This morning started off full of panic. As I began to brush my teeth, I thought of something I needed to take care of today and wanted to write myself a note using my phone. I reached for my phone in my pocket but my pocket was empty. I can remember so little lately, thanks to brain fog, that when a thought comes into my head, I immediately need to write it down on paper or jot a note in my phone or it is lost forever in what I call the land of lost thoughts. I imagine this place as a big cloud in the sky, full of my thoughts, just floating, yes seriously, I can picture it now. I digress … anyway, I was obviously panicking because I couldn’t find my phone to jot that thought down. Then I remembered I had just put a load of laundry in the washing machine, which included the sweatshirt I was just wearing and carrying my phone in the right pocket. GASP! Did I remember to take my phone out of my pocket before throwing it in the washer? The answer: I have no idea. So I ran (OK walked as fast as my aching joints would let me) to the washer. I frantically searched through all the soaking wet clothes in the washer but could not find my phone. When was the last time I had my phone? Did I set it down with my coffee? Again, I tried to remember but had no idea. So I went downstairs to look around, and yes, my phone was on my desk and right next to my coffee. Panic over, but this is not an isolated incident in my life. Every five minutes I have a new moment like this. This is my typical brain fog. My thoughts get jumbled. I just can’t think straight.
Brain fog is a symptom that can be caused by many things, in my case autoimmune disease is to blame. Brain fog is usually described as trouble with memory, focus, and general thinking. For me, it feels like my head is in a cloud. I often feel like I’m spinning my wheels, disorganized with thinking and daily tasks, brain fog can be tough to manage. I know when I experience brain fog even the smallest, most routine task can be overwhelming. I have difficulty staying on task, over time I’ve developed a few tips to help manage the days when brain fog is at its worst.
(1) Make lists and place them somewhere you will easily see them. This could be on paper or on something like a phone or a tablet. The important thing is that they are visible, you will see them right away. Make them as often as you need to and revise them throughout the day. Lists help me remember what I need to do each day and sometimes more importantly, what order to do things in. For someone with brain fog, staying on task is important.
(2) Keep your cell phone or notepad and pen nearby, whichever you choose to make your lists on. For brain fog, my suggestion would be plain old paper and pen, that way list(s) can be right in front of you and often times you will need that visual, I know I do. If you want a copy of the paper lists on your phone, take a picture of the list. There are lots of apps to use in this case too. I personally like to use Evernote but there are lots of choices. Here you can make lists (if that is your preference) or you can upload pictures of lists. Just like everything else though, keep your Evernote organized or it is easy to lose notes in the shuffle. Sometimes I even just send myself a text message. If I do this, these items usually end up on an Evernote or paper list. It is usually just a means to get something out of my head quickly, and it works.
(2) Be realistic and cut back on things you need to do each day. I know it would be great to think we could get everything done but that is just not always realistic. Be honest with yourself. Choose the top 3 things on your list and set a goal. Are you going to get all 3 done? or maybe just 1? Everyone with brain fog is different, be kind to yourself and think about what you think you are capable of today. Let go of what others want you to do today and decide what you really need to do. Take your time, you are important.
(3) Minimize distractions. Turn off background noise. When the brain is having trouble with simple tasks, it’ important to give it the best environment possible to do its job. When the TV is on, even if just in the background, or multiple conversations are happening around you, it is very easy for even the sharpest brain to focus on what it needs to. If possible, find a quiet location to make your lists first thing in the morning, to sort through what needs to get done throughout the day, make lists and center yourself and your thinking. If possible, set up a place in your home, a quiet corner, where you can just be free of noise and distractions and think. Do what you can with your surroundings, everyone’s environment is a little different so adapt as you need to.
(4) Slow down. Take breaks when you need to. This is a tough one I know from personal experience. Once brain fog kicks in, you start to panic a little. You say “I have to get this done today!” about 3 different things and then you are running yourself in circles again. You need to slow down to reset your thought process. When the brain is in a fog, it is fatigued and just going about your day, as well thought out as it was, will fatigue it more. Depending on the level of brain fog you are experiencing, you may just need to stop, find a quiet place, practice some deep breathing and let your brain rest. Often times, if you can do this, your brain will (in a way) reset itself and you will be able to think more clearly about what you need to do next, whether that is just continuing to rest or moving forward with what you do.
(5) Most importantly be kind to yourself. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Do the best you can. Take all these tips and adapt them to your life and environment as needed. This may take some trial and error, but in time you will see positive changes.
How do you manage brain fog? I’d love to hear about your tips and experiences…