I’ve recently heard many stories from people suggesting they’re having more trouble staying focused, making decisions, or remembering things. I’ve experienced this myself—misplacing keys, forgetting appointments, and leaving lights on in vacated rooms. When it comes to work, I’m less focused and have trouble getting things done.
Perhaps it’s because I spend so much time online, reading news, shopping, working, and even socializing via Zoom. When you’re constantly staring at a screen—you’re bound to suffer stress and attention fatigue from information overload. Here are some steps you can take to clear the fog away.
1. Become More Intentional About Consuming News
Whether we’re trying and failing to make plans or doomscrolling about climate change or the war in Ukraine, it’s hard to avoid anxiety or catastrophizing about the future. That’s going to impact our brains. Unfortunately, newspapers, TV news programs, and many social media sites make their money by grabbing your attention—and nothing grabs attention better than negative news. But repeated exposure to crises wreaks havoc on our well-being and can lead to bad decision making.
If we want to reduce stress and keep sharp, there are ways to tone down our media consumption and be more intentional about how we consume our news. For example, once you’ve read an update on what’s happening abroad in Ukraine, you might skip watching 24-hour cable news where the same stories are repeated ad nauseam. You might limit your use of social media, as doing so can help you feel less lonely, depressed, and anxious. In fact, taking breaks from technology, in general, could help you focus better at work and elsewhere.
2. Exercise Regularly—Outside, if You Can
One of the best tools for stress-busting or fighting depression is exercise. But it’s also important for thinking more clearly. When we exercise, we encourage blood flow through our bodies, including our brains, which need oxygenation to perform at their best. Sitting for long periods of time without taking breaks to move has been tied to brain changes associated with dementia, as well as poor cognitive functioning. Getting exercise, on the other hand, is tied to better cognition—and even moderate exercise can help us think more clearly and perform better on tasks requiring focus.
If you have a park or open space nearby, try spending some time moving while in green spaces (especially among trees). Research confirms that being out in more natural settings is helpful for our well-being and has positive effects on our cognition above and beyond those coming from exercise alone.
3. Try New Challenges
While many of us have been at our wit’s end during the past few years, we can do something for our brains that’s good for cognition at any time: learn new things. I began learning to speak Greek in anticipation of future travel there. It was certainly a cognitive challenge—one that was fun and, hopefully, will help stave off dementia (which happens to run in my family). You probably know people who’ve used lockdown restrictions as an opportunity to learn to play a new instrument, write poems or stories, study their history, or build furniture.
Using your brain in new, challenging ways is good for neural health, and will help your brain stay healthy. Of course, you should not take on more to do if you are already struggling to keep up with the basics. But noticing opportunities to incorporate new things into your everyday routines—even taking a new route on your walk or trying out a new recipe—could give your brain a fun workout without adding more to your to-do list.
4. Be Kind to Yourself
If you are already trying things to avoid brain fog and still seem to have it, don’t beat yourself up about that. We are living through extraordinary times, and so we need to practice a little self-compassion. That can mean anything from simply forgiving yourself for your lapses (like losing your keys for the nth time) to actively advocating for fewer work assignments (so you can build in a little breathing room for inefficiency).
If you find yourself suffering extreme anxiety or depression, you may want to seek professional help—because seeking treatment is a key way to be kind to yourself. Talking to a trusted therapist can help you figure out how to manage chronic emotional issues better so you can suffer less brain fog. (Therapy is expensive, but you might be able to find agencies in your area that provide it on a sliding scale.)
It’s important to accept that we may not be our best selves right now and that it may be somewhat out of our control. But, if we can keep in mind what feeds our brains in the coming weeks, it may help us regain some clear-headedness as we negotiate the challenges ahead.
Article Credit: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/is_your_brain_foggy_here_are_five_ways_to_clear_it