Today I wanted to talk about a symptom that I think many of you will understand. I live with it every day and personally, it drives me crazier than many of my other symptoms. I can handle the dislocations. I can handle the pain (mostly). But the dreaded brain fog drives me absolutely crazy! I know this is also a big problem for many of you out there, so I wanted to share some tips on how to combat/manage the dreaded brain fog.
It affects everyone differently; some people will have it more severely than others. Despite having millions of people complain of symptoms, brain fog isn’t something that’s hugely understood by the medical world. We do know that painkillers, chronic exhaustion and pain are all factors. First, though, I wanted to share what it feels like for anyone reading this who doesn’t know what it is or doesn’t live with it:
When the word you want to say is on the tip of your tongue, but you just can’t remember it? That, but all the time.
When you walk into a room and forget what you went in for? Every. Damn. Day.
Losing focus after a few minutes and not remembering what the original task you meant to complete was.
Other symptoms include short concentration span, confusion, forgetfulness, mixing up or forgetting words, severe short term memory. It cripples productivity and stops creativity in its tracks. So I’ve put together some of my top tips for managing this fury-inducing symptom!
PUT PEN TO PAPER
My house is filled with post-it notes, notebooks and scraps of paper. Partly because I love stationary, but mostly because my short-term memory is so poor that I keep notes of pretty much everything. From lists of tasks for the day to notes from a phone call with my doctor – I jot it all down. I have shopping list stuck to the fridge, so when something runs out I just add it to the list. I have checklists for my daily physio routine so that I am always certain if I’ve done it or not. You don’t have to be old school like me though, there are tonnes of amazing apps like Wunderlist and Evernote that can do the same thing (and more). Do what works for you!
I am a big fan of physical planners and calendar app. I try to put events in both, even if they don’t seem very important at the time just so I know it’s always there to refer back to should I need to. For example, if I have to call the bank I’ll take notes during the call and once I get off the phone I will write it down in my planner or make an event in the calendar app and add the important bits. For work and personally, this process has saved me on a number of occasions when my memory totally failed me and left me fumbling in the void. Plus if the police ever question me about a murder, I’ll have my alibi sorted.
TIDY SPACE, TIDY MIND
There is a huge amount of research showing that a messy environment increases stress hormone, cortisol. Not to mention it’s just really distracting. When there is clutter or mess, your brain doesn’t know where to start and this can easily feel overwhelming. Try to declutter your space ideally, but if can’t or don’t want to then try to get organised. Personally, I use lots of little baskets and small bags to organise the various products I use throughout the day. I have a little basket full of my ‘morning routine’ products, then similar for the evening. My nail polishes all live in one box. All my makeup is in one large basket. This makes the flat look nice and tidy, but also means I never need to spend long thinking about where something is or looking around.
GET SOME HEADSPACE
When you struggle are living with chronic illness and pain, stress and anxiety can hold a big shadow over your life. We know that mindfulness can help immensely with both, but what about brain fog? The same principles apply. When you work on consciously slowing down your thinking, quieting your mind and concentrating on just your breathing for an extended period of time is hugely calming. Those few minutes of stillness and solitude have a knock-on effect on both your focus and alertness for the rest of the day! It’s not easy and it is very much a learned skill. Don’t be deterred if it feels ‘silly’ the first few times or your mind keeps wandering. You will get there eventually, just stick with it!
These are just some of my tips and to help you manage your brain fog. They might not work for everyone so you may have to get creative. If you have any awesome tricks that you use to help ease your symptoms, get in touch!