Ever woken up and felt a tad groggy, unable to think clearly, and just not all mentally there?
Feeling like that can disrupt your day, slow you down and worst of all, if it goes by unaddressed, it can even potentially cause you to get depressed.
This phenomenon is often caused by brain fog.
So, what causes brain fog exactly you ask?
There are many possible causes of brain fog. If you did a simple search on Google, you’ll probably find a whole array of medical articles highlighting serious symptoms and medical conditions.
You start to think something must be wrong with you, but not so fast! Don’t jump to conclusions. Let’s put away your “virtual medical degree” on the side for a moment, and avoid and the self-diagnosis.
Before you get lost in a sea of paranoia, medical doctors and serious-sounding illnesses, try taking a step back for a moment. The solution could be simpler than you think.
Did you ever consider that the cause and solution for that foggy brain of yours could be as simple as adding or tweaking a habit?
You’d be surprised how a simple habit of yours that you probably don’t even consider significant can have such a dramatic effect on your daily life.
Thinking with a foggy brain can feel like your thoughts are tied to a ball and chain. It can be exhausting, especially if you have to tackle it on a daily basis.
You slowly begin to feel like you are putting so much energy just to have a clear thought or two. Meanwhile, you look to your left and watch your colleague coding away at lightning speed on their laptop. I know, it’s really frustrating.
However, it’s totally manageable and in most cases, not a big deal.
In this article, we’re going to answer the most common questions about brain fog and teach you how to tackle it with a couple of actionable habits you can start applying today.
What Is Brain Fog?
Are you the type that’s been going to work and just can’t seem to get your brain ramped up and functioning like it used to?
You try to get yourself to work on that excel sheet, but just thinking about numbers seems impossible at the moment. It’s ok, you probably have brain fog and you don’t even know it.
“So what is brain fog exactly?”
Brain fog is a disruption in your normal daily cognitive functions. It is mostly experienced by having memory problems, a lack of mental clarity, poor concentration, or in some severe cases, no concentration at all.
Brain fog is also known as “mental fatigue,” “foggy brain,” or “mental fog”.
Depending on the severity of brain fog, it can interfere with work or school. But it doesn’t have to be a permanent fixture in your life. It can easily be managed and even cured if taken the right steps.
How do you manage it? Read on, as we will talk more about the cures and practices for getting your foggy brain fixed.
What are the symptoms of brain fog?
Ever been in a conversation where you needed to recall the name of a song, and it’s right at the tip of your tongue, but you just can’t get it out? If this happens to you on a regular basis, chances are you have a foggy brain.
Inability to think clearly
Have you ever gone to the kitchen to get something, only to instantly forget what you came there for? One of the more obvious signs of mental fogginess is a lack of clarity or confusion. If this happens to you on a regular basis, you may want to continue reading.
Lack of ocus
A constant struggle to maintain a steady degree of focus can indicate that you carry around a foggy brain. It’s normal to zone out every now and then, but if you find that your attention drifts off into a daydream on a regular basis, something is not right.
If tiredness is your constant companion and you just can’t seem to shake it off, no matter what you do.
If you wake up tired, fantasize about bed after lunchtime, and by the time evening rolls around you feel utterly drained. It might be time to take clear out your foggy brain.
Do you ever feel like you’re just “out of it”? Even when doing some of your favorite activities you may feel like something stops you from engaging fully with what you are doing.
What Causes Brain Fog? (And How to Cure It)
Let’s get to the root cause of what might actually be stopping your brain from working to its full potential. Here are some of the most common reasons why you might have brain fog.
#1: Type of diet
You may think that you eat relatively well, but if you carefully examine what you actually put into your body, you may be in for a surprise.
In today’s world, food has become increasingly processed, and marketers are doing their best to disguise their processed packaged food as healthy products.
Take dried fruits for example. Sure it has fiber and all the good nutrients that normally come with fruits. But did you know that more often than not dried fruits tend to have lots of added sugar?
“Why is that so bad you ask?”
Do you know how bad the effects of sugar can be on your cognitive functions?
Sugar has the ability to:
- Make you dependent on it for energy.
- It can outcome in a very evident drop in your energy level and mental alertness once your body processes it.
- Gives you oily skin.
