Brain Fog: Strategies to Navigate the Fog at Work

Let’s explore practical strategies to help you navigate brain fog and stay focused and efficient throughout your workday.
Brain fog: person feeling stuck behind the fog.

Introduction

We’ve all been there – the frustrating feeling of staring at a computer screen, struggling to gather our thoughts, and grappling with the notorious “brain fog.” It’s a common challenge that many of us face as a result of hormone-related issues. But, fear not; there are effective ways to manage it and boost productivity at work! 

 

In this post, we’ll explore practical strategies to help you navigate brain fog and stay focused and efficient throughout your workday.

Practical Strategies

Prioritise Sleep and Restful Breaks 

Quality sleep is the foundation of mental clarity, and aiming for 7-9 hours of restful sleep each night is a great place to start. We know that can be easier said than done sometimes, especially if you’re battling hormone-related sleep problems. But, according to Matthew Walker, author of  ‘Why we Sleep’,  it is perfectly ok to make up your 7-9 hours during the day if you’ve experienced a disrupted night. That sounds like a great reason to nap – not that we needed one! 

 

Additionally, taking short breaks during work hours to recharge can be helpful. But, it’s so easy to forget to take breaks, especially when we’re in the throes of life and work! We recommend scheduling regular breaks in your calendar or setting reminders on your phone, and making sure you give yourself at least 15 mins between meetings (if you can). 

 

A brisk walk, deep breathing exercises, or a few moments of mindfulness can do wonders for mental clarity and easing brain fog. Or, if you have access to a quiet space, you could even get your head down for a 10 minute power nap. Why not pop a sleep mask, noise cancelling ear phones and something cosy (sweater, scarf, cardigan) in your bag to help you nod off.

 

Take Regular Screen Breaks:

Extended screen time can lead to digital eye strain and mental fatigue. Implement the 20-20-20 rule – every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.

 

Manage your Expectations:

When our brain isn’t cooperating with us, it can feel incredibly frustrating. Tasks that are usually a breeze seem complex and laborious, and things often take longer than usual or require additional support. This can set off a spiral of self-deprecation, where we start beat ourself up for not being on our A-game, and the frustration perpetuates. 

 

Instead, while we’re working within these limitations, reframing our expectations in line with where we’re at is much more supportive. Instead of saying “I’m so rubbish, I can’t do anything today” try “OK, today feels tricky, so I’m going to focus on X [most urgent and important task – see below!] and do what I need to do to look after myself.”  

 

Identify the Single Most Important Thing:

Setting clear, achievable goals for the day can be helpful, as well as breaking larger tasks into smaller, manageable chunks to prevent overwhelm. If you are feeling particularly ‘foggy’ or fatigued, identify the absolute minimum you need to do on your ‘to-do’ list (the single most urgent and important task that can’t wait!) and focus on that. Asking yourself “what’s the single most important thing I need to do today?”,  “what is the best use of my energy today?” or “where can I add the most value today?” can be really helpful. 

 

Share the Load:

Alright, let’s tackle that overflowing to-do list with three power moves: Prioritise, Delegate, and Communicate!

 

Start by getting everything down on paper. Then, give your tasks a color code: red for urgent, orange for important, and green for things that can wait a bit.

 

Feeling like you’re drowning in red and orange? It’s time to tag in your support team! Identify those heroes who can swoop in and lend a hand, or better yet, take a task off your plate entirely. We’re all in this together, and asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

 

If things are really spinning, set up a chat with your manager. They’ve got your back (or at least, they should have). Research from leading Organisational Psychologist, Brene Brown, even shows that leaders have greater trust in employees who ask for help! So, don’t be shy about reaching out and getting the support you need.

 

Utilise Productivity Tools:

When brain fog strikes, embrace technology to help you stay organised and focused. Calendar apps, task management tools, and note-taking applications can be invaluable aids in managing your workload and offsetting bran fog. We are big fans of OminiFocus, Trello and Asana. And, if video is your thing, try VideoHighlight to speed up your note taking, research and analysis. 

