health

Your ‘Brain Fog’ Could Be Cleared Up By Making These 9 Everyday Changes

by Laura Caseley
Laura is a writer, illustrator, and artist living in New York City.

Most of the time, you’re probably pretty on-point. You’re observant, able to process information, and maybe even able to crack some witty jokes at the same time.

But then sometimes, it seems like you’re struggling to make things out through a thick fog. You forget simple details, have trouble focusing on what’s going on, and just feel like you’re lost in the world.

Maybe it’s combined with moodiness and fatigue, or maybe it’s just a nagging feeling that something is just off. What’s going on?

You might be experiencing what’s known commonly as “brain fog.” While the symptoms, duration, and severity will vary from person to person, it’s something that happens very frequently.

And while it’s not usually anything very serious, it can be a sign that something else needs to be addressed. It can also be a symptom of menopause, or a sign that you might need to revamp your nighttime routine for better sleep.

If you’ve ever felt foggy in the brain (and let’s be honest, it happens to the best of us), check out what might be causing it below, and learn some tips on how to manage it so you can be your brightest, sharpest self.

Cover photo: Flickr

What Is "Brain Fog"?

Feeling brain fog
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

Brain fog is any feeling that prevents you from operating at your best. It’s most commonly felt as fatigue, irritability, trouble concentrating, forgetfulness, headaches, and difficulty sleeping.

It can also manifest as an anxious and/or depressed feeling, and can make people feel unmotivated and somewhat hopeless.

Needless to say, it’s no fun.

What Causes It?

Yawning
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

All kinds of things can cause brain fog, including lack of sleep, dehydration, being overworked, stress, poor diet, and long periods of standing.

Inflammation, which is a subtle overworking of the immune system, is also a cause.

Some women also experience brain fog due to hormonal changes, such as before their periods. It’s also very common with women going through menopause.

What Can You Do To Keep Brain Fog Away?
Brain-Clearing Tip #1: Watch Your Sugar Intake

Thinking twice about eating muffin
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

Sugar is a great source of energy, but only for a time.

In fact, sugar addiction can make the lows between eating sugary foods feel even worse, leading to that sluggish, despondent feeling.

If you find that you rely on sugary treats, or even worse, artificially sweetened treats, as boosts, reconsider your snacking habits.

Brain-Clearing Tip #2: Eat Plenty Of Healthy Carbs

Eating an apple
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

Everyone likes to freak out about carbs, but when eaten right, they do wonders!

Carbohydrates are broken down by the body into sugars, providing you with energy to get through the day.

Carbohydrates are also linked to the release of serotonin, a hormone that makes you feel content and happy.

To keep energy and serotonin, eat unprocessed carbs like fruit, sweet potatoes, raw dairy, and whole grains.

Brain-Clearing Tip #3: Eat Plenty Of Protein

Cutting up grilled salmon
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

You can’t live on carbs alone. Our brains require protein, amino acids, and fatty acids to function properly.

Fatty acid imbalances also lead to inflammation, mainly from refined vegetable oils.

Make sure your diet is rounded out with complete proteins like lean meat, fish, and eggs.

Grass-fed meats and wild-caught fish are best for getting omega-3 fatty acids.

Brain-Clearing Tip #4: Consider Your Fats

Eating slice of avocado
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

Your brain needs fat, too, but the right kind!

Fat intake is actually really important for your health, and is crucial for not only brain function but also long-term energy levels.

Healthy (and tasty) fats include olive and coconut oils, avocados, and nuts and seeds.

Brain-Clearing Tip #5: Learn To Manage Your Stress

Relaxing with a book
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

It’s not just nutrition that causes your brain to get foggy and slumpy.

A lot of that foggy feeling is also a response to stress; it’s like your brain getting overwhelmed and going on a bit of a strike.

Stress causes release of cortisol, which can lead to inflammation, weight gain, and depression.

So find a way to release your stress every day. It can be through writing in a journal, meditating, or by simply doing something that makes you happy.

Brain-Clearing Tip #6: Exercise

Going for a run
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

Exercise is a great way to reduce stress, and it’s also a great way to get your blood moving, balance your hormones, and improve insulin resistance.

It will also help you get better sleep, and all of these things are great for keeping fatigue at bay.

Brain-Clearing Tip #7: Cut Down On Alcohol And Caffeine

Drinking tea
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

Caffeine is a stimulant and alcohol is a depressant, and taking too much of either one (or both) is a surefire way to disrupt your body’s natural rhythms, interrupt sleep cycles, and cause inflammation and damage throughout the body.

You don’t have to give up your morning coffee or your drinks with friends, but watch your intake. If you feel off, cut back a bit and see if it helps.

Brain-Clearing Tip #8: Make Sure It's Not An Allergy

Might be allergic to apples
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

Fatigue, a depressed mood, and a feeling of fogginess also happen to be common symptoms of allergies.

After all, allergies and inflammation are essentially the same thing: your immune system acting up too much.

If you find that brain fog seems to come on after eating certain foods or at certain times of the year, you may actually have an allergy.

If you think an allergy’s to blame, talk to your doctor about allergy medications.

Brain-Clearing Tip #9: Get Enough Sleep!

Going to bed at 10
Morgan Swofford for LittleThings

Sometimes, the most obvious answer is the one that helps enough. Feeling tired? Get some more sleep, then!

Sleep is seriously not a luxury. It’s an incredibly important part of the health of your mind and body.

Be sure to get at least six hours of sleep every night, and try to go to bed at a reasonable hour, especially if you have to get up in the morning.

Do you ever suffer from brain fog? Let us know your experiences, and what got you through them, and SHARE these tips with anyone who’s been feeling foggy lately!