Brain fog is a medical condition characterized by a continuous altered state of consciousness. Having brain fog is like withdrawing from being an active participant to your own life and becoming more of an uninterested observer of surroundings, disoriented by anything that has you taking taking part in daily life and activities. You space out from conversations, find it hard to understand language itself and formulate coherent responses, get confused and forgetful, irritated, don’t pay attention to anything and feel tired, indifferent and simply unmotivated.
When you can’t think straight, pay attention, process information, understand language, formulate coherent responses, feel tired and are slow to think and respond, your productivity and quality of life are affected. Brain fog causes exactly this: decreased productivity and decreased quality of life. Even worse, it makes you feel like you are living in a mist of confusion: nothing is clear, everything is foggy and there isn’t really anything to get you interested in doing anything more than the necessary minimum required to function. So what is the solution to getting over brain fog, dealing with it or improving its symptoms?
First of all it’s important to understand what causes brain fog in the first place (read more in the article Causes, Symptoms and Treatment of Brain Fog). Knowing this gives you better insight into the condition and helps direct your efforts towards the best solutions and remedies for you. We are all different, so what may work for some might not work for us too. Because of the wide variety of possible causes, it is always best to make an appointment with your doctor and have some tests done to rule out more serious causes of brain fog such as an underactive thyroid, hormonal imbalances or more serious mental disorders such as dementia. Just because it’s always good to have the opinion of a specialist and because some conditions do need treatment.
I am currently going through one of the worst brain fog episodes of my life and, honestly, I feel more helpless and hopeless than ever, although I know why it’s happening and how I can get through it because of what has worked for me in the past. So I’d like to share with you my 5 trusted solutions for getting over brain fog.
What you can do
1) Sleep. When it comes to a point I can’t think straight, don’t remember what I’ve said or written, can’t put an idea into words no matter how many hours I work on it, I sleep. If I happen to be at home, I just minimize my losses (meaning the time and effort I put into something without actually accomplishing anything because of my brain fog) and take a nap. And I don’t stress myself about how long it will be, mainly because 20 or 30-minute power naps only stress me more. Knowing I have exactly 19 minutes of sleep before the alarm clock rings, or getting to rest then hearing the alarm when sleep is at its sweetest stress me to the point I feel incredibly more frustrated and irritated than if I’ve never tried to sleep at all. And it doesn’t help with the brain fog either.
So, since I already know I am not capable of accomplishing what I have planned for the day and setting the alarm clock to wake me up in half an hour is going to ruin all of my chances of having a restful sleep or being productive, I allow myself to rest. I know that I may wake up in an hour, or in two or sometimes even after four hours, but at least I will be well-rested and have a more clear mind. Sleep helps me disconnect, so I find myself much more motivated to work afterwards and actually am productive. If it’s late already, I just go to bed early and may wake at 5 in the morning after 7-8 hours of sleep. The best part is that I am often motivated to work and surprisingly productive.
The reason why sleep helps me so much is because my brain fog is often a result of a ridiculously irregular working schedule that keeps me awake both at night and during the day so I’m both exhausted and sleep deprived. When I’m at my busiest, I end up forgetting what day it is (date and day of the week) and get so confused that I don’t remember when I went to bed or what time of the day or night it is. For me, sleeping is one of the best solutions for brain fog, although this doesn’t mean it always works.
2) Silence. When I deal with brain fog, noise and commotion upset me the most because they force me to pay more attention to my surroundings, be more involved in what is happening than usual. And I just feel myself shutting down or spacing out. Normally, I can stand any noise, however close or annoying and just be calm about it and do whatever I have to without much fuss. But when I am dealing with brain fog, every little noise distracts and demotivates me. Whether it’s someone snoring, talking loudly on the phone, whispering close by, a television that is on, doors closing and opening, the noise of keyboards typing, I feel every noise kind of takes points off my productivity, interrupts my flow of thoughts and distracts me from my work.
So I go wherever I may enjoy some silence. Whether it’s a quiet coffee shop in the afternoon, a lonely park bench, an empty room far away from others in the house, the back of the garden, I just sit and enjoy the silence. Oddly enough, this kind of helps the fog disperse and my thoughts reorganize so that I enjoy peace of mind and clarity. For me, time to myself is also a great way to reduce stress, another big cause of brain fog.
3) Magnesium supplements. While I do try to meet my magnesium demands from dietary sources, I find that some days I just need more (it’s true that stress, physical and intellectual effort, negative feelings eat up a lot of magnesium). Brain fog causes me to become irritated, sad and frustrated all at once. I have so much to do, I want to finish what I’ve planned to in a certain time frame, but I see myself unmotivated, unproductive, forgetful, incoherent even and just feel annoyed, sad and helpless all at the same time, which demotivates me further.
So I take some magnesium supplements (one 300 mg pack) and wait it off. In about 20 minutes I feel calmer and no longer feel annoyed over my lack of productivity and mental fog. Magnesium helps me be sharper, think clearer and rest, contributing immensely to overcoming brain fog and its symptoms and side effects.
4) Fats. When I work long hours, I come to a point where I suddenly get extremely hungry, experience mental fog and my productivity plummets. When this happens, it’s common for me to not understand what I am reading (language, words themselves) even though I read the same sentence maybe 5 times, get distracted incredibly easily and day dream, my mind wandering off, can’t put a thought into words no matter how hard I try and get to a point I become simply inattentive and lethargic, but not enough to rest. This can be incredibly frustrating. I’ve learnt that this type of brain fog episode is just my brain telling me it’s out of fuel, more specifically out of fats.
Because I actually crave fatty foods amidst all of the confusion. If I eat, let’s say, canned tuna with corn and mayonnaise or some salmon or scrambled eggs with matured cheese, I’m all good. If I eat foods with little fat, I may satiate my hunger, but my mind will still be wandering off unproductive and I will get distracted by everything possible, passing my time with purposeless activities, looking up completely irrelevant things or focusing on an object while my thoughts drift off aimlessly. Because, as I’ve come to realize, this is what my overworked brain does when it runs out of fats: it makes my thinking foggy and everything else purposeless and distracting.
5) B vitamins. Brain fog causes you to feel low on energy, lethargic, unmotivated. In my experience, this can be caused by not getting enough B group vitamins. B vitamins are crucial for both digestive health, helping produce energy for the body, and for normal brain function (it’s proven that we need B vitamins for normal brain development). And chronic, long-term stress, working too much, having tight deadlines and things like this deplete all of our B vitamins reserves, meaning we may need more than usual. I know I do.
When my brain fog lasts more than 4-5 days, I know I am low on B vitamins, often because the lethargy grows stronger and my thinking becomes even foggier. So I take my vitamins and in two days or so my thinking becomes sharp once again, I enjoy high energy levels and have an appetite for working.
While there are other ways of dealing with brain fog, I wanted to share the 5 solutions I find most useful for overcoming the episodes faster, while keeping me sane through it all. Because it’s not easy to not be able to control your own stream of thoughts or see yourself distracted by things like walls, pipes or thin air or enjoy gazing into thin air. Luckily, there are solutions for us all, so if something doesn’t work, there is always another approach.