A lot of us have experienced the weird feeling that is called brain fog: The feeling of tiredness, “cloudy-headedness”, lack of mental clarity and lack of focus.
I suffered from brain fog for a long time before I even knew that there's a term for it. But the more I learned about it, the more sense it made. There couldn't be any better expression for describing this condition. It was a real thing!
Even though it's not a medical condition and for this reason is a little hard to define, you may know what I'm talking about.
It's almost like being too drunk for long period of time, but not exactly. It's similar to being super sleepy, but not really.
You get sober from being drunk by the next day and if you have had only one sleepless night, you are probably able to fix it with a good nine hours of sleep.
Brain fog lasts longer than one day. You can't fix it by just changing one little thing, because usually there are more reasons for why you have it. But you can start taking steps toward getting better right now.
As I said, I suffered from this weird feeling of tiredness, boredom, lack of focus and mental clarity for years without even realizing that there was a problem.
I only discovered that I had it, when I started to get over it.
Here is what happened:
1. I Started To Eat Fat
This was a major game changer for me. You can read about my experience with avoiding fats and how it affected me here.
Starting to eat more fat didn't happen accidentally. I got into it when I was trying to improve my sleep.
I had had sleeping issues for years and I was really sick of them. I was ready to try anything to get my sleep back. When a new friend of mine told me that he had been struggling with sleeping disorders for years, but after trying “Clean“, he sleeps like a baby, I decided to give it a try.
And I did.
“Clean” is basically a 3-week cleanse program. I won't go into the details of this diet now, but one thing that I did, thanks to this cleanse, was increasing my fat intake.
I made smoothies with almond butter for breakfast and dinner, used coconut oil and olive oil for cooking my lunch, had nuts and avocados for snacks and two tablespoons of olive oil before the bed.
My worst fear at the time – gaining weight – did not happen.
What happened was incredible mental clarity. About seven days into this program I could think so clearly that I hadn't been able for years.
I was writing my Phd thesis at the same time, and had to read ton of articles that had been really difficult for me. All of the sudden, everything got so much easier. I could read, write and learn things so much faster.
Eat your fats, really.
2. I Started Sleeping Better
Together with the above mentioned cleanse came good sleep, which was the reason that I tried the diet out first place.
I ate a lot of raw food, a little bit of grass-fed beef or wild caught fish every day, organic fruits and lots of good fats. I also made sure that I have 12 hours fast before my evening and morning meals.
My sleep improved significantly.
I vividly remember the time when I woke up in the morning and realized that I had slept for eight hours straight. After all theses years! I must have had the biggest smile on my face! It was an amazing feeling.
Needless to say, getting back into normal sleeping after having almost forgotten what a good rest is was a huge thing. Of course it affected my mental state as well.
Sleep is meant to restore your energy and rest to your nervous system. Being awake night after night is extremely exhausting. After a sleepless night you are not able to pay attention on anything, work, drive your car, do your workouts, nothing.
Now imagine being in a state like this for weeks and years. Even better, imagine how it feels to finally overcome it!
Good sleep is crucial for your mental well-being and brain health. There are not too many things you should put before your sleep. Sleeping well every night helped to clear my mind, be more aware and focus so much better.
3. I Changed My Exercise Habits
Working out has always been my drug of choice.
It has helped me when I've been sad, sick and tired, confused, mad, anything. It has also doubled my happiness when things have been good.
But as I have mentioned before, there were times when went a little overboard with it. I wasn't listening to my body when it was tired, but instead, jumped out of bed before the sunrise (well, I wasn't sleeping too much anyway) to run my 7-12 miles.
Every single day.
Working out was something that I needed, and let's face it, it's one of the best things you can be addicted to, if you have to be addicted to something. I used to be a person who gets addicted to things (still not completely over it, but getting better).
But a lot of times I was exhausted of running so much. However, I didn't say it out loud to myself. Lack of proper nutrition and poor sleep didn't help either. So I would come back from my run and be able to do… nothing. I was just too tired. I couldn't think clearly, it was really hard to focus on my school work or deal with my issues.
Now as I've changed my workout habits a bit, I no longer feel this strange foggy feeling in my head.
I still wake up pretty early and start most of my mornings with a little exercise, but it's not necessarily 12 miles run any more. Most mornings it's a light 30-minute podcast walk or a light jog, but it wakes me up instead of making me exhausted.
I get some fresh air and a boost of energy from moving just a bit. I really need it, because it's really hard for me to get up from the bed and immediately plant my butt in the chair for the next hours. A nice little walk energizes me just perfectly.
I workout later, around noon and most of the time I'm done in 20-30 minutes.
I still do my long runs from time-to-time, usually on the weekends when I don't need to work later on that day and have more time for the workout and recovery.
For many people lack of exercise can be part of the reason why they have brain fog. For me, it was exercising too much and in a wrong way.
Find what works best for you, but make sure you get some physical activity to keep your body happy and your mind clear.
4. I Reduced My Alcohol Intake
Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a big fan of wine and bubbly. Oh yes I am.
Wine tasting in Livermore
There used to be times when I had adult beverages a little too often, say, four to five times a week. But I guess that's a part of the exchange student life, right?
I also used to have a glass of wine nearly every evening at that time of my life when I was very depressed. Knowing that something is wrong with my life but being unable to point out what it is and how to fix it was frustrating. Wine seemed to help, et least for coupleo f hours.
But the truth is, alcohol made my brain fog only worse.
It made me feel better for some time, but altogether, it didn't help.
You may think that the glass of wine won't affect you that much, but you should try to leave it out for a period of time and see how you feel. I am almost positive that your mind clears up. If not in one week, then in one month. And it only gets better.
It was about one and a half years ago at new year's eve when I, for some reason, realized that despite all the festivities and celebration, I didn't really want to drink. My stomach was a little sore that evening too, so I only had a glass of bubbly and called it a night.
Somehow it stuck and from then on, I went months having a drink only very rare occasions. I felt better and better all the time. My mind cleared up amazingly.
I would think faster, process things faster, write faster, learn faster. Everything was faster. I really needed it since I was still writing my thesis that required extreme concentrating and work.
I learned to notice more things, I got more sensitive – in a good way, I got more mindful and focused.
I still do drink my wine, but usually once a week or so. Even then, I sometimes feel a little brain-foggy the next day, but it's okay. Again, I leave it for the weekend when I don't usually work.
Just like there is no medical description for determining brain fog, there is also no a magic pill that your doctor can describe you to cure it. And thank god for that, because we're taking too many pills anyway. Also those three cups of coffee that you down in the morning, won't help you.
What helps you is treating your body right – giving it good food, exercising reasonably, giving it proper rest and not poisoning it with substances that are hard to handle.
Once you experience how much different you can feel when your brain is clear, you start to sense and notice things better, be more present, learn and understand things faster. This is an amazing feeling that you want to keep.
Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links, but they are for products that I totally recommend.
Do you ever experience brain fog?
What do you think causes it?