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Tips to help you clear up brain fog

Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022
A woman experiencing brain fog

Have you ever felt like your mind is clouded and not as sharp as it used to be? You might be experiencing brain fog. Brain fog is a common term used to describe how people feel when their thinking is sluggish and unclear.

What is brain fog?

Brain fog affects your ability to think. You might find it more difficult to focus, remember things, plan, or solve problems in everyday life. When our thinking is not clear, simple tasks can become challenging. For example, you might have a hard time planning a trip to the grocery store, remembering the ingredients to add to your meal, or keeping track of all the appointments on your calendar.

People can experience brain fog for many reasons. It can be from stress, tiredness, or a lack of sleep. Certain health conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, migraine, menopause, and viral infections (e.g. cold, flu, COVID-19) are also possible causes of brain fog.

Brain fog affects many people. Research shows that over 80% of people who tested positive for COVID-19 experience brain fog. And it continues to affect up to 20% of these individuals even after they have recovered from physical symptoms like cough and fever.    

How to clear up brain fog?

Taking charge of improving one’s health is known as self-management. It is also considered as the best way to manage brain fog in patients with long COVID-19 symptoms. Here are some small positive changes to your body, mind, and lifestyle that may help to clear up brain fog:

Your body

Strengthen your body: tiredness and fatigue can lead to brain fog. Boost your energy with regular physical activities, such as walking, running, and yoga.

  • Save energy: energy conservation is an effective way to reduce tiredness and fatigue. Here are its four key principles:
    • Pace yourself: keep the activities short. Take breaks and give yourself more time to complete tasks.
    • Prioritize your tasks: focus on activities that need to be done on that day.
    • Think about positioning: choose sitting instead of standing for longer tasks, such as cooking and showering.
    • Plan ahead: break down bigger tasks into smaller ones, and slowly increase its length and intensity. Set aside time in your schedule to rest.

Learn more about the four principles of energy conservation.

Difficult easy sign

Your mind

  • Exercise your brain: working your brain is an important step in keeping it healthy. Puzzles, memory games, reading, and even household chores are all beneficial for your brain. Start with simple tasks before moving on to more complex ones.
  • Use reminders: reminders also help with your memory. Write important information down or take a picture. Make a checklist for your errands. Use the reminder or alarm function on your phone to remind yourself of medications and break times.

Your lifestyle

  • Adjust your environment: reduce the noise in your environment. Use natural light as much as you can for your room and workstation. Add lamps or ceiling lights for extra lighting.
  • Better sleep, less stress: your ability to think can be affected by sleep quality and stress level. Have a regular sleep schedule and a good bedtime routine. Relieve your stress through activities such as mindfulness, progressive muscle relaxation, and breathing exercises.
  • Build support and connection: many people with brain fog have a hard time reaching out, just because its symptoms are less visible compared to a physical injury. However, it is important to share your experience with your family and friends, so that they can better understand and support you.

Our ability to think is important for everyday tasks, and brain fog can greatly affect our quality of life. Remember that you are not alone. Many online communities now offer peer support groups for people who are experiencing brain fog.

If you feel like you need support, please reach out. Check our locations page to find a clinic near you or book online to schedule an appointment.

Peer support resources

This blog was written by Rona Guo, an occupational therapy student from McMaster University.

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