|By Adrian Sparrow
Brain fog, also known as mental fatigue, isn’t a medical condition but a symptom of other conditions involving cognitive function changes. It can either be a temporary symptom with a temporary cause or a persistent symptom of a chronic condition.
Brain fog can interfere with several cognitive functions, including:
-Memory and information recall
-Concentration, multitasking, and focus
-Situational awareness or alertness
In simpler terms, having brain fog can make you feel spaced out, mentally fuzzy, or not in control of your mind. The world around you might seem unappealing or too complex. Dips in motivation and energy are common. Mental fatigue can be uncomfortable, but identifying the root cause is an empowering step for reducing or eliminating brain fog, letting you see the world clearly again.
Stress causes your body to release neurotransmitters, including adrenaline and cortisol, also known as the ‘fight-or-flight’ response. Your body’s natural alarm system is designed so that you can quickly escape a threat and usually turns off by itself once the perceived threat is gone and your body can return to equilibrium. Adrenaline gives you a burst of energy and alertness. Cortisol enhances your body’s ability to utilize sugars and curbs processes that could be harmful or nonessential while fighting a threat, such as the immune system response and digestion. Your brain is helping your body to extend itself and overcome the threat.
Anxiety and Chronic Stress
When a stressful situation becomes chronic, these neurotransmitters stay in your blood and cause damage because the brain doesn’t know if it’s safe yet. Long-term exposure to these neurotransmitters puts you at a heightened risk of health problems, including anxiety, depression, sleep problems, digestive problems, headaches, impaired memory and concentration, or brain fog.
Brain fog introduces many extra challenges that can interfere with your daily routine. While it can be a symptom of anxiety, having brain fog can also give you something else to be anxious about. Even if you’re consciously thinking about other things, ongoing anxiety and chronic stress are still running in the subconscious part of your brain, using up more energy than you realize.
Treatment for brain fog ultimately involves identifying and treating the underlying cause, but there are also ways to reduce your risk of mental fatigue in the meantime.
Sometimes brain fog occurs due to a lack of sleep. When the body is awake for too long, and your brain isn’t properly rested, it needs more time and energy to focus and solve problems. Avoid pulling all-nighters that can abruptly bring both physical and mental exhaustion and may require extra rest to recover the sleep debt.
Nutrition plays an essential part in brain function. Anxiety can contribute to stomach problems and nausea, making it even harder to eat well. Remember that eating something is always better than nothing. To help your cognition, introduce whole grains, fresh produce, lean poultry, and nuts into your diet. Hydration also plays a vital role in mental ability.
Physical activity offers many benefits, including a boost to your cognitive function. Exercise can help improve sleep, increase blood flow to the brain, and improve memory and reaction time. Just 15 minutes of yoga or walking around the block will help get your heart pumping to clear away the fog.
Certain medical conditions and medicines can cause changes in cognitive function. Conditions that include brain fog as a symptom include anemia, depression, diabetes, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and hypothyroidism, among others. Some medications can also affect your ability to think clearly. If your brain fog results from the medicine you take, talk to your healthcare provider about lowering your dose or changing medications.
The same factors often trigger brain fog and mental illness: Poor sleep, excessive stress, and hormonal imbalances, to name a few. Sometimes you might not know what is causing your brain fog. A mental health therapist can offer an outside perspective and help you work through the root cause of your brain fog and find lasting relief.
- Verywell Mind: What is Brain Fog?