Brain fog is a problem that can severely affect an individual’s cognition and task-performance. If it isn’t properly dealt with, it may cause a person to fall behind at work or underachieve in school. For the majority of individuals, occasional cloudy thinking is normal – it can be caused by simple things such as lack of sleep or overworking. However, when the brain fog becomes chronic, it can be extremely detrimental to one’s self-esteem and image.
Fortunately there are some ways in which a person can learn to overcome this “fog.” Some individuals may respond well to making healthy lifestyle changes such as getting proper sleep, while others may respond better to pharmaceutical intervention as with psychostimulants. If you have severe brain fog to the point that it’s affecting your ability to function in society, you need to learn how to get rid of it.
How to Get Rid of Brain Fog
In order to experience mental clarity, you need to do a little bit of self-reflection. Initially you will want to pinpoint the cause of your brain fog, and come up with viable solutions to correct it, and then implement those solutions to fix the problem.
1. Determine the cause
There are many known brain fog causes ranging from lifestyle factors (i.e. poor nutrition) to medication side effects. It is up to you to do some self-analysis and come up with a list of possible causes for your brain fog. Understand that foggy thinking can be a result of medical conditions, so if you aren’t able to determine what caused it, you may want to work with a doctor, psychiatrist, or neurologist.
2. Come up with solutions
If you were able to pin down a specific cause for your brain fog, you will have a much easier time coming up with a solution. It is important to understand that a solution for one person’s brain fog will not necessarily work for another individual. Someone who is experiencing brain fog as a result of severe stress may benefit from meditation and calming brain activity, while someone who has low arousal (as in ADHD) may benefit from a psychostimulant medication.
3. Treat the cause, fix the problem
After you have come up with some solutions as to what will help treat your foggy thinking, you can implement them in your lifestyle to correct the problem. Simple causes such as poor sleep and nutrition may be easy to correct in the short term, but will require a consistent maintenance in order to fix the brain fog. As soon as you stop working to correct whatever causes your brain fog, it is likely that it will return. This is especially common if you fall back into unhealthy habits.
4. Keep trying new things
If nothing you try works, keep trying things until something finally clears the fog. If you have tweaked your diet, and tried exercise, but haven’t tried something like meditation, you may want to see if it helps. If natural treatment options don’t seem to cut it, you could visit a psychiatrist and test your cognitive speed. If your brain fog is causing you to think slower than average, the psychiatrist may suggest trying a psychostimulant medication like Adderall.
Brain Fog Treatments & Cures
Below is a list of things that have potential to cure brain fog. Understand that certain items such as drugs and caffeine tend to only act as short term cures, providing relief while you are taking them. Over the long-term, you may want to avoid stimulating drugs because eventually you will build up a tolerance to their effects.
Also, during the event of stimulant withdrawal, your brain fog can become even worse than prior to you using the drug. It is always recommended to pursue natural options such as getting better sleep, meditating, exercising, and changing your diet before pursuing more extreme options.
Avoid alcohol / drugs: Alcohol is known to be a CNS depressant, meaning it reduces your arousal, affects judgment, and motor skills. If you are trying to avoid brain fog, you should also reduce (or stop) alcohol consumption. Over the long-term, frequent consumption of alcohol will alter brain functioning and neurotransmission – making it difficult to maintain optimal focus. Additionally other illicit drugs as well as prescription drugs that depress the CNS should be avoided.
Brainwave entrainment: In the event that your brain waves are slower than average in certain parts of the brain, entrainment is an option. Although not everyone will respond to this form of treatment, some studies suggest that using isochronic tones to stimulate production of beta waves can help treat the mental fogginess associated with low arousal.
Caffeine: The majority of people turn to caffeine to stimulate them mentally and physically. A large percentage of people throughout the world use this legal stimulant in the morning to help them start the day with increased energy and focus. It can work quite well, but over time people will develop a tolerance. Should a person stop using caffeine, they may experience a more severe brain fog than before they started using it.
Diet: Are you eating enough food throughout the day? The brain needs energy from food to function at its best. If you aren’t providing it with the nutrition that it needs, your clarity of thinking and focus will suffer. Many mental illnesses and cases of brain fog are partially caused by improper nutrition. Eating healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, nuts, and whole grains is thought to be ideal for mental health.
