cylinders. To prioritize your physical and mental wellness and beat brain fog make sure to:

  • Get 8 to 9 hours of sleep per night
  • Manage stress by knowing your limitations
  • Avoid excessive alcohol and caffeine
  • Include physical activity in your everyday routine
  • Play games and puzzles that are aimed at sharpening your mental skills
  • Revisit your hobbies
  • Meditate daily as a mental refresher
  • Monitor your food intake and cut out any irritants
  • Eat plenty of protein, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats
  • Take a supplement that keeps your brain sharp, such as Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, Vitamin D3, Omega-3s, Glutathione, and Coenzyme Q.

This year, we need to remain as flexible and adaptable to the changes and uncertainties we are sure to face. All of the above points can not only help keep your brain sharp and reduce mental fog but are also great pillars for your general wellness. Try to keep your goals short-term, buildable, realistic, and focused around nature, socialization, and social good (from a distance of course).

Summary Points

  • Lack of structure, isolation, easy access to distracting phones, and staring at a screen all day can contribute to a sense of cognitive impairment
  • If you notice you're feeling a bit out of sorts, try to make a point of getting 8-9 hours of sleep a night
  • When the hormones estrogen and progesterone are not regulated, (common during pregnancy and menopause), short term cognitive problems may arise
  • Experts in neurology have concluded that COVID-19 is neuro-invasive, meaning it can invade the brain and nearby nerves

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