How to navigate brain fog at work

...why do working professionals experience mental sluggishness?

By Mohita Shrivastava

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Published: Thu 2 Mar 2023, 7:38 PM

Brain is one of the most important organs of our body. Hence there is an enormous demand of ‘brain fuel’ in order to work 24x7. Depletion or dearth of fuel, like oxygen, glucose, nerve growth factors, neurotransmitters in the brain lead to mental fatigue by intensifying mental sluggishness, fuzzy thoughts and gray-headedness.

This is called brain fog, a group of cognitive symptoms attributed to several potential causes. The cognitive symptoms, owing to brain fog, manifest as lack of mental clarity, confusion, inability to focus, poor attention, weakened memory, impaired recall, along with declining executive functions like planning, organising information, following directions/conversations and multitasking.

In due course, it can impact one’s way of thinking. This does not only perturb daily activities but also alters work life.

Working professionals experience brain fog when they are overloaded with work or have sedentary lifestyle, combined with lack of sleep, high screen time and stress. Besides, ‘cognitive fogginess’ is ascribed to other underlying health issues, such as thyroid disorders, autoimmune disorders, obesity, depression, anxiety, chronic medication, viral infections like Covid-19, SARS and H1N1, etc. At a cellular level, brain fog is said to be caused by high levels of inflammation, imbalance of hormones and neurotransmitters that are responsible for mood and energy.

Ways to cleanse the ‘fogginess of brain’

1) Maintain adequate sleep hygiene of 7-8 hours a day. Besides, no harm dwelling into power naps if feeling too exhausted.

2) Healthy dietary habits are good to follow, but balanced diet is great.

3) Follow a diet rich in nutrients like Omega-3, DHA, Inositol, L-theanine, etc.

4) Regular health check-ups to rule out any imbalances of vitamin B-12, calciferol, ascorbates, cortisol, thyroid and neurotransmitters.

5) Understand the ‘stressors at work and work on them’ to enjoy sound sleep and lessen brain fog.

6) Mindfulness will work for anxious, overstressed professionals.

7) Avoid procrastination at work to give enough time for brain to rest and think clearly!

8) Keep on stimulating your cognitive abilities with cognitive exercises ascribed to specific cognitive control and executive functions (crucial for professionals).

9) Keep your emotions balanced. Discuss both negative and positives of life instead of focusing on one.

10) Move your body — dance, gym, jog, run, sports, exercises, yoga — anything and everything works to a good extent!

11) Put a quell on the overuse of screen — laptops, desktops, cellphones, TV

12) ‘Pleasant audios’ are welcome to supply much-needed emotional fuel to the limbic system and prefrontal cortex.

Though it is inevitable to experience physiological changes that cause glitches in brain functions as we grow older, mental fog is particularly frustrating. It is worth understanding that improving overall lifestyle, work schedule and shrinking stressors help mitigate it. If the fogginess gets too annoying, it is advisable to consult an expert neuropsychologist to get a much-needed therapeutic plan with specific exercises to pinpoint the related brain regions. Do not leave it untreated as it impacts one’s work:life balance and quality of life, and might progress to other conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.

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