12 of the Most Surprising Things That Helped People With Brain Fog
Any medical information included is based on a personal experience. For questions or concerns regarding health, please consult a doctor or medical professional.
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“Brain fog” is a term commonly used to refer to the cognitive dysfunction that can be a side effect of illness, medication, pregnancy or menopause. This type of cognitive dysfunction typically involves memory problems, an inability to focus, poor concentration and a lack of mental clarity, which can make work, school and your everyday responsibilities more challenging to navigate.
One of the most frustrating aspects of brain fog, especially for those living with it long-term, is that there’s no cure or “one-size-fits-all” treatment that can mitigate the effects of this symptom. It can be tricky trying to find coping mechanisms that actually help.
While there are plenty of tried-and-true options out there (who doesn’t rely on Post-it notes or their phone’s Notes app?), these methods may not cut it on extra “foggy” days. That’s why we turned to those with chronic illness and asked our Mighty community to share the most surprising thing they tried that actually helped with their brain fog.
Of course, everyone is unique so what works for one person may not work for another. But if you’re looking for some new products or techniques to try, the following suggestions may give you a few ideas!
Here’s what our community recommended:
For many with chronic illness, brain fog can be a side effect of medications or even a direct symptom of the illness itself. But food can also play a role in cognitive functioning – whether a person has a chronic illness or not. Certain foods – including complex carbohydrates, nuts, seeds, eggs, leafy greens and beans – have been proven to help reduce the impact of brain fog. While they might not banish it completely, snacking on some of these foods might help lessen the fog.
“I snack a little [on] protein items; this helps to keep me less tired and I can focus more on my surroundings,” Mackenzie Porter told us.
Buy the raw almonds above for $6.99 from Amazon Fresh.
Acupuncture is a type of traditional Chinese medicine that involves the insertion of very thin needles through your skin at strategic points on your body. Many Western practitioners use the acupuncture points to stimulate the body’s nerves, muscles and connective tissue with the ultimate goal of relieving pain and discomfort associated with various illnesses and pain conditions. Some people say acupuncture helps relieve symptoms of brain fog, improves memory and lets them think more clearly.
If you’re curious about acupuncture but not ready to commit to the needles, another option is acupressure – a similar treatment, but the sharp points don’t actually pierce your skin, meaning you can buy an acupressure mat (like the one featured above) and try it out in the comfort of your own home.
“In a word, A C U P U N C T U R E!! I told her I was having memory issues [due to] MS and menopause. It was like someone plugged me in!!” Mighty member mrsv1991 told us.
Buy the Bed of Nails acupressure mat above for $59.99 from Bed Bath & Beyond.
3. Planning Your Schedule in Style
Marking every appointment, chore and important event on a calendar is a task most folks with brain fog are likely familiar with. But if you’re still struggling to plan out your week or remember the day’s to-do list, perhaps you’d benefit from adding a bit of personal flair. Maybe colorful stickers like the ones featured above can help jog your memory about what’s going on that day, or perhaps leaving room for photos or mementos can help document past days and remind you what happened when.
“I have a huge date book that I use as a calendar, pill/chore/apt reminder and as a scrapbook. I got a ton of custom stickers off Etsy… everything from a toilet bowl cleaning wand, laundry basket, a woman washing her hair, a cricket for when I have to feed my lizard, and each of my nieces and nephews have their own sticker for days I spend with them,” wrote Julia Olzinski. “It helps me pace myself with chores but also on days I don’t do much from pain, I can keep track of my pain and not ‘forget’ the day due to inactivity.”
Buy the planner stickers above (300-ct.) for $4.13 from Etsy.
4. Listening to Music
Certain types of music have been said to bring clarity and focus, helping the listener concentrate more deeply on the task at hand. Dr. Masha Godkin, a professor in the department of marriage and family sciences at Northcentral University, explained, “Music activates both the left and right brain at the same time, and the activation of both hemispheres can maximize learning and improve memory.” She said it’s best to stick with classical or meditation music since there are no distracting lyrics.
“Music!” wrote Christopher Haskins. “My favorite music touches my soul. Listening to it perks me up, clarifies my mind, and drives away the distractions. Now, what was it we were discussing again???”
Buy the noise-canceling headphones above for $59.99 from Amazon.
5. Drinking Water
Drinking water is essential to your health for many reasons, but with the human brain composed of 73 percent water, staying hydrated is an important aspect of cognitive functioning. One study conducted by researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology found that just a 2 percent loss in body mass due to dehydration could start affecting a person’s cognition, leading to an inability to pay attention or concentrate.
Pam Frazier suggested, “Lots and lots of cold fresh water.”
Buy the water bottle above for $15 from Amazon.
6. Using Smart Home Devices
Smart Home devices are a quick and hands-free way to take notes, create reminders and set notifications. You can record notes or check your notes whether you’re in bed, cooking dinner or resting on the couch.
“Our Google Home is amazing because I can set reminders using voice command as soon as I think of them,” wrote Terri Di Mauro.
“Alexa!” added Mariposa Rebelde Gitana. “I was so hesitant at first, but my BFF gave it to me since some days I am bed bound. I have set up reminders for meds, appointments, reminders to make appointments, a reminder on the day of the appointment, LOL, etc.”
Rachel Opersteny wrote, “My Amazon Echo! It’s so easy to say, ‘Alexa, remind me to take my medicine every day at 9 p.m.’ when I am first prescribed a new medicine… and at 9 p.m. every day she will remind me out loud at the house and send a notification to my phone so I see it even if I’m not home. I no longer forget to take my meds. She also reminds me when all my appointments are, and is great for the Pomodoro Technique as well.”
Buy the Echo Dot above for $29.99 from Amazon.
7. Bullet Journaling
The Bullet Journal methodology was originally developed by Ryder Carroll, a digital product designer and author who was driven to find alternate ways to be focused and productive after being diagnosed with learning disabilities at a young age. The “BuJo” methodology is intended to help you be organized and productive while also practicing mindfulness and intentional living.
“I have been using a Bullet Journal for a couple years,” explained Jamie Elkins Hanson. “I created my personal weekly spread in Google docs of the things I want to track and need to do. I print and keep in a nice binder [featured below].”
“Bullet journaling has been amazingly helpful so far!” added Kaelynn Bogart.
Buy the journal above for $24.95 from Bullet Journal.
8. Going for a Walk
People often talk about going for a walk as a way to “clear their mind.” For those with brain fog, this could mean enjoying the benefits of some light physical activity or simply taking a break from whatever you’re focusing on at the moment. Studies have shown exercise can help enhance cognitive functioning and improving alertness and concentration. If walking isn’t an option, check out these seven simple exercises you can do in a wheelchair or sitting down.
“Honestly, going for a walk when my head starts to get foggy. Something about being outside and moving helps me shake up my brain fog a little bit,” Haley Quinn explained. “If that doesn’t help, I usually try to take a quick ‘caffeine nap’ — drink something caffeinated and then take a 20-minute nap.”
Buy the sneakers above for $70 from Skechers.
9. Recording Audio/Video
If you struggle to keep up during important events or conversations, recording audio or video allows you to revisit the discussion at a later time and jog your memory about any key moments you may have forgotten. Just be sure to get permission first from anyone you plan to record!
Saylor Antle told us, “Recording things, like class lectures. I struggle with remembering things, so recording lessons and then writing a ‘to-do’ list helps me keep myself on track.”
Buy the digital voice recorder above for $52.99 from Best Buy.
10. Playing Brain Games
Brain games and puzzles aren’t just a fun and engaging pastime – they can actually help “exercise” your brain to improve cognitive functioning and help keep some of the fog at bay. The National Stem Cell Institute recommends exercises that focus on sharpening memory, comprehension, focusing and executive function.
“Using fidget toys and playing brain games such as Sudoku,” wrote Mighty member shaynesdreamteam.
Lidia Katalin Malone added, “Doing the puzzles in the daily newspaper!”
Buy the Sudoku book above for $8.56 from Amazon.
11. Utilizing the Pomodoro Technique
The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method developed in the late 1980s by Francesco Cirillo. You select a task you’d like to get done, then work on that task for 25 minutes. When the timer goes off, put a checkmark on a paper then take a 5-minute break. After you’ve completed four 25-minute sessions of work, you can take a longer break for 20 or 30 minutes. This method is intended to help reduce distractions and improve concentration, which may be helpful for those struggling with brain fog.
“The Pomodoro Technique (working on only one task for 15 minutes and then taking a 5-minute break) helps me get through tasks when I’m having trouble focusing for long periods of time,” wrote Chelsea Winot.
Buy “The Pomodoro Technique” book above for $13.56 from Amazon.
12. Not Fighting the Fog
It may seem counterintuitive, but some of those with brain fog have found that not fighting against the symptom has helped them manage it. It’s important to note though that not fighting the fog, or accepting the fog, does not mean you’re “giving in.” As Mighty contributor Jo Moss explains:
Acceptance is not giving up, it’s simply an acknowledgment of the situation. Acceptance is saying, “OK, here’s the situation. I accept that I am here.” It’s about recognizing your limitations and being at peace with how things are right now.
Changing the way you approach brain fog may or may not have an impact on the severity of the symptoms – but it might make those symptoms just a bit easier to cope with when they happen.
“I just roll with brain fog,” said Rebecca D Davis. “If I fight against it, then I’m just more tired after. I just accept that words are going to escape me, that I’m going to forget things. So I just grab the closest word I can find and say it.”
“If I forget something, I don’t try to figure out what I forgot,” shared Mighty member Madie. “Every time I try to remember, I can’t, and it’s a lot easier to admit that you forgot.”