Chronic Illness,  Chronic Illness and Invisible Disabilities

How to deal with brain fog

Photo by Miriam Espacio from Pexels

If you are here, you are no doubt familiar with brain fog. That strange foggy feeling that is hard to explain. It doesn’t hurt per say, but it still has the same persistence and uncomfortable sensation that wraps around your head.

For me, it feels like my head is stuffed full of cotton, so much so that it feels almost impossible to think. Or, a heavy fog that settles in my head that makes it difficult to recall names, put together sentences, and pay attention to what’s going around me.  

What is brain fog?

For those who aren’t familiar with the term, brainfog is a way of describing a set of symptoms that impacts one’s cognitive functions. Brain fog is different for everyone, but some common symptoms are difficulty remembering things, confusion, feeling unable to focus, sensitivity to sound, fatigue, and difficulty putting together sentences, among others.

It is a fairly common experience for people who have a chronic illness, are neurodivergent, and/or have painful conditions such as chronic pain. There are also many people who experience this as a result of recovering from covid-19, also known as covid long-haulers. 

Spoiler alert: There is no cure all for the fog. There isn’t a home remedy or medication that you can take that will “cure” it. It doesn’t just instantly go away. However, there are some things that will help.

Ways to cope with brain fog

Avoid social media when foggy

Disconnecting is often a huge help for me when I’m feeling foggy. Avoid Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, anything that requires a lot of reading. I find that the harder I tried to read things or absorb a large amount of information at once, the worse the fog gets. This includes TikTok too, the sounds and music can cause sensory overload which can worsen brain-fog. 

Instead, try watching a movie, listening to an e-book, or playing a calming game such as Minecraft. Everyone is different, so try anything that doesn’t feel like it is straining your mind. Some days I am able to listen to music and some I can’t. So, it is going to be a process for you to learn what works for you on heavier and lighter foggy days.

Check your surroundings

Mold can contribute to and even cause brainfog. So, check your surroundings. Have an old moldy a/c? See about getting it replaced or cleaned. If this isn’t something that you can’t fix right away, or aren’t able to, try opening a window. Maybe take a walk or sit outside for a few minutes if you feel up to it. 

Are there any strong smells in the area you are currently in? Like incense, air fresheners, ect.? 

Eliminate as much artificial fragrance and strong odors as possible. If you like scents, essential oils such as eucalyptus, lavender, and peppermint can help with easing fog. Take a drop or two and rub it on your temples, or, use a diffuser.

Is it loud where you are currently? Is there somewhere else that you could go that is less noisy? 

Try to find a quiet place where you can catch a break from the noise. A lot of the time, it’s impossible to escape the noise, especially when everything sounds 100x louder. Using noise canceling earplugs, earbuds, or headphones may help. 

Is it bright where you are currently? When outside, put on a pair of shades, it makes a huge difference. Indoors, limit sunlight as much as possible. I’ve noticed a major difference using curtains that block-out sunlight.

Give yourself a break

Whatever you are pushing yourself to do, stop it. Stop it right now. I know, I know, there are a million things that you have to do today, but your body is telling you it needs a break. Sometimes pushing through works, but most of the time it just makes us feel worse in the long run. If it makes you feel more foggy, then stop doing it. Whether it’s reading, writing, trying to focus on something, let it go. Come back to it later, when you are feeling better.

Realistically, we won’t always be able to drop everything that we are doing, especially to make a living. I understand that. If there’s something that you absolutely have to do, work in small increments. Work for 20 minutes, take a break for 10. Longer or shorter increments of time work too. Choose time periods that allow you to work without feeling overwhelmed, you know yourself best than anyone else.

Get as much rest as you can

Have you been getting enough sleep? I find that I have fog more frequently when I didn’t sleep well or stayed up too late. Have you had a nap today? Sometimes naps are enough to shake off the fog. And if it doesn’t, that’s okay too. Maybe you just need to allow yourself to rest, to do absolutely nothing. Catch up on your favorite tv shows and movies. Journal or write. Listen to a Podcast. Draw, paint, whatever.

If the fog is too heavy for any of those things, then just be patient with yourself. Find somewhere quiet and limit all noise if possible. Use some essential oils on your temples or put it in a diffuser. Peppermint, eucalyptus, and lavender work well to ease brain fog. Remember to be kind to yourself.

Practice self-compassion (Take Care of Yourself!)

I know that it sounds very much “do yoga and it will cure your chronic illness”, but I promise that’s not what I’m saying. Hear me out here. Self-compassion is the idea that we should be kind to ourselves and care for ourselves the way that we would a friend. 

This includes checking in with your physical health. Have you eaten anything today? And I mean a actual meal, not a snack or coffee or a lunchable. Feed yourself actual food, it doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Order something good for yourself if you can.

Are you drinking enough water? Dehydration can cause fog and even make you worse. Make sure you are taking care of yourself!

Basically, make sure that you are taking care of yourself and treating yourself with kindness. I know that I personally tend to blame myself when I feel foggy for pushing myself too hard or not taking a break sooner. We have to understand that there isn’t always something that we did to cause brain fog, it just happens. Even if we did slip up and push ourselves too hard, we shouldn’t be critical of ourselves, that’s all I’m saying.

I hope this has helped some. Take care! ~Morgan

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