Hello my name is Lainie and I have brain fog. Brain fog as described in the dictionary is “usually a temporary state of diminished mental capacity marked by an inability to concentrate or to think or reason clearly.” Basically, brain fog is exactly as it sounds – Your head feels like it’s stuck in the clouds & can’t navigate its way through them. Kind of like being stoned (no vape pens or designer strands) like in the movie Dazed & Confused, but without the munchies & fun.
I’ve always been a bit of a day dreamer (euphemism for space cadet) but lately my brain fog has been getting worse. It goes beyond forgetting random people‘s names 2 seconds after they’re told to me or remembering where I parked my car. These days I’ll forget everything I don’t have a reminder set for, and even then, I need a reminder for my reminder. I’m not sure if my increased brain-fog is another fabulous gift of my new bestie, peri-menopause, or, if it’s caused by my neuromuscular disorder.
Charcot Marie Tooth (more on that & me here). Of course, it could just be all those years of using Sweet N Low has damaged my brain cells. Regardless, brain fog is definitely not a good thing & can lead to other bigger problems.
There have been plenty of posts written about how to get rid of brain fog via medication, nutrition, supplements, exercise, & blah blah blah…But, since nothing has been proven to actually cure brain fog, I went in search of the best tools & hacks that will help me (and you) to better organize our lives, remember what’s important, and focus on the things that truly matter. Below are the ways I deal with brain fog.
PREP THE NIGHT BEFORE
I’m sure you’ve read all the articles about the benefits of creating a morning ritual routine. Although I would love tell you that after waking up from a peaceful nights sleep I take 10 minutes to meditate & 45 minutes to exercise before looking at my phone. Ummmm , not so much.
It’s more like this, I wake up from a restless night’s sleep in a panic (forgot to set the alarm), stomp my way downstairs to the Keurig machine, plop down at my office station (kitchen counter), drink coffee (several cups) while simultaneously checking emails, scrolling through social media and buying random crap on Amazon. Ultimately, feeling guilt for all of the time I just wasted & angst about all the things that need to get done. Who can relate? Leave a comment below!
So, I recently started writing a to-do list before going to bed for the next day. I write 3 things that I know I want to accomplish in this BEST SELF JOURNAL. Although I don’t have the best hand-writing (neuropathy prevents me from creating pretty Pinterest worthy bullet journal pages), it’s empowering to check the boxes when I’ve accomplished the daily tasks I set out to do and filling out the gratitude pages at night has helped me sleep better.
In order to remember the 3 goals I plan to accomplish the next day, I use these fun Knock Knock paper post it reminders and stick them by the coffee maker & other places I can’t miss. Pro-Tip: I also keep this A Out Of Pad on our fridge for everyone in the house to add to when they finish something I need to re-buy from the grocery store.
Lastly in terms of the night before planning, I also lay out my work-out clothing so that I actually put them on & to prevent me from scrambling for a missing sock & using it as an excuse to skip exercise.
Speaking of losing things…..
USE TOOLS & TRICKS TO KEEP TRACK OF THINGS
Forgetfulness is a common & super annoying characteristic of brain fog. Just last month I spent over an hour searching for the birthday gift that I had intended to hide from my husband, not from myself.
If I’m zoning out while walking into a Target or grocery store, you can pretty much guarantee that I’ll have no memory of where I parked my car when I leave. I am starting to train myself to take photos of my environment before getting out of my car. In parking garages I take a picture of the space & floor numbers. In regular parking lots I take a photo of my view from the car to the main door. So far, so good 🤞.
If you often forget where you put keys and other every day objects, experts advise giving each object a designated home base and training your brain to return things to those places when you move them. But If your forgetfulness requires more advanced interventions, you may want to try using this Tile System. Several people with brain fog have told me that using Tiles has been life-changing for them.
When it comes to remembering names, I use one of my old tricks from back when I was online dating like crazy after my divorce. In order to remember the people I was corresponding with (online dating was like a full time job) I would code them in my phone with a one word descriptive like, “Tall Dave” or “Accountant Dave” (there were a lot of Daves). It would probably work even better if the descriptive began with the same letter as the guy’s name, like, “Diver Dave”. But I wouldn’t know since I never spoke to any of the Daves again after the first date.
Speaking of getting rid of things…
CLEAR THE CLUTTER
Due in large part to this best-selling book, The Art of Tidying Up & the tv show by its same name, minimalism & getting rid of clutter is on trend & there are a million & one stores, products, & home organizer type people available to help. But how do you even start if brain fog leaves you feeling exhausted and unmotivated?
You start by just starting.
Similar to my nightly routine of choosing just 3 things I want to accomplish the next day instead of setting myself up for defeat by trying to tackle a list of 50 + things, the same thing can be done with organization & cleaning tasks. It’s best to choose just one small project at a time that will give you immediate gratification when it’s done.
For me this was organizing my email in box. Here are the steps I took :
1. Instead of hitting the delete button on all of the unopened spam, store sales & newsletters I get daily, I took time every day for a week to unsubscribe (some make it very tricky) completely from all the mailing lists I don’t care about.
2. I created a “follow-up folder” in gmail to store all my future to do emails. I asked Alexa to give me a weekly reminder to check my follow-up folder every Monday morning.
3. I created gmail folders with each of my kid’s names on them to store all correspondence that relates to them.
4. I moved all blogs & articles I want to read either on or off line someday into the Pocket App
5. I downloaded the IFTTT App (if this then that) and used it to automate processes like backing up phone contacts, emailing myself notes, & setting up Alexa to be able to make calls & remind me when it’s time to leave for the gym. AH-MAZING..You gotta check it out!
Organizing my in box and reducing the amount of junk emails I get each day has made a huge impact. I am more productive and feel proud of myself for accomplishing what I set out to do. What project will you start with?
The best thing any of us with brain fog can do to improve our memory, productivity, and sanity is to just slow down. In my post, The Best Apps For People With Disabilities, I talk about several tools for practicing mindfulness and keeping track of medications etc.
For people with brain fog, I would add the Be Focused App which uses the Pomodoro technique to break tasks up into small focused time periods. And, although I’m personally a pen & paper person & like using my Self Journal & Family Calendar, a lot of people with brain fog swear by the Cortana Personal Assistant App. You’ll have to let me know what you think of it.
THAT’S A WRAP!
Do you have other tips and hacks for dealing with brain fog? I would love to hear from you in the comments below and on our Facebook & Insta Pages all week. Also, if you liked this post & haven’t yet joined our Perfectly Imperfect tribe in order to get post notifications & our non-spammy, awesome, (if I don’t say myself) bi-monthly newsletter full of tips & fashion, you can do so here.