Are You Suffering From Brain Fog? Here's How to Cope With It at Work

a woman stressed at work

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Anouare Abdou for Hive
Anouare Abdou for Hive
Have you ever walked into a room thinking “What did I come in here for again?”. That’s what brain fog feels like, but for longer periods of time, according to David Culpepper, MD, the clinical director of LifeMD,
“It’s possible that you’ve had times when you felt groggy, sluggish, unable to fully focus, and even confused. A frequent name describing sensations of forgetfulness, loss of attention, and confusion is brain fog,” adds Sean Byers Medical Advisor at Health Report Live.
Brain fog is a real thing, and when it happens at work, it’s not the most conducive to being productive. Below is everything you need to know about it – including ways to cope with its effects in the workplace.

How brain fog affects you at work.

At best, brain fog makes you slower and less efficient. At worst, it causes you to drop balls and burn bridges. “Because of forgetfulness and the inability to concentrate, a person can perform their tasks more difficult, slower, and even worse at work. Because of a bad mood, they may distance themselves or spoil their relationship with colleagues,” says Dr. Rosmy Barrios, an MD and medical advisor for the Health Reporter. “Likely, prolonged brain fog can negatively affect performance at work, and the job itself may no longer bring pleasure if it did before in the first place.”

What causes brain fog?

To understand how to manage the symptoms of brain fog, it’s important to get an idea of what may be causing yours. It’s not so clear-cut, and there are many possible factors behind it, but looking into your lifestyle and habits is a good first step.
“Typically, brain fog is the result of overwork, too much stress, or a lack of sleep; but in the modern day and age, too much time on computers and smartphones can contribute—all of the scrolling we do, plus constant checking of emails and texts, leads to the fragmentation of our concentration, which can manifest as brain fog,” says Culpepper.
Anxiety and dehydration can lead to brain fog too, according to Byers. “Because anxiety consumes more cognitive resources than working memory, anxiety has an impact on our ability to store new information without losing track of what we’re doing,” he says. “Basically, memory loss occurs when you are mentally fatigued. You might be thirsty or hungry, or you might need to hydrate yourself. You can also feel stressed out because of work or an assignment that’s coming up.”
Your eating habits and sleep hygiene could also be the culprit. Not to mention poor boundaries in the workplace. “An unhealthy diet, smoking, lack of quality sleep, and overwork wear out the body and mental health, making you feel tired and forgetful,” says Barrios.
Finally, if you’ve had COVID you may be experiencing brain fog as a lingering effect. 22% to 32% of patients who recovered from COVID-19 still experience brain fog, according to Harvard Health Publishing.

Tips to cope with brain fog at work.

Don’t despair though: Regardless of what is causing you to feel foggy at work, there are steps you can take to be on your way to feeling sharp, focused and productive again. Culpepper says one of the best things you can do to fight against brain fog is getting enough sleep – yes, even if you have a looming deadline. “Another thing you can do during the workday is to take regular brain breaks; remove yourself from all screens for 10 minutes or so, and if possible, close your eyes and meditate,” he recommends. “Meditation is very easy to learn and can do wonders in terms of shutting down the extra channels of chatter that are causing your brain fog.”
Barrios suggests cleaning up your diet and adding lots of Omega-3 fatty acids into it, as well as incorporating exercise in your daily routine. Training your brain can help too. “Memory and thinking tasks such as Sudoku or crosswords help a lot when experiencing brain fog. These games not only train your brain but can also be a great form of meditation to help you deal with stress.”
In other words, address your diet, exercise, and sleep patterns – and look into stress-management techniques. Take regular breaks while at work, focus on one task at a time, and reduce your screen time as much as possible outside of the workplace. If those things don’t make a difference, it might be a good idea to consult a doctor.
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This article originally appeared in Hive — the world's first democratically built productivity platform. Learn more at Hive.com.

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