Feeling confused by brain fog?

female sitting in a ball with brain fog

Would you believe, brain fog has been used on and off since the 1800s?! It’s been used increasingly since 1990, especially by those with chronic fatigue syndrome. It’s an umbrella term that describes a wide range of cognitive symptoms, including a lack of mental clarity, memory problems and an inability to focus.

Who experiences brain fog?

People with all sorts of conditions may experience brain fog. For example: allergies, menopause, fibromyalgia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, kidney failure and mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression.

female sitting in a ball with brain fog

Many people may have experienced brain fog as a passing experience, perhaps when they’ve taken strong pain killers or had an infection. But this dissipates and you’re soon able to get back to normal life. Those struggling with chronic illnesses say it’s like wading through treacle on a daily basis with no let-up. They feel far away, and the desire to think clearly is there but no matter how hard they try it just isn’t possible.

A new cause of brain fog

Most people experienced covid as severe flu-like symptoms and they went away after 2-4 weeks. However a small number of people continued with symptoms long after the acute period was over. Long covid includes problems with breathing, gut and skin, palpitations, dizziness, fatigue and the brain fog we’re covering in this article.

These people would not have any previous health conditions so these symptoms may be very hard to manage.

The struggles with brain fog

It’s a hidden symptom—you can look totally fine but be staring through a mist. People may ask you a question and it takes you a few seconds to process what they’ve said. Those around you may wonder what’s wrong because you don’t look as though there’s anything ‘wrong’. You may even get that judgmental question “what’s wrong with you?” and you’re not sure how to answer.

The underlying condition often fluctuates—one day you may feel fine, the next you’re wiped out. This may be hard to understand and may lead to boom-bust energy levels. You may even get that curious question, “but you were fine yesterday?”. Being fine yesterday may lead to doing too much and a crash today…

Feelings of incompetence—logically you may know you’re good at your job/looking after your children/doing the chores but when you just can’t remember where your shoes are your self confidence comes crashing down! If you don’t believe in yourself are those around you going to hold you up? It’s important to adapt and find way to compensate. It’s also ok to ask for help—it is not a sign of weakness and people will be happy to led a hand!

There is hope!

It is important to treat the underlying condition. Although brain fog cannot be treated directly, if the condition itself is treated, brain fog will improve.

Lifestyle changes may help, for example ensuring you get enough sleep, improve diet and getting enough exercise. However it’s important to tailor these changes to each individual. Many people struggle with programmes that are one-size-fits all! Kale isn’t a cure-all, yoga doesn’t suit everyone and 8 hours sleep isn’t the magic fix!

In fact, for some people exercise and certain foods can make brain fog worse. It can be unhelpful for people to hear “just try this”! Brain fog can also fluctuate so it’s important to be aware of your brain-body connection and be responsive.

A non-judgmental approach is important. Considering ourselves hopeless or useless will have a detrimental impact on the condition but instead being kind to ourselves and resting when necessary is vital! Counselling may help. If you’re someone who’s always hard on yourself and pushes yourself beyond your limits it might help to look at the root causes of this. What makes you think this is helpful?

Know yourself and connect!

Some say a routine can help to maintain healthy habits. While others like to understand what’s right for them on each given day, flexibility may be key.

Connecting with others who’re going through similar struggles can be important. Knowing you’re not alone can have a hugely positive impact. In person can be great but may not be possible, virtually is the next best thing. For example, Jessica Kellgren-Fozard is a chronic illness advocate with a positive outlook on life.