Brain fog, while not technically a medical term, can be a hugely inconvenient, stressful, and draining state to exist in. Brain fog is often characterized as a lack of concentration, mental exhaustion, and sluggishness. It may also present as difficulty multitasking or recalling memories. For those who experience it, managing brain fog often comes down to a combination of a few tactics. 21Ninety spoke with Dr. Ankrehah Trimble Johnson, DO, a board-certified family medicine physician and international public speaker to understand the best way to beat brain fog.

What to Know about Brain Fog

Typically, brain fog is pretty hard to define. This is mostly because it coincides with so many other symptoms such as fatigue and experiencing out-of-the-ordinary cognitive difficulties. For instance, it could be forgetting everyday things such as names of people you know and where you’ve placed your keys. As a result, it is pretty hard to diagnose, which comes with its own host of complications for those impacted.

If you’re uncertain about whether you have brain fog, you can usually tell by a general sense of fuzziness in the brain. If you think you’re experiencing short-term memory loss or your ability to pay attention has seen a significant dip, then this may be a sign of brain fog.

Another thing worth noting is that studies have found that brain fog is linked to long COVID symptoms. Recent studies reveal that those who have experienced long COVID are likely to experience issues with brain fog, memory loss, and healthy cognitive functioning.

Causes and Symptoms

For some, the symptoms of brain fog may be easy to spot, but for others, it may be slightly less clear. For Johnson, the symptoms she is most used to noticing with patients are “forgetfulness and trouble focusing”. It is also important to recognise that the combined symptomsmay give you an overall feeling of ‘cloudy thoughts’. This can be confusing for some as it correlates to general expectations of aging. Some may even mistake the symptoms for dementia. The most important difference is that brain fog refers to short-term memory loss and temporary attention difficulties.

Johnson shares that some of the main causes of brain fog include “insomnia, depression, menopause, pregnancy, and, most recently, post Covid (a long COVID symptom)”. Other causes that may overlap with health conditions include side effects of sleep and pain management medication, sleep disorders, eating disorders, and hormonal changes linked to menopause.

Expert Tips on Brain Fog

There are many ways to beat or lessen the effects of brain fog son your everyday life. The first step is understanding and naming your symptoms. Johnson offers some expertise to help make the path to mental clarity easier.

  • Take mental breaks often. Think of these as short breaks to give your brain a rest to refocus. Rest is a huge support for brain health and so it will provide your mind with the rejuvenation you didn’t realize it craved.
  • Treat the underlying conditions and take the medications if recommended by your healthcare provider. 
  • Improve your sleep habits. Honing in on good sleep hygiene and developing a regular sleep schedule may help immensely. If sleep issues persist, consider seeing a sleep specialist.
  • Be intentional about eating a balanced diet and getting daily exercise. The power of a balanced, nutritious diet and regular movement shouldn’t be underestimated in supporting cognitive (and overall) health.
  • Make to-do lists and write down important information so you don’t forget it! This tip will help remove the added frustrations that come from brain fog-related forgetfulness.