What is mental fog?
When you think about “mental fog” or “brain fog,” you probably recognize the symptoms -- those feelings of being forgetful and unfocused. It’s where memory, focus, and learning new things become a chore.
“The Fog” may affect students in school, young adults as they navigate the pressures of balancing jobs, relationships, and family, and midlife and older adults as their brains and bodies age. And of course, disease can affect anyone at any time.
You might feel clear one day and then foggy the next if you didn’t get enough sleep. Or the change can be more gradual if due to dietary changes or underlying health issues. Finding lasting mental clarity can be tricky, because it’s easy to slip into a foggy or fuzzy state without even noticing the changes. It’s helpful to check in with yourself regularly--do you feel 100% clear? Course correct early and often.
Checking in with yourself
The challenge is taking action at the first sign of fog. If the experience of feeling more “fuzzy” than usual resonates with you, the first step is to look at your lifestyle, diet, and medical history.
Assess your lifestyle
In thinking about your lifestyle, here are some of the common thieves of mental clarity:
- Added sugars
- Lack of Sleep
- Hormonal changes
How's your sleep hygiene? While yes, you want to aim for the expert-recommended 7-9 hours per night, this is not another area where you should be beating yourself up for not sleeping “enough.” If you’ve got night shifts or constant interruptions in sleep schedules of your kids or a partner, we feel for you. Additionally, a lot of people struggle to sleep through the night. The key is to gently help your body relax and unwind from the stresses and anxieties of the day before you arrive at bedtime. We’ve got lots of ways to help with that.
Beyond sleep, are you giving yourself enough downtime to unwind? The important thing is being able to calmly process all that you absorb during the day--without relying on coping devices that numb you. Look for what can truly refresh you and your mind.
Assess your Nutrition
What are you eating... really eating? Track what you're eating for a day or two and see if the reality matches your perception. This can help you ascertain next steps to increase nutrition. If you also track how you feel day to day, you’ll start to see whether you get brain fog after eating certain foods or beverages. Fast and processed foods and high in saturated fat, for example, are well-known to interfere with cognitive processing and increase risk of neurological dysfunction. It’s important to “get real” about the frequency and volume of foods in your life.
Beyond knowing what to avoid, are you getting enough of what you need to think clearly?
Some specific substances that help clear mental fog include:
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Certain amino acids
Additional ingredients we use that are shown to support cognitive function:
- Acai Berry
- Ashwagandha Root
- Ginkgo Biloba
- Holy Basil
- Rhodiola rosea
Just by tracking your food and experimenting with how you feel, you will feel more empowered to make adjustments. Rather than always seeking to eliminate foods from your plate, focus on adding in the foods and supplements that will help you flush out metabolic waste faster. When your body is well-nourished and fully supported, it has the added effect of making you desire some of the less wholesome and less nutritious options out there.
If you notice something seems off, but you’re not sure what to change, you can bring that food log to a nutritionist or registered dietician. They can make customized recommendations faster if they have an accurate picture of what, when, and how much you typically eat, as well as how those foods make you feel.
Notice your medical history
Give some thought to your own medical history and that of your family. Has anyone in your family suffered from similar issues with fuzzy thinking? If so, that’s a good indication that you should monitor your mental clarity on a regular basis and you may want to reach out for help.
If you’ve tried a few things but nothing seems to be working, or if your symptoms seem severe or particularly worrisome, please consult your medical provider. You may need an assessment of specific biomarkers for gut and thyroid health or tests to determine your overall physical and neurological state.
The important thing here is to empower yourself to take care of your health in a holistic fashion. That’s an important part of the Almeda lifestyle.
Following are our three top tips for finding true mental clarity.
Get enough sleep and relaxation.The CDC recommends you keep a consistent bedtime; ensure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, comfortable, and free of electronic devices, and that you avoid large meals and alcohol before bedtime. Avoid too much caffeine overall, and any caffeine after early afternoon,
- Move in ways that feel good to you. Get your heart rate up every day. Move some lymph and keep the blood pumping well! You may want to explore dance or take a new group class as a way to break old routines. But even something as simple as walking for 30 minutes per day can be underestimated.
- Address nutritional deficiencies. It’s common that if you aren’t getting enough B Vitamins, especially B12, you will feel like you are dragging. Also, you should be getting a variety of foods on a fairly regular schedule -- especially whole foods that feel good and give you lasting energy. Your brain needs fat, protein, and micronutrients. If your brain isn’t getting what it needs, your whole body will know it.
If you’re feeling unclear, the good news is that there are many steps you can take to bring true mental clarity. While it may feel overwhelming at first (especially as you’re dealing with fuzziness and fog!), focus on taking the most immediate first step. Then build on that momentum to create the clear-headed, optimal life you crave.