Feeling extremely tired, sluggish, forgetful, unable to concentrate, and confused may mean you have brain fog. In this HelloGiggles article, Mindpath Health’s Rashmi Parmar, MD, and Leela R. Magavi, MD, discuss what brain fog and how to cope
You might have experienced moments where you felt extremely tired, sluggish, forgetful, unable to concentrate, and even confused. If this sounds familiar, you might have experienced brain fog. Brain fog is a very real and common concern that describes a range of those feelings and can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few years. While it isn’t a medical condition in itself, it can be a sign of an underlying issue.
What is brain fog?
“Brain fog is a common term used to describe feelings of forgetfulness, lack of focus, and confusion,” says Sanam Hafeez, PsyD. Experiencing brain fog is fairly common, and isn’t defined as a medical condition, but instead as a side effect due to another underlying cause or condition. Brain fog symptoms can include:
- Feeling disoriented
- Lack of mental clarity
- Memory loss
What causes brain fog?
There can be many causes of brain fog. Some of the most common are anxiety, lack of sleep, stress, and hormonal changes.
When you experience anxiety, it interferes with your ability to focus on what is going on in the present moment. Our working memory — what allows us to store new information without losing track of what we’re doing — is affected by anxiety because more cognitive energy is devoted to anxiety instead of working memory.
Stress also plays a role. “Elevated cortisol levels are associated with poor cognitive functioning and impaired memory, which cause brain fog,” says Rashmi Parmar, MD, an adult and child psychiatrist at Mindpath Health.
“Research indicates that burnout and chronic stress could potentially stimulate and enlarge the amygdala (the fear center of the brain), thin the prefrontal cortex, which is used during cognitive functioning, and weakens the connections in the brain that are responsible for memory and creativity,” adds Leela R. Magavi, MD, psychiatrist and regional medical director at Mindpath Health.
What’s the difference between brain fog and COVID-19 brain fog?
Since the start of the pandemic, you might have heard about COVID-19 brain fog. “Traditional brain fog is likely the result of other medical conditions whereas COVID-19 brain fog is direct mental fuzziness due to lingering effects of coronavirus on the brain,” says Dr. Hafeez.
Dr. Magavi adds that the term is also used to describe people who have experienced brain fog as a general result of the pandemic and quarantine, but it may resolve when the world resumes normalcy. The biggest way to differentiate the cause of your brain fog is taking note of when it started. If it seems like it is due to COVID-19, Dr. Parmar says it will likely be accompanied by other key symptoms associated with the virus like loss of taste and smell, headaches, fevers, and trouble breathing.
How do you get rid of brain fog?
Focusing on lifestyle changes like eating a balanced, healthy diet, getting enough sleep, doing regular exercise, and prioritizing self-care can help reduce stress and improve your overall mental state.
Activities such as yoga, meditation, practicing mindfulness, and stretching are all useful tools that can help self-soothe and ground you.
Doing frequent check-ins with yourself and body scans can also help you identify what’s causing your brain fog and address the underlying cause.
One of Dr. Parmar’s favorite techniques to help combat brain fog is the four-step “STOP” method that helps promote mindfulness. It includes the following steps:
Stop or pause for a moment, no matter what you’re doing.
Take a few deep breaths and try to bring yourself to the present moment.
Observe and acknowledge your inner feelings, bodily sensations, and things going on in the outside environment around you. Quickly attempt to understand why you might be feeling this way.
Proceed with your task after having checked in with the present moment, incorporating the knowledge you gained from observing yourself.
The next time you’re feeling symptoms of brain fog, remember to check in with yourself, breathe, and meditate or use the “STOP” method to help bring you back to the present moment.
Click here for the full article in HelloGiggles.
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