Cognitive Clarity at Work: How to Combat Brain Fog and Stay FocusedOct 10, 2023
Cognitive Clarity at Work: How to Combat Brain Fog and Stay Focused
Imagine this: You’ve got a day of back-to-back meetings, including a presentation to the senior leadership team, and your brain decides it’s on a delay. You’re having a hard time concentrating, your usual quick problem solving skills are operating in slow motion, and you’re just a little more tired than usual.
You’ve entered a brain fog cloud and can’t see the way out.
The Brain-Fog Battle
We've all been there – those groggy mornings, sluggish afternoons, and the feeling that our brains are wrapped in a dense fog, all seeming to come at the worst possible time.
This goes double for my ladies out there of a certain age. It’s not discussed much in work environments but the transitional phase leading up to menopause brings a host of changes and hormonal fluctuations, including more frequent instances of brain fog.
The timing is especially annoying because, for most women, this age is also when you’re really hitting your professional stride and ready to further lean into leadership and general career related kick-assery (definitely not a real word but you know what I mean).
Wait, there’s hope.
The good news is, we don’t have to stand by and feel victim to it or just wait for things to clear up again. Let's dive into some practical ways to prevent and recover from fogginess, especially on busy workdays.
We’ll start with some short term tactics in case you’re in it right now. Also included in the list are things you can do today that will reduce the chance of fog tomorrow.
- Hydrate. Simple, cheap, and effective: drink more water. Dehydration can lead to difficulties in concentration, memory, and decision-making. Even mild dehydration has been shown to affect cognitive performance, making it harder to focus and think clearly. For clarity of mind, stay hydrated. Please note, a side effect may be more frequent bathroom trips which is actually an excellent thing because mini breaks from the screen and movement are also strategies for dealing with brain fog.
- Take Mindful Mini-breaks. Don't underestimate the power of short breaks. Schedule regular pauses during your workday to stretch, breathe deeply, and clear your mind. Even a 5-minute break can do wonders for your focus.
- Get Moving. Physical activity isn't just for the body; it's a brain booster too. Engaging in regular exercise will improve blood flow to your brain, release those feel-good endorphins, and enhance your cognitive function. And when a full exercise break isn’t possible, just move. Take a walk, do a few air squats, or stretch in your tightest muscles to generate a little heat and energy in your body.
- Fuel Your Brain with Nutrient-Rich Foods. I can't emphasize this enough – proper nutrition is your secret weapon. Opt for brain-boosting foods like fatty fish, leafy greens, and antioxidant-rich berries. Incorporate lean proteins into your meals for sustained energy throughout the day and avoid the temptation of sugary snacks--they will only make the fog thicker.
- Limit Distractions. Multitasking may seem efficient, but it often scatters your focus. Minimize distractions – close unnecessary tabs, silence notifications, and create a dedicated workspace free from interruptions.
- Set Clear Goals. In the days of non-stop emails and pings on Slack or Teams, it’s way too easy to lose your time (and your mind!) to reactionary work. See tip 5 (limit distractions) and then take 10 minutes to reset on your daily objectives. Break tasks into manageable chunks and prioritize them. Clear goals provide a sense of purpose, keeping your mind sharp and focused.
- Prioritize Quality Sleep. Adequate, uninterrupted sleep is the foundation of mental clarity. Aim for 7-9 hours each night to recharge your cognitive batteries. Create a calming bedtime routine, dim the lights, and escape the digital world at least an hour before bedtime.
- Manage Stress. Incorporate stress-reduction techniques into your daily routine. Activities such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises can help calm your mind. Just a few minutes of mindfulness can help reduce stress, improve concentration, and lift the fog. In fact, according to Andrew Huberman, a 17 minute practice of interoception (focusing on how your body feels) can boost your focus well beyond just the day.
Remember, with any change, start with something small and apply it consistently. Once you’re in a groove with it, stack on the next action.
Winning the brain fog battle not only means more productive work days but you’ll feel a greater sense of energy, control, and motivation to be your most awesome self.
Free yourself from the fog my friends.
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