Do you often find yourself feeling distracted? You find yourself in a daydream-like state with your mind wandering and memory waning? You probably have what is being called “brain fog.” Brain fog is common due to crammed schedules and low-quality convenience foods that don’t support your brain.
Nutrient deficiencies, hypoglycemia, sugar, food allergies, lack of sleep, medications and high stress are being blamed for the condition. Other symptoms might include low energy, difficulty focusing/thinking/communicating, trouble concentrating on tasks, forgetfulness, low motivation, confusion and chronic, low-grade depression.
Here are 4 Ways to Steer Your Way Out of the Fog:
1. Don’t forget what you need. Your brain relies on a steady stream of vitamins and minerals, amino acids, essential fatty acids, and glucose from complex carbohydrates. Keep in mind that lack of any of these can trigger brain fog; and if you combine that with sugar, refined carbohydrates, dehydration or caffeine, you’re in for a mentally cloudy day. How do you get all those nutrients when you’re running on empty as you run to your next meeting? Start your day by fueling-up at breakfast, making a mental checklist of what you need: protein in egg, check; omega 3 and 6 in ¼ avocado, check; antioxidant vitamins in fresh salsa, check; complex carbs in a whole grain tortilla to wrap them all up in a portable package, check. No time? Throw all these nutrients into a breakfast smoothie by using a greens or protein powder.
2. Don’t “relax” in front of the TV. Mental rest is vital to be clear-headed and focused. Humans are only wired to focus on a task for an hour before you need a mental break. Beta waves are present when the mind is alert; and alpha waves when the mind is relaxed. Meditation, light exercise, and sitting quietly in nature effectively relax your mind, creating alpha waves, but not TV. Even though it feels like you’re zoning out because the neocortex part of the brain used for analysis and reasoning shuts down, the visual cortex is highly stimulated. This means you take in huge amounts of information but aren’t processing it so the brain can't relax, and beta waves are still present. Also, eye fatigue is very common for those who stare at a computer to work and then stare at a TV to relax.
3. Don’t think it’s normal. According to research, brain fog is “rooted in a lifestyle that promotes inflammation and hormonal imbalances.” (2013 study, Journal of the Clinical Autonomic Research) On a cellular level, brain fog is caused by inflammation and changes to three hormones that determine mood, energy and focus: dopamine, serotonin and cortisol. When hormone levels fall too low or climb too high, your whole system can be thrown off. The other factor that increases brain fog symptoms, inflammation, is created by low-grade over-activity of your immune system. This is stimulated by inflammatory molecules (adipocytokines and histamines). Rebalancing hormones and reducing inflammation with proper diet and relaxation puts you on the right track.
4. Don’t rely on six. We all need 7 to 9 hours of sleep every single night to think clearly. A new two-year worldwide study completed by 18 leading scientists proves this, no matter how much you boast about getting by with less. (sleepfoundation.org/excessivesleepiness/content/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need-0) Brain fog is triggered by lack of sleep because it raises levels of your stress hormone, cortisol, which means you can also become more anxious and irritable.