- Excess sugar converts into glucose in the body and if not used up it then further converts into fat.
In other words, the excess of sugar, saturated fats, and processed foods can be one of the major contributors to why you probably are struggling with having brain fog.
Sugar triggers hunger and appetite. And sugar manufacturers put it in everything! Almost 70% of packaged food contains some form of sugar.— Eric Edmeades, Author of Mindvalley’s WILDFIT Quest
You might think it’s hard, but try going on a 90-day challenge of eating natural foods.
By doing so you’ll give your body a reset from all the sugar and other additive junk that is in most processed food. As a result, you will rewire your brain to eat healthily and you’ll also naturally get to your healthy ideal weight and mental sharpness.
Don’t go on some restrictive diet, that is not what we are advising here. Start small, and just go on a “healthy human diet” and make sure you eat natural unprocessed food.
An example would be If you are getting sugar cravings then eat fruits. That will naturally reset your sugar needs over time and you’ll notice that your sugar tolerance beginning to decrease.
Bonus tips: Read the labels
- Every label is legally required to list ingredients by their quantity — from highest to lowest. This way you’d know how much of each ingredient there is.
- Always keep an eye out for brands that list whole foods in the first top three ingredients, and always be suspicious of labels with a really long list of ingredients.
- If you can’t pronounce the word in the ingredient list, then you probably don’t want that in your body.
#2: Lack of sleep
Here is an interesting fact for you. Even though you might be tempted to neglect or cut down your sleep time in order to increase your productivity, having a good night’s sleep is one of the most productive things you can do.
“Why?” Because during your sleep time is when your brain has the time, energy, and resources to do the clean-up necessary to maintain your cognitive functions at a high level.
- Making decisions – a recent study published in a journal of current biology that brain process complex stimuli during the time when you are unconscious and give you the right decision to take action on when you wake up.
- Helps keep your memory sharp – according to research, all your memories are consolidated and become more stable during our sleep
- Making creative connections – when you stop paying attention to something consciously your brain steps in and makes certain unusual associations that you would probably not think about during your fully awake state
- Clearing out toxins – This one is pretty important. Sleep gives your brain some time to do a bit of housekeeping and removing of toxins that would build up during your waking hours
Avoid caffeine 6 hours before sleep.
Are you ready to be surprised? Then listen to this factoid: did you know that despite what is commonly believed, caffeine doesn’t actually give you more energy?
What caffeine actually does is trick your brain into alertness. It does this by binding to adenosine receptors in your brain.
Adenosine is a chemical that binds to receptors in order to cause you to feel sleepy. Caffeine interrupts that signal and allows you to stay awake for longer periods even though your brain is in need of sleep time for recovery. This is when you begin to develop brain fog.
Caffeine has a half-life of 5-hours. So if you consume 40 milligrams (mg) of caffeine you will have 20 mg remaining in your system after 5 hours.
So just remember to cut caffeine 6 hours before you sleep.
- Practicing sleep meditations
Practicing sleep mediation is a great way to cure insomnia and other types of sleep disorders. It’s so simple to apply and can help counter that foggy brain by allowing you to sleep and wake up clear-minded.
- Exercise early during day time
Even though exercise is a great way to increase your overall health and brain function, it is also a mild stressor on your body. That means that it could be harder to fall asleep right after your workout.
To counter this, simply switch your workout time to earlier in the day.
- Limit light exposure
In today’s world, we are constantly exposed to an endless amount of blue light from our screens. Blue light can easily trick your brain into thinking that it’s still daytime even though it’s way past midnight.
To counter this, make sure you don’t look at any screens at least 1.5 hours prior to your bedtime, and install blue light filters on your phone or laptop too.
Most phones today come with a night mode (blue light filter) option that is automatically triggered depending on the sunset and sunrise time at your location.
Make sure you set it up or if you don’t have one, download it from your app store. Just look up “blue light filter” and you find many apps to choose from.
#3: Hormonal changes
Mental fog can easily be a symptom of other medical conditions such as changes in your hormonal balance.
Your brain operates effectively, thanks to the right combination of neurotransmitters and hormones. When the whole biomechanical processes run smoothly, you can think clearly and speedily process information.
But when that natural balance is disrupted, everything gets thrown into disarray and brain fog can oftentimes begin to manifest slowly and unnoticed until it becomes a problem.
