7 Tips to Beat Brain Fog, Foster Focus, and Improve Mental Clarity

Assume you opened the fridge but forgot what you were going to take. Or perhaps something essential came up during a meeting, but you can’t recall the specifics. Perhaps you’ve noticed that things are taking you longer to accomplish than they used to. One possible perpetrator? There is brain fog.

Brain fog is not a medical term. According to Danielle Wilhour, MD, an assistant professor of neurology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver, “it’s a casual, or lay, term used to describe an umbrella of cognitive symptoms.” According to her, among other signs of brain fog are:

Concentration difficulties
Having difficulty finding the proper words
a sense of disorientation
There is some memory loss.
This form of cognitive sluggishness can last for a long time.

If you find it difficult to concentrate or remember details, you may be experiencing brain fog.

 

1. Take a Break, Particularly If You’ve Been Sic to Beat Brain Fog

If you rush from task to task during the day, your brain may not get the rest it requires to function properly. “Your cognitive efficiency benefits from taking downtime or pacing activities with short breaks throughout the day,” explains Shehroo Pudumjee, PhD, a neuropsychologist at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas.

This is critical for anyone who is overburdened by a busy lifestyle, especially if you’ve been feeling under the weather. According to Harvard Health Publishing, the aftermath of having COVID-19 may leave you with prolonged brain fog, even if you feel physically better, due to probable virus inflammation.

It’s natural to want to get through your day as quickly as possible.

2. Automate Your To-Do List

Managing a hectic life requires effort, but there’s no need to worry about minor details you could overlook (hint: defrosting the chicken). “Using cognitive aids can be really helpful,” adds Pudumjee.

Use your phone’s alarms, create voice assistant reminders, set up auto pay for your invoices, and organize your meetings into a calendar, for example. This may alleviate some of the stress linked with brain fog. “If we forget something, we get frustrated with ourselves, which doesn’t help with the fog,” said Pudumjee. “If we can get something off our plate, we can avoid possible self-deprecation or criticism, which [can be] a huge help.”

3. Eat Anti-Inflammatory Foods

“There’s some thought that one mechanism that causes brain fog is inflammation,” said Dr. Wilhour. As a result, she advocates a low-inflammatory diet, which generally translates to limiting or eliminating highly processed foods, red and processed meats, and sticking to a plant-based or Mediterranean-style diet that emphasizes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats.

Wilhour adds that brain fog could be one of the symptoms of certain autoimmune disorders. According to the Arthritis Foundation, persons with rheumatoid arthritis frequently report feeling forgetful and unable to concentrate, and according to Duke Health, anywhere from 40 to 80 percent of patients with fibromyalgia and lupus may have brain fog.

One study looked at persons with rheumatoid arthritis, and another looked at healthy people.

4. Get Moving on a Regular Basis

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week for adults to keep not only the heart but also the brain in excellent form.

“Exercise increases blood flow to the brain,” adds Wilhour. According to MedlinePlus, physical activity causes changes in the brain such as an increase in gray matter and brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a protein that plays a role in the formation of neuronal connections connected to learning and memory.

When you exercise, your memory, executive control, and attention may all improve. Furthermore, exercise is a terrific antidote to stress for many people, and as additional research reveals, it builds up your cognitive reserves to support your brain.

5. Make Time for Mental Activities

Your brain is an organ, but it’s also like a muscle in that “the more you use it, the stronger it can get,” according to Wilhour. Reading novels, completing crossword puzzles, playing games or instruments, and being up to date on current events are all activities that stimulate and promote your brain health.

Consistency is essential in both mental and physical fitness. Lean into activities that you enjoy to sustain a consistent practice. Don’t want to learn to play an instrument? That’s OK; perhaps you’d like to brush up on French words you haven’t used since college.

Another brain-teasing method is to play some music. Music has been demonstrated to activate the brain and aid in stress reduction and mood improvement

6. Clean Up Your Sleep Hygiene

Sleep aids in mental sharpness. Consider how well you’ve been dozing if you’re feeling cognitively hazy.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that individuals obtain at least seven hours of sleep per night. According to study, sleep deprivation can cause a variety of brain fog-like symptoms such as difficulties with short-term memory, concentration, processing speed, and awareness. Addressing sleep issues by improving your sleep hygiene (such as avoiding gadgets before bed or developing a wind-down ritual) may help you battle weariness and think more clearly the next day.

According to the CDC, sleep apnea is another worry that can cause changes in sleep quality. A common symptom of sleep apnea is appearing to obtain enough sleep but still feeling excessively drowsy during the day. “If someone has insomnia or sleep apnea, I strongly encourage pursuing treatment,” said Pudumjee

7. Recognize and treat underlying health conditions

While lifestyle adjustments can help reduce brain fog, they can only go so far if an underlying health condition remains untreated. Among the health issues that can lead to brain fog, according to Wilhour, are chronic fatigue syndrome, anemia, depression, diabetes, moderate cognitive impairment and dementia, and autoimmune disorders.

Lagging attention, a lack of understanding, difficulty finding words, and poor concentration are all signs of brain fog in multiple sclerosis, and a brain fog feeling can sometimes be the initial symptom of the condition, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

According to study, 80 percent of patients with hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) suffer weariness, sleepiness, and frequent forgetfulness.

 

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