How to Deal With Chronic Stress and Brain Fog
Chronic stress takes a toll on virtually the entire body, but usually the first place it is noticeable is from the effects it has on our brain. Specifically, our cognition suffers.
Brian fog is when our mental capacities become fuzzy. We forget things, live life in a dream-like state, or cannot remember simple words. It can affect people differently.
Sometimes, those around us who are accustomed to the way we are, may notice marked changes in our mental abilities. However, sometimes it goes unnoticed by other people, especially if they do not know us well. This can lead to frustration, and feelings of being misunderstood.
Stress and brain fog
Brain fog directly relates to an active, long-term, stress response in the body. When we are stressed, our body switches off non-essential functions, and prioritises those which will help us survive. So, functions like memory take a backseat, and enhanced blood flow takes priority.
But stress does not need to take hold of our brain and cognition. There are things we can do to restore our mental prowess. Perhaps the most essential of these is to reduce your level of stress or anxiety.
However, in the meantime, if you are suffering from brain fog, read on and see how you can reduce chronic stress burden and reclaim your life...
Women are often perceived as multitaskers, while men are not, and to an extent this is true. However, as a species we are pretty poor at multitasking, because it requires an optimally functioning mind to do this.
So while you may be able to wash the dishes while cooking, as they only require light mental work, you may not be able to do calculus and write a novel at the same time. You need to dedicate yourself to one task at a time.
Multi-tasking is similar to having a PC and running numerous processes at the same time. The memory is challenged, and so individual processes lose efficiency. They run slower than if run alone.
With the mind, stress induces changes to the brain that reduce learning and focus, and instead prioritise emotional responses. So, do not attempt to work on multiple big projects when under a lot of stress. It will overwhelm your mental capacity. Instead, do one thing to completion, then focus on another task.
Do intense work early in the day
Chronic stress does not eliminate our ability to focus or remember things, but it does make it harder. One way to combat this is to perform your most complex tasks early in the day. Upon waking, your mind will be much more capable of doing this task efficiently. So, if you have to study for an exam, complete work, write a few pages, do it soon after you wake up.
Making lists can also help. When you get up, write down a small list of essential tasks that you want to complete today. Then use it as a prompt to keep you motivated, and on track, through the day. Try using post-it notes around the house. This can be a good way of reminding you to check in with how you are feeling, each time you see them.
Stop worry and thinking
Mental overload coupled with a high stress levels will lead to a rapid decline in cognitive abilities. So, it is a good idea to take a step back from a restless mind.
When we are going through stressful times, we can overthink things, and struggle with anxiety or constant worry. Switching off our constant mental chatter becomes a priority, but it can be difficult to just stop thinking. This is when meditation can offer great help.
Meditation quiets the mind, and will gradually, yet effectively, reduce your levels of stress. It is a great way to focus your mind, as opposed to dwelling on things as there is nothing you can do about them at that moment in time.
Practice mindfulness meditation: Be thankful for things you have, and don’t obsess over things that may, or may not, even happen. Meditation will also have the end goal of helping you focus and concentrate on a single task, thus improving your mental capacity, and reducing brain fog.
Forming associations to reinforce memory can seem simple, but when all else fails go back to basics. Associations act as a failsafe mechanism for your memory when mental recollection is difficult.
Think of associating smells with something- for example, you need to visit the supermarket for pumpkin later in the evening, but keep forgetting for days. Luckily, the office has the scent of pumpkin spice candles around all day. These small associations can help encourage growth of neuronal connections and help compensate for the memory deficits induced by chronic stress.
Stress does not even need to become chronic. Get enough sleep, make time for relaxation and laugh often. These little things go far to help reduce stress load. Eat a diet rich in whole foods, and you will be halfway home.