Have you ever woken up in a persistent haze? Maybe you are trying to get some work done, but your focus seems just out of reach. Perhaps you’re trying to hit a deadline but just can’t concentrate on the task at hand.
No amount of coffee, pep talks or gentle face slaps could shift the fog sitting over your brain.
You may be suffering from brain fog.
What’s Brain Fog?
Brain fog is a general term for lack of focus and other sudden problems with learning, memory and more. It feels like there is a thick fog over your cognitive faculties and can be extremely frustrating.
It’s frustratingly similar to having an answer at the tip of your tongue but being able to get the words out. It can feel like the harder you try to see the answer, the further away it falls.
What You Can Learn From This Blog Post
If you’re not struggling from brain fog right now, there is a high chance you will at some point.
Whether it’s when you’re trying to complete a project, write an essay or just polish off your best man’s speech, brain fog can hit at the worst of times.
In this post, we will discuss four things which are potentially ruining your concentration and why. Then, I’ll share some easy ways that you can start to use today to eliminate brain fog from your life.
Note: Brain fog can be caused by some serious medical conditions, hormonal changes and by some medications too. If you feel like this is the case, seek medical advice immediately. Better safe than sorry. In this post, I’ll be going over the more common explanations, but keep a weather eye open just in case.
When your body is stressed, it sends signals to the brain which suppress your main cognitive faculties (i.e. the cortex). At the same time, it increases activity in the fear regions of the brain (e.g. the amygdala).
Since your cortex is where all of the major important cognitive functions exist, it can be much harder to recall or store information through learning. It can also draw your concentration into all of the wrong places.
In addition to this, stress is very taxing on your body’s energy reserves. Since stress pushes you into your fight or flight response, your body is on high alert all the time. But, it can’t keep that up forever and, eventually, your energy just runs out.
When that happens, it’s natural to feel tired, maybe even exhausted.
This brings us to the next potential cause of brain fog.
2) Lack of Sleep
It’s no surprise that lack of sleep contributes to brain fog.
When you don’t get enough sleep, your brain is not in an optimum condition to do the best work.
Did you know that 1 in 3 adults in the USA are not getting enough sleep?
That’s over 100 million people just in the USA.
Lack of sleep interferes with your neuron’s ability to encode information and translate visual information into conscious thought.
This accounts both for difficulty storing and recalling information and a reduction in reaction time as well.
As stated above, it can also contribute to a higher stress response in the body which in turn leads to poorer sleep. This cycle can continue unbroken for weeks, months or even years.
But, it’s not just lack of sleep which can haze over your mind.
3) Poor Diet
Brain fog can also be the result of having a nutrient-deficient diet.
I’m not talking about not taking your vitamins once in a while, I’m talking about eating large amounts of sugar, processed food and refined carbohydrates.
Without the right healthy nutrients in your body, then it’s difficult for your brain to get the right energy at the right time.
As a consequence, you can get brain fog as well as lack of sleep leading to stress leading into the vicious cycle we’ve already mentioned.
Check out this blog post on the five foods that can cause brain fog – number 3 was a surprise.
Making sure that you are getting enough protein and vegetables in your diet is very important. You don’t have to go Paleo, but you should be trying to get your five a day as well as some lean protein in your diet such as chicken or turkey.
4) Medical Conditions
I first encountered brain fog as a symptom of my previous problems with anxiety and depression.
The lack of energy and motivation associated with depression can easily lead down the foggy brain route. An increased stress response associated with anxiety disorders can do the same.
There’s also a potential neurochemical link between brain fog and depression/anxiety.
Much like everything else on this list, there are links between anxiety and depression and lack of sleep, poor diet and increased stress response in your life.
So, how do you counter these things?
7 Simple Ways To Reduce Brain Fog
1) Exercise – it’s one of the easiest and most effective stress reliefs out there and it’s absolutely free. Get the endorphins flowing and you’ll soon find your focus returning.
2) Cold Showers – there is nothing like a cold shower to shock you back into your focus. Don’t “warm yourself up” to it. Step in the shower and blast yourself with the coldest setting.
3) Change Your Diet – cut out refined carbs, unhealthy sugars and processed food.
4) Cut Out Alcohol – reducing your alcohol intake can change your life in more ways than you think. It can also reduce anxiety.
5) Active Self-Care – taking time every day to check in with your mind and body and ensuring that you are treating yourself with respect and compassion.
6) Get Enough Sleep – make sure you’re getting enough sleep for your body and mind. 7.5 hours is a good rule of thumb, but it might be worthwhile to see what works for you and your personal needs.
7) CBT – Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is a great way to reconnect with your mind and body, tackle depression and anxiety and reduce stress. If you’re looking for a good place to start, check out my post on the ABC Model of CBT for a good introduction on the subject.
My final piece of advice on the subject is to make sure that you’re treating yourself with care and compassion.
Any time you are struck by a symptom such as brain fog, it is your body trying to tell you that something is wrong. This has nothing to do with spirituality or the esoteric, this is simple mind-body intelligence.
In the same way that your body sends pain signals to tell you to fix it, the brain sends signals too such as brain fog, loss of concentration or even anxiety.
Don’t ignore this connection.
Take action today.