 

Use the Cornell Method for Note-Taking: 

Brain fog can make assimilating information difficult and we can often feel like conversations go in one ear and out the other. This leaves us open to forgetting and misunderstanding, which can cause problems later down the line. 

 

One thing we recommend to support yourself in meetings and training is the Cornell method for note-taking.

 

Divide your paper into three sections: a narrow left-hand column, a wider right-hand column, and a space at the bottom. In the right-hand column, jot down the main points and key information. In the left-hand column, write concise cues or questions related to the material. After the meeting, use the cues in the left column to review and test your understanding. The bottom section can be used for summarising the main takeaways. This method not only helps capture critical information but also promotes active engagement with it, enhancing your comprehension and retention.

 

Stay Hydrated and Nourished:

Proper nutrition and hydration are crucial for optimal brain function. Avoid excessive caffeine and sugary snacks, opting instead for balanced meals rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.

 

Move your Body:

Regular physical activity boosts blood flow and oxygen to the brain, improving cognitive function and reducing brain fog. Even a short daily workout can make a noticeable difference.

 

Fuel your Brain:

 

Nutrition is an important factor when it comes to cognitive function, so we thought it would be helpful to share some supplements that have been suggested to potentially help with brain fog. Remember, while these supplements may offer some potential benefits, they are not a substitute for a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle. Also, individual responses to supplements can vary, so it’s important to consult a healthcare professional for personalised advice. They can also monitor for any potential interactions with other medications or supplements you may be taking. 

 

Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish like salmon and in fish oil supplements, are important for brain health and may support cognitive function. [1]

 

B Vitamins: B vitamins, including B6, B9 (folate), and B12, are essential for proper brain function and may help reduce cognitive decline. [2]

 

Ginkgo biloba: an herbal supplement, has been used for cognitive enhancement and may help improve memory and concentration. [3]

 

L- Theanine: an amino acid found in tea leaves, may have calming effects and could improve focus and attention. [4]

 

Rhodiola rosea: an adaptogenic herb, may help reduce mental fatigue and improve cognitive function. [5]

 

Acetyl-L-carnitine: an amino acid, may have neuroprotective properties and support cognitive function. [5]

Seek Professional Help:

If brain fog persists and significantly impacts your daily life, consider consulting a healthcare professional. There could be underlying health issues contributing to your cognitive challenges and it’s not something you should ignore. 

 

Conclusion

Managing brain fog is a journey that requires a combination of adjustments and mindful practices. By implementing practical strategies and giving yourself grace when you need to, you’re on the path to navigating brain fog more effectively at work. Remember, you’re not alone, and we hope these simple steps help you conquer the fog and thrive in your professional endeavours.

Are you looking for more useful resources to navigate Menstrual Health and Menopause in the workplace? Check out our resource hub – it’s full of free resources that make navigating women’s and AFAB health in the workplace easier.

Sources

1 Yurko-Mauro, K. et al. (2010). Beneficial effects of docosahexaenoic acid on cognition in age-related cognitive decline. Alzheimer’s & Dementia, 6(6), 456-464.

2 Kennedy, D. O. (2016). B vitamins and the brain: Mechanisms, dose and efficacy—A review. Nutrients, 8(2), 68.

3 Oken, B. S. et al. (1998). The efficacy of Ginkgo biloba on cognitive function in Alzheimer’s disease. Archives of Neurology, 55(11), 1409-1415.

4 Haskell, C. F. et al. (2008). The effects of L-theanine, caffeine and their combination on cognition and mood. Biological Psychology, 77(2), 113-122.

5 Darbinyan, V. et al. (2000). Rhodiola rosea in stress induced fatigue—a double blind cross-over study of a standardized extract SHR-5 with a repeated low-dose regimen on the mental performance of healthy physicians during night duty. Phytomedicine, 7(5), 365-371.

6 Spagnoli, A. et al. (1991). Long-term acetyl-L-carnitine treatment in Alzheimer’s disease. Neurology, 41(11), 1726-1732.

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