Exercise: The psychological benefits of exercise go beyond improving mood. In many cases getting enough exercise can improve our ability to think and learn new things. Additionally, cardio exercise is known to be associated with neurogenesis (the growth of new brain cells); this is thought to be healthy for the brain. In some cases, getting adequate exercise can significantly reduce foggy thinking. Just make sure you aren’t overexercising as this could contribute to worsened fog.
Meditation: Not all types of meditation will help clear brain fog. In fact, certain types may make the problem even worse. Concentration meditation, which tends to increase focus is ideal if you want to improve your focus and cognition. This involves focusing on one specific object for a period of time. The more you practice this type of meditation or other types that require specific focus, the more you’ll enhance this trait and decrease the cloudiness.
Natural supplements: There are many natural supplements that are thought to help with focus and clear brain fog. For starters, I recommend checking out the article I wrote called “Adderall Alternatives” in which I detail natural treatments that have been found beneficial for ADHD. Many of these treatments also will be effective for treating brain fog – as there are many parallels between fog and attention-deficits. Many people have found supplements like L-Tyrosine, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Zinc, Magnesium, and Vitamin B6 to be beneficial in cases of attention deficits.
Neurofeedback: This is similar to biofeedback in that you are given feedback of the brain waves that occur throughout your brain. If you try neurofeedback, a professional will hook your brain up to an EEG (electroencephalograph) and observe your brain waves. If you have abnormal brain waves in certain portions of the brain such as too much theta activity in the prefrontal cortex, the professional will help you correct this problem. Neurofeedback works by giving you positive feedback when you naturally produce a certain brain wave – thus helping you “learn” to naturally create that particular feeling.
Sleep: If your sleep has been poor, you may need to consult a professional or find out how to correct the problem. Although oversleeping and/or too little sleep may be symptoms of a larger issue, for many people sleep gets neglected. With busy work schedules and/or a hectic family life, it’s easy to put sleep on the backburner and not get enough. Take the time to track your sleep in number of hours you get per night. Tinker with the number of hours to find out what amount gives you the best mental performance.
Stimulants: Taking stimulants such as Adderall, Ritalin, and Vyvanse are thought to help clear “brain fog.” They work by increasing the amount of dopamine in the brain and stimulating the central nervous system. This results in increased mental alertness, improved cognition, and performance enhancement. If you have any type of ADHD and/or a condition resulting in psychomotor slowing or fatigue, a doctor may recommend trying a psychostimulant. These drugs can be highly beneficial for treating brain fog, but should only be reserved for severe cases that do not improve with alternative forms of intervention. Also keep in mind that when a person stops taking a stimulant, they may experience a “crash” – resulting in even worse brain fog. For further information read about an Adderall crash and Adderall withdrawal.
Stress reduction: Stress is a known culprit for contributing to increased brain fog. If you have become excessively stressed due to your environment, lifestyle, and/or circumstances, make a conscious effort to reduce the stress. Consider going to therapy, partaking in relaxation exercises, and do whatever you can to reduce the stress response. Too much stress changes our hormones and clouds our ability to think.
Work hours: How many hours are you working per week? If you are overworking yourself and aren’t getting enough time to recover, you may need to cut back on work to regain some energy and peace of mind. Some people may be able to tolerate a large workload, but many people burn out and the “burn out” is what leads to brain fog and reduced mental performance. If you need to scale back on the number of hours you are working, it may be beneficial for your mental health.
Clear Brain Fog: Consider Multiple Treatments
For best results, you may want to consider a combination of the treatments listed above. These days, everyone wants a quick-fix and the easiest possible solution. Some things on the list above may take time and dedicated practice before you begin to feel mentally clearer. Stick with a certain treatment option for at least 4-weeks before dismissing it as being an ineffective option for your particular case.
For example, it may take several weeks of your body getting proper sleep before it reestablishes a normal circadian rhythm and readjusts itself. Usually a combined treatment approach will work best to help you overcome the fog. If none of the above works as a monotherapeutic approach, chose a couple items that you think will work best based on your individual circumstances. Also consider consulting with a professional if you suspect that something like depression, sleep disorders, or other mental illness is contributing to the brain fog.
If the fog is being caused by a medical condition or a genetic one, making environmental and lifestyle changes will only help to a certain extent. Eventually you may want to pursue taking a medication to help get the brain fog under control – especially if it is caused by severe anxiety or depression. Have you ever had to deal with brain fog? If so, feel free to discuss how you overcame it and/or what helped you manage it by sharing a comment below. Even though not all cases of brain fog are the same, sharing your solution may really be beneficial for someone else.