“What affects hormone imbalance?”
Poor habits such as drinking in excess, low physical activity, smoking or excessive sexual stimulation are good enough reasons to lose a sense of clarity and ability to focus.
Believe it or not, even things such as overconsumption of social media can cloak your brain in a haze.
“Why?” Companies are constantly fighting for your attention. Apps these days are intentionally designed to trigger short-term dopamine loops in the brain.
This dopamine surge that is produced through the constant engagement of social media can cloak your brain in a haze. Over time your brain’s ability to focus on a single task can begin to erode.
Audit your current habits. Activities that create short term dopamine spikes need to be moderated, such as;
- Alcohol & drugs
- Excessive sugary and fatty foods
- Adult entertainment
- Social media
All of the lists above are habit-forming. If you don’t use them in moderation you can easily get hooked which can hinder your ability to focus and over the long run, result in brain fog.
Nothing tastes as good as health and longevity feels.— Eric Edmeades, Author of Mindvalley’s WILDFIT Quest
4. Stay hydrated
Water makes up 60% of our bodies. It’s no surprise that if you deprive yourself of one of the major ingredients that your body needs for survival, you will create some problems along the way.
This one is deceptively easy — drink enough water. It sounds simple on the surface but the majority of people still forget to do that unless their body signals that it’s needed.
The trick here is to drink prior to your body signaling that it is in need of hydration. So just make it a habit to drink a full glass of water every couple of hours.
5. Avoid stress
I know, I know, it’s easier said than done. But take note of this next sentence. Not all forms of stress are bad.
In fact, we need some stress in our lives in order to keep our edge and stay sharp. Gym, for example, is a form of stress, but it is considered “good” stress (eustress).
The problem begins when stress is not managed. This creates “chronic stress” where your brain just refuses to shut off. This can easily fog up your thinking causes your mental CPU to overheat.
“Why?” Human beings are not built to be under stress for long periods of time. 10,000 years ago our ancestors would be exposed to stressful situations — such as hunting a wooly mammoth— and they would deal with the situation and move on with their lives.
Today, our survival is pretty much guaranteed. However, modern life has its own set of problems.
Pressures such as work-life balance, striving for a better future, and worrying about what other people think of us can be mentally draining — which makes it more important than ever to find the “off” button.
Apply the Pomodoro Technique.
Your mind has a natural tendency to get distracted if you are trying to focus for long periods of time on a single task.
If you suffer from brain fog, this tendency is even greater, making focus literally painful. Fortunately, there is a way around this problem. It’s called the Pomodoro Technique.
Just like running, every few minutes you need some time to catch your breath. Your brain deals with information in the same way. It needs a moment to absorb, organize and store the information you just fed it.
The Pomodoro Technique uses a timer to break down work into intervals, traditionally 25 minutes in length, separated by short 5-7 minute breaks.
Figure out what is the amount of time you can spend on any mentally challenging task then take a mindful break. After going through that cycle a couple of times your focus blocks should slowly increase in duration.
Before you know it you will be able to spend 4 hours on a task without glancing at your phone even once!
One of the zen proverbs goes something like this: “You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day unless you’re too busy. In that case, you should meditate for an hour a day.”
The practice of meditation is the closest thing to a magic pill solution there is. The benefits are just too numerous to list them all here so I will just say this: studies have found that meditation increases your ability to plan ahead and resist distractions.
A Word to Remember
If the day-to-day cloudiness of thought has you in its grips, don’t fret, it is more common than you think.
The next step for you would be to simply identify the root cause of your affliction and start applying suitable solutions.
Unfortunately, there are no magic pills that will allow you to conquer brain fog. There are however slow incremental adjustments that will help you get rid of it permanently if you keep up these healthy habits we mentioned.
Introduce balance in your life (bonus tip)
You must find a way to flush the excess cortisol (the stress hormone) from your body from to time. This can be easily accomplished by introducing a few recovery activities to your schedule.
Recovery activity is something you do just for the sake of it, with no ulterior motive.
Ask yourself, “what could be my ‘go-to’ recovery activity?”
To close this off, remember to have patience the willingness to experiment with different solutions. The odds are if you stick to it, that your brain fog will be lifted in no time.