One of the definitions of fog is “something that obscures and confuses a situation or someone’s thought processes.” If you are familiar with the symptoms of fibromyalgia, you might have heard the term “fibro fog” describing those periods where you can’t think right, and sometimes suffer memory loss or have difficulty concentrating. It is a very real thing for us fibrowarriors. I have experienced this feeling more times than I care to admit, and to this day my memory is not as good as it used to be.
I previously defined fibro fog in this blog post as, “It’s like a turtle trying to run in peanut butter.” It may start with walking into a room and forgetting why you were there. We’ve all done that. And then it’s just misplacing your car keys or some “adult ADD,” forgetting words, or having to re-read the same page of your book three times because you can’t retain the information.
From the Arthritis Foundation: Fibro fog can manifest itself in different ways in different people but some of the most common symptoms include:
- short term memory loss
- misplacing objects
- becoming easily distracted
- forgetting plans
- difficulty carrying on conversations
- inability to remember new information.
7 Tips for Coping
There are things you can do to help boost your brain function, and ways to cope when you are in a fog:
Exercises like yoga can help improve memory, reduce fatigue, and reduce stress. Yoga practices often ends with Shavasana or Savasana (“corpse pose”) and a few minutes of breathing and clearing the mind, like a meditative state that is intended to bring awareness your mind and body. This awareness and proper breathing will also increase your oxygen flow to your brain, which will help with the fogginess.
“Savasana helps relieve mild depression, high blood pressure, headaches, fatigue, and insomnia,” according to Yoga Journal. “Savasana can calm the nervous system and promote equanimity in your entire body. Fatigued muscles get to relax, tense shoulders and jaws soften, and the eyes quiet down to reflect a quieter state of mind.”
If this is you….
then you probably need more practice with meditation or Savasana.
2. Get Your Zzzz’s
Not getting enough sleep hinders the ability to think properly and probably makes the brain fog worse. Fibromyalgia has enough ill-effects on the body, so let’s not feed it any more fuel for the fire.
“Poor quality sleep in adults causes memories to stay stuck in the hippocampus and not reach the prefrontal cortex. This results in forgetfulness and difficulty remembering names. Poor quality sleep among the elderly can cause significant memory loss and brain deterioration,” according to a study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.
Keeping a running list of meal ideas and doing some menu planning and meal prep will ease the stress and burden of trying to figure out what to eat for dinner each night.
Examine your diet for those foods that are known to trigger inflammation in the body, and reactions like brain fog, grogginess, and crashes. Major culprits include caffeine, wheat, sugar, additives, MSG, aspartame.
Your brain needs healthy fats to survive. It needs to be fueled and hydrated like the rest of your body to function. The following foods are thought to be brain boosters: salmon, avocado, walnuts, spinach, cacao, turmeric, oregano, and nutritional yeast. Consider adding fish oil/Omega-3, Vitamins D and B-12, and Magnesium supplements.
3. Brain Activity
Mental stimulation will help build your brain, so try a crossword or jigsaw puzzle, reading, painting, or cooking (following instructions). Trying to read or learn something new may be difficult during the foggy periods, so save those for when your mind is clear.
4. Make a List
There are tons of “to do” list apps, which will help with the “I forgot my grocery list at home” syndrome (more times than I care to admit). Consider also using a password keeper app as well.
“Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them.” ~ David Allen
I have adapted David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” method, using Microsoft One Note. (This can easily be done with something similar like Evernote.) I can access my lists and folders from any device, anywhere. Anytime something pops into my head that I need to do, I jot it down either on my running to do list or my daily task list. This helps tremendously with those bouts of brain fog and lets me see what I still need to do.
5. Realize your Limitations
Know what you’re capable of doing yourself and where you need help. Maybe you enjoy cooking to control your diet and keep your mind busy, but cleaning the house lands you in bed for two days and brings on the fog. Hire a cleaning person or pay the kids to do some chores.
Maybe all of those social engagements are too much stress, trying to remember everyone’s name and socialize. Beg out of the bigger ones and just attend the small intimate get-togethers.
There are various coping mechanisms for knowing what you can/can’t handle when your brain is in a state of poor memory or decision-making. Recognize the signs and adapt your schedule and activity as necessary.
Fibromyalgia creates a vicious cycle of pain, muscle fatigue, exhaustion, poor sleep, fibro fog, and depression. Staying in that sad and depressed state and feeling like crap will prolong the cycle. Attitude is a powerful thing in the battle of one’s health. So choose JOY. Smile. Always believe that the glass is half full.
“Joy does not simply happen to us. We choose joy and have to keep choosing it every day.” ~ Henri J. M. Nouwen
7. Check Your Meds
Grogginess, forgetfulness, and sluggishness are definitely side effects of many medications. So if none of these other suggestions has helped and you suspect your medication is the culprit, talk to your medical professional about changing doses or medications altogether.
The Sun Will Come Out
Fibro fog is (usually) temporary and will come and go. If it sticks around all the time, it may be more than just your fibromyalgia, and you should consult your physician. I hope this has given you some ideas for coping with fibro fog – before, during, and after the symptoms appear.
Do you have strategies for dealing with fibro fog?
This post was adapted from Lifting the Fibro-Fog posted on December 7, 2015.