We all have those days. Whether it’s raining, or we didn’t get enough sleep, or we’re just plain out of it—sometimes, we’re temporary zombies. That feeling when your mind is cloudy, you can’t seem to focus or get organized, and you’re just kind of aimlessly existing, that’s brain fog.
Though not a medical condition, brain fog is the name we give to the symptoms listed above. These symptoms can come from anywhere! Stress, medical conditions, diet, dehydration, or medications. If you’re experiencing chronic brain fog, that’s definitely something to talk to your doctor about. But if you just experience it from time to time, we’ve got some solutions for you! Consultant health psychologist Dr. Sue Peacock of Well aHead gave us some tips on how to clear that fog.
Take a Break
Science suggests that your adult brain can effectively concentrate and focus up to 90 minutes before needing a 15 minute break, due to the alertness cycles, before it starts “wandering” to these surroundings. Other studies have found that even a micro-break of a few seconds will work, provided it is a total distraction—in the studies, people did a few seconds of mental arithmetic, so you may have to do something more intense than staring out of the window. The more we know about the brain, the clearer it is that stress is the enemy of concentration (Arnsten, Rakind, Taylor & Connor, 2015). So, take the time to do whatever it takes to feel calmer and more in control, and, with luck, the work will take care of itself.
Sweat It Out
If you feel yourself lacking in concentration or just flagging, often just by getting up and moving will help. If you can get outside, all the better. This is because moving your body helps wake up your mitochondria, these are the parts of your cells that generate energy. Some exercise such as a brisk walk several times per week can make your mitochondria double in size, which helps the body produce more energy. The combination of fresh air and exercise also stimulates blood flow to the brain so you can regain clarity and focus.
Have a Laugh
Scrolling through funny cat videos on social media may actually be good for you. Some psychologists think that laughter may put us in the right mood for work. This is because staying focused on difficult or challenging work takes willpower. Studies show that having a good laugh will boost your will power and conclude that work places should encourage a more playful environment (Cheng & Weng, 2014).
Most people are chronically dehydrated. Studies show dehydration can slow down brain function. Think of a plant, when we water it, it perks up and so do we!
Keep Essential Oils Handy
Citrus or spicy scents will stimulate our nervous systems and re-energise you. Perhaps keep a small bottle of lemon essential oil in your desk drawer and either inhale from the bottle or add a drop to a cotton ball or hanky to refocus your mind.
Take a Nap
According to the National Sleep Foundation, a quick 20 minute nap will improve alertness, performance, boost creativity and refresh your mind. However, don’t let yourself sleep for longer as you will feel groggy. If you constantly need to nap, you need to sleep longer at night.
Dr. Sue Peacock is Consultant Health Psychologist registered Health and Care Professions Council. She is an Associate Fellow of The British Psychological Society. Dr. Peacock has a PhD in psychology, is an advanced Hypnotherapy Practitioner, an EMDR practitioner and has diplomas in Neuro-linguistic programming and life coaching. You can find her here.
Featured image: @jeffyamazaki