Work can be stressful, but even more so when you find it hard to retain information and focus on what you’re doing. Many people who find themselves in a “brain fog” find that they forget things easily, have a hard time making sense of new tasks, and even lose their focus when doing things that are a normal part of their job. This can not only lead to decreased productivity and problems with the boss and co-workers, it can also lead to a great deal of self-directed frustration.
This loss of focus can also affect someone’s home life. Family members can become upset when they realize that you’re easily distracted and forgetful of things they tell you. Housework can become even harder and the things you usually like to do, like reading or crafting, become tough with the loss of concentration needed to do those usually enjoyable things.
This “brain fog” is more common than you think. If you’re finding your concentration is suffering and that things that should be easy are getting harder, try some of these simple steps before seeking advice from a doctor or therapist.
1. Decrease your fat and sugar intake – Even if you’re not diabetic, too much sugar can affect your body and your mind. High levels of sugar can leave you easily distracted and can make it hard for your mind to process information. Eating meals that are high in fat make you feel sluggish. A tired body and a tired mind make doing anything productive near impossible. Choose healthier options for meals and snacks, like low fat versions of your regular meals and sugar free snacks. Instead of candy, opt for fresh fruits instead. Keeping yourself healthy will improve your focus.
2. Stay hydrated – Not only can not drinking enough water leave you sluggish, but your brain needs that hydration to keep you thinking clearly. Aim to get your recommended eight glasses of water daily. Keep a bottle full at your desk to sip throughout the day. If the thought of plain water doesn’t appeal to you, try some of the flavored waters on the market, many with no calories and sweetened with Splenda or other sugar substitutes. Low sugar juices are okay for hydration as well.
3. Increase your physical activity – A regular workout routine helps your physical well being but it can also help with your mental well being. Some experts believe this is because lowered blood pressure and better circulation help the brain function better as well. Another reason is that emotional well being is triggered by endorphins released from vigorous physical activity. If depression is having an effect on your daily concentration, exercise can counteract it, leaving you more focused and ready to tackle tasks both at home and at work.
4. Do puzzles in your free time – Sometimes we lose our focus because we don’t use our mind enough. Nights spent in front of a television, while perceived as relaxing, can stunt our ability to solve problems and think critically. Spend some time working puzzles. Crosswords, sudoku, and word searches are standard types found in magazines and newspapers. Jigsaw puzzles are fun for some people. Others enjoy lateral thinking puzzles that give them a mystery with a “think outside of the box” solution. Any puzzle that makes you think is good for keeping your mind sharp, and the process of solving them will help hone your concentration skills.
5. Check your medications – Though you’ll want to check with your doctor on this one, the medications you take can make your mind fuzzy and put you into a state of decreased concentration. For some medications, there’s no alternative. Others, like anti-depressants, have several different forms that work for different people and may affect you differently. Medicines for pain are a prime reason why many people have a hard time functioning mentally. If you suspect your drugs are making your mind hazy, ask your doctor for alternative remedies.
6. Take your vitamins – “Brain fog” can simply be a matter of your body not having everything it needs to function properly. Even what we think are well balanced diets can be lacking in something important. Take a regular multi-vitamin to keep your mind in working order as well as your body. Certain herbal remedies on the market claim to help sharpen your concentration, so talk to your doctor to see if any of these might be right for you. Sometimes something as easy as taking a daily iron pill or other form of vitamin can be just the thing you need to get your focus back on track.
Be aware that when simple things don’t work, your health care provider may have other solutions for your lack of focus. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Being forgetful or “flighty” doesn’t mean your old or “air-headed.” There may be very good reason you can’t focus. The sooner you find a way to regain your brain power, the sooner you can get back on a healthy mental track.