Learning how to improve concentration and applying specific techniques can help kick the foggy feeling.
If you have brain fog — like issues with memory, concentration, or thinking — it may be a daily battle to remember even the most basic of tasks you need to do. Whether the cause is from lack of sleep, medication, COVID after-effects, or something else, that’s where concentration tricks can come in handy.
This post will cover what brain fog is, how it impacts work and other activities, and simple ways to get a clear brain boost.
What Exactly is “Brain Fog”?
While technically not a medical term, brain fog is a descriptor individuals may use when they aren’t feeling as sharp mentally. Perhaps you’ve experienced this after taking a dose of a certain medication. It’s the feeling that you’re not quite on top of your game mentally.
Brain fog can involve:
- Memory loss
- Inability to focus
- Poor concentration
- Lack of mental clarity
Some people may describe it as their brain being tired, almost as if it’s had an extensive workout.
What Causes Concentration Loss or Brain Fog?
There are a variety of situations and external elements that can cause issues with concentration. Every person has a different reaction to events and circumstances, which is why what may trigger one person’s memory issues won’t be a problem for another.
The most common factors that may cause concentration issues:
- Lack of sleep
- Excessive drinking
- Certain mental illnesses
Additionally, physiological stressors can also create cognitive concerns. Inflammation, abnormal protein build up, and blood vessel injury from high blood pressure can all impact the brain’s ability to process.
How COVID is Tied to Brain Fog Issues
Sadly, some COVID-19 survivors have seen an increase in difficulty performing mental tasks. In fact, 81 percent of coronavirus sufferers in one particular study experienced brain fog, according to 2021 research by the American Neurological Association.
The COVID-19 virus in particular has been linked to serious health conditions beyond the respiratory system. Unfortunately, the virus has been known to cause brain damage through strokes and lack of oxygen to the brain. Up to 20% of recovering COVID patients still experience fatigue, memory loss, and poor attention spans weeks after their recovery.
While researchers are still trying to understand the correlation, there are some theories behind why those infected with COVID-19 suffer from brain fog.
A few of the reasons:
- Lack of oxygen from lung damage
- Inflammation impacts brain cells
- Invasion of infectious cells into the brain
- Lack of blood flow to the brain
Even months after they start to feel better, the memory issues seem to creep back up, states the Cedars-Sinai, a nonprofit academic healthcare organization based in Los Angeles.
Additionally, new, non-peer reviewed research from the California National Primate Research Center and the Rotman Research Institute in Toronto also suggests the virus directly infects neurons in the brain. This may explain why some individuals experience symptoms long after their COVID infection.
Chinese researchers have also found that the longer-term, more subtle issues like impairment in sustained attention spans are causing issues in COVID “long-haulers” as well. This may be due to underlying inflammatory responses in the body, according to the research.
How Brain Fog Can Impact Work and Other Activities
When you’re trying to re-learn how to improve concentration, it can be a frustrating and long process. The treatment will depend on the cause, and with COVID-19, much is still being learned about the virus and how it impacts the human body.
Brain fog may:
- Cause irritability
- Create confusion
- Make it difficult to complete tasks
- Make it harder to recall events, facts
When it’s hard to recall what you’re doing in the middle of a project or where you were driving to, it can become a problem for living a normal daily life. If you’re struggling with getting tasks done, confused by directions, or feel extremely fatigued often, let your loved ones and supervisor know. They may be able to help you and provide cues or reminders to keep you on track.
A check-up with a doctor can also get you on the right track as well.
How to Improve Concentration With Ease
As time goes on, more treatment options will become available, but at a minimum, trying what one can to improve concentration is better than doing nothing.
In the meantime, whether you’re dealing with COVID-19 brain fog or another cause of brain fog, giving yourself time can help. Additionally, a willingness to try various methods and treatments can also help you find a solution sooner.
Some of the recommended ways to improve concentration include:
- Be social - As proven by the pandemic, it’s essential for our mental well-being to be around others. Take time to get together with friends and loved ones often to improve your overall health, not just your brain health.
- Explore aromatherapy - Believe it or not, certain smells can help you focus. Lavender and peppermint essential oils in particular are found to help the brain. Need to study and improve concentration? Try lavender. Completely exhausted and need a brain boost? Try diffusing some peppermint.
- Eat brain food - Healthy foods can do wonders for the body and brain. Eggs, avocados, blueberries, and citrus fruits are all known to boost cognitive function.
- Make time for aerobic exercise - As you know, exercise is good for the body, including the brain. This is because it promotes blood flow which increases oxygen to the brain. Even if you have to start slow (because you’re a beginner or even recovering from COVID), even a few minutes is better than nothing.
- Get quality sleep - Sleeping enough allows your body to take time to heal and also repairs cells. Ensure you get enough sleep (most adults need 7 to 8 hours nightly) to keep your mind sharp and refreshed.
- Try meditation - This ancient practice is known for clearing the mind and improving the brain. Meditation increases blood flow to the brain, which can lead to better recall and improved memory. Kirtan Kriya meditation, in particular, helped one group of participants.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs - Substances like alcohol and drugs damage brain cells. Both also interrupt the way neurons send and receive neurotransmitters in the brain. Alcohol can worsen memory issues for binge drinkers who may blackout.
Try any of the above listed ideas to see if it helps your brain fog. Some may work better than others, and some may require a time investment (i.e. eating well) but can be well worth it if it gives back your clarity.
Worried About Brain Fog? Talk to a Doc
Lastly, if you’re concerned about brain fog issues, it’s time to talk with your primary doctor. There may be other underlying issues that you need to be tested for or rule out, including early-onset dementia and other health conditions.
There have been some studies where physicians recommend a small dose of a stimulant generally reserved for those with conditions like ADHD. If you’ve tried the above methods, consider a chat with your doctor about the potential benefits of a low-dose stimulant or other alternative.
If your brain fog is significantly impacting your life and ability to do daily activities, get to your doctor ASAP. They may recommend further testing or a visit to a neurologist for further guidance.
Do you or someone you know deal with brain fog? What tips do you have on how to improve concentration? Share in the comments below!