Brain fog can happen to anyone, and it can be caused by a range of different factors. Very often, brain fog is directly related to the amount and quality of sleep one is getting, but it can also be brought on by stress, hormonal shifts, or dietary issues like poor gut health or food sensitivities.
What to do when you’re in a cognitive slump now? Here are some simple, healthy ways to fight the fog, restore your focus, and keep your head in the game!
5 Tips to Snap Out of Brain Fog
Step Away From the Coffee…and Towards the Green Tea
Coffee is an easy go-to for a quick boost in energy. But while one or two cups in the morning may help you get going, more coffee may not compound the effect. Even worse, low quality coffee often contains impurities and toxic compounds that lead to headaches, jitters, and brain fog.
But not all caffeinated beverages are off the table. Instead of your afternoon java, sip a green tea pick-me-up.
Studies show that drinking green tea helps restore brain function and offers several other health benefits. How? Green tea provides a boost of energy from caffeine, but it also contains the powerful phytochemicals L-theanine and EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate). These antioxidants are known for improving energy, brain function, and cognitive skills.
Take a Movement Break—Any Kind of Movement
Exercise might just be your best ally in fighting mental fatigue. Researchers found that regular exercise can enhance neuroplasticity and protect against neurodegeneration. Without regular movement, your brain can fog up like a windshield, leading to serious long-term cognitive risks.
But what can you do when you’re in a foggy slump and can’t break for a workout? Stretch.
In her book Stretching, physical therapist Suzanne Martin explains, “Stretching affects not only our muscle system but also our neurological system,” including brain function itself. “When you stretch, you lengthen some areas while relaxing others. The brain in turn regulates automatic functions such as heart rate and blood pressure. It secretes hormones, which act as chemical messengers to help insulin control, metabolism, mood and emotion.”
So the next time you feel foggy, edgy, or gloomy, a stretch break may be the thing to lift you out of it—and it’s great for your body, too! Try this simple chair stretching exercise from trainer and overall fitness guru Mahri Relin, or an energizing spinal twist with dancer Demi Remnick.
Game Your Brain Awake (in the Short and Long Term)
“Use is or lose it” is no cliché when it comes to your brain—it’s a mandate. Just like every other muscle in your body, the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets, which is essential for preventing brain aging and memory loss.
Studies of 19,000+ participants from 2018 and 2019 showed that regular engagement with puzzles, crosswords, or word-based games measurably improves brain function. Another 2013 trial found that brain-training games helped improve cognitive function and memory in young adults.
In the short term, taking a brain game break can dissolve the fog that comes from spending too much time on one kind of thinking or activity. Tap into your brain’s natural productivity cycles by focusing for shorter periods of time and taking regular breaks.
Studies show that we actually get more done when we break our concentration into smaller chunks with brief, brain-refreshing breaks in between.
And what better stretch break for your noodle than a quick brain game? If you’re gazing at a computer screen all day, you can give your overworked eyes a break, too, with a physical game like a Rubix cube or 3D puzzle or a written puzzle like a crossword or sudoku. For the screen-committed, however, there are numerous web- and app-based options, like Lumosity, Elevate, Braingle, and more.
Massage the Fog Out of Your System
Think massage is just a means to relaxation and pain relief? Think again. Massage helps improve circulation of blood, fluids, and oxygen from head to toe, including to a tired and weary brain.
Stress and tension can result in a foggy lack of focus that makes it difficult to concentrate. The physical manifestations of tension—think tight shoulders, clenched jaw, tensed muscles—can actually inhibit blood flow to the brain. Once that tension has been released through massage, blood flow to your brain will improve. This, in turn, increases the oxygen and nutrient flow to the brain, allowing you to hone your focus.
One study even shows decreased frontal alpha and beta power, which suggests enhanced alertness, after a 15-minute chair massage. Those who got massages also showed increased speed and accuracy on math problems, while the control group’s performance didn’t change. This improved circulation of oxygenated blood also increases energy, helping you bounce back to a ready-to-go state physically and mentally.
With regular massage, you can enjoy cumulatively sharper focus, increased mental clarity, and better overall health. Plus, by alleviating stress and promoting healthy sