Brain Fog, or fuzzy thinking is not always just down to a ‘bad day’ or getting older, but can also be due to underlying health conditions or a problematic lifestyle. As the pandemic continues to rage and much of our daily lives have been upended by its repercussions, trouble concentrating, re-calling simple words, or following a train of thought may be exacerbated or exposed. Some, who are recovering from COVID-19, have found that they are dealing with brain fog. Others who have had chronic illnesses exacerbated by the stress of the pandemic and the loss of livelihoods have also found that brain fog is particularly problematic. In other cases, the everyday stress of the pandemic can cause sleep problems and chronic stress which has also been thought to cause fuzzy thinking.
What is Brain Fog?
Brain fog is a symptom of other problems or health conditions, and can often be identified with symptoms such as memory problems, lack of mental clarity, lack of focus and poor concentration levels.
According to Huffington Post:
‘“Brain fog isn’t a diagnosis, disease or a disorder,” explains Dr Brennan, who has written the soon-to-be-published book, Beating Brain Fog. It occurs when the brain cannot function properly. This can happen as a result of many factors, such as: hormonal imbalance, a side-effect of medication, illness, infection, inflammation, an auto-immune response, chronic pain, nutritional deficiency, inadequate or poor quality sleep, poorly managed chronic stress and even lack of exercise. “These factors can interfere with brain functioning in a variety of ways,” she says.’
Harvard Health cited the top three causes of brain fogginess to be: Medication side effects, Low B12, Excessive anxiety or depression, underactive thyroid gland and obstructive sleep apnea. Of course there can be other causes that trigger brain fogginess, so consult your doctor in the first instance if you are concerned that there are other factors at play. If brain fogginess, trouble with concentration, memory and so forth is affecting your daily life, it is important that you speak to your doctor.
How Can I Improve It?
If you do suffer from fuzzy thinking and brain fog, and after you have consulted your doctor, there are ways in which you can help alleviate the problem. The most referenced solutions are: sleep, exercise and diet.
Seven to eight hours of sleep per night, is the ideal but it can very from person to person, if you are getting too little sleep however, this can affect your cognitive abilities. Going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day (for an adequate amount of time) will help you get into an effective sleep schedule. Regular will also help you maintain a healthy sleep schedule as well as having a positive effect on your brain, by boosting blood flow to the brain. Harvard Health recommends that you ‘try to get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week, such as brisk walking.’ Finally, improving your diet can also help to alleviate brain fog. Constructing and following a healthy balanced diet that is full of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and so forth and moderating your junk food intake, may boost your energy levels overall, improving more areas of your life than just the brain fog. Dr. Shreya Raj, a neuropsychiatrist with the Center for Brain/Mind Medicine at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, stated to Harvard Health, ‘”Not eating healthfully makes you more sluggish, even in thinking. Studies have shown the Mediterranean diet may improve cognitive function.” This diet is rich in fresh vegetables and fruits, nuts, legumes, fish, wholegrains, whilst moderating poultry, eggs, dairy. Red meat intake is sparing.
Other sources have also suggested that managing your mental health, particularly stress levels could also help in this area. There are many different ways to properly manage mental health conditions, it is important, again, that in the first instance you consult a therapist or doctor who can advise and refer you to treatments based on your particular struggles. Improvement can be found in a variety of places and differ from person to person, some find mindfulness exercises, such as meditation, breathing exercises, Yoga, Tai Chi helps, others find that keeping a routine can help keep stress, anxiety and depression at bay, physical changes such as regular exercise and a healthy diet can help, others prefer talk therapies or cognitive behavioural therapies to get to the root of the problem.
Brain fog can be debilitating, frustrating and confusing, but you are not alone in feeling that way, many are struggling with a brain fuzziness due to a variety of circumstances. Consult your doctor, look to rearrange your lifestyle, establish a routine that puts sleeping, healthy diet, exercise and mental health at the forefront.