Updated: May 3, 2021
I love games. I love the competition of cards, board games, guessing games, anything really. Pretty sure I was a detective in a former life, looking for clues, figuring something out before anyone else can. Being the one to “know” and come up with the right answer, move, or combination, has always been a challenge I love to take on.
Then came MIND FOG.
Is mind fog a real thing, or even a real term? For many people, it is a term that has become more familiar. That moment when you are trying to recall what you “know” you know, and suddenly, it feels like you no longer know it! It comes back to you eventually, after the meeting or when the guests have left, which isn’t very useful when it’s Game Over.
The other night, a Zoom group started the game of guessing song artists. I usually pride myself on knowing song artists and song titles. It’s my thing, or it used to be?
As they were pulling up songs, I sat there blank-minded for the most part, and it was entertaining watching others struggle to form their responses too. Worse, when it was my turn to test the others, I couldn’t think of any songs the artists sang. We’re not talking obscure artists. Popular artists and songs we all know. Oddly enough, most of us on the call didn’t have the clarity of mind we are used to when put to the test, and the topic of mind fog came up.
Brain fog. Mind fog. Head fog.
By any name, I know I’m not the only one experiencing this void at times. Countless people are struggling to find the right answer or name they are looking for. This mild and intermittent brain fog can be troubling. Is it the pandemic, or because we are taking on more and more responsibilities, and our heads cannot hold any more tidbits of information? Could it be people’s heads are so stuffed with what ifs, stats, and “to do(s)”, most of what was previously in their memory is now stored in the iCloud? They no longer have immediate access to it?
Even younger people are sharing their memory recall challenges. They complain they don’t “feel as sharp” as they used to, or they’d like to. People comment they are finding it harder to get started on a Monday morning or to feel motivated and focused throughout most of the work day. They find themselves forgetting minor details, needing more lists, and researching supplements to support the brain.
A creative high-performing client, who previously described herself, on a busy work week, as “hitting the wall” by Friday midday, now says she drags herself through most of Thursday and Friday. Where she used to be sharp 10 hours a day, she is zoning out by 3 pm most weekdays. She is not alone in describing herself as not feeling herself and struggling to think clearly at certain times. Although for some of us, this haziness can be sporadic and harmless, it can leave many people feeling worried or unsettled.
I’m going to guess today’s mind fog is a combination of many things. We humans like predictability and structure. This is not something we have enjoyed in 2020. This past year has been distressing worldwide. As a population, we are experiencing a collective response to an unknown and unpredictable set of circumstances. It is overwhelming at times. We have added responsibilities of keeping everyone safe, more emails and zoom calls than ever, job searching, financial stressors, online schooling, wiping down our groceries, and my favourite, walking back to the car too many times because we forgot our mask. Better yet, how many times do we turn back to get our mask and forget where we left the car??
When it came to the pandemic, many people used to think there was a sooner end in sight, but when we lost sight of that end, we have been left guessing. People aren't even sure what normal looks like anymore. The population has experienced unprecedented levels of stress and anxiety. Being too busy creates challenges. On the other hand, people also describe experiencing lack of sleep, too much sleep, boredom, and loneliness, as leaving their mind dull and foggy. Being sedentary and/or experiencing depressive symptoms, impacts your motivation to read, socialize, or perform. People may experience waves of clarity and productivity only to be followed by what some identify as a haze.
If you find yourself grappling with mind fog, for the most part, it may only be incidental. However, there are a few things researchers do recommend to promote brain health. Why not try these tips? While they seem common sense, many of us get so busy managing our “what ifs, stats, and to do(s)”, we sometimes forget to use our common sense.
1. Get proper sleep. Don’t sleep too much. Develop a routine. Go to bed at a decent time, wake up at a decent morning hour. Fill your day with whatever you do, to carry you through to your decent bed time you have now set for yourself. If you nap, make it a 20 minute nap. Then back to your day!
2. Eat good foods. Some foods make you sluggish. Minimize the sugar, fats, and caffeine. Increase the fruit, vegetables, fish, vitamins, and protein. Your brain will thank you.
3. Socialize. The people of Sardinia, a place with a large proportion of citizens 100 years of age, identify social interaction as the key to longer life.
4. Exercise. Walk, run, swim, ski, play squash or climb a rock wall. Move. Release those endorphins everyone talks about. Get some blood flowing to your head.
These seem like manageable goals to improve not only your activity level, but you may find yourself thinking more clearly on the whole. Give your mind the right combination of exercise and rest.
If you are struggling with both mind fog and the motivation to do any of the above, reach out for support. There is no shortage of online or in-person support or activities you can access today. Take care of you and your brain will be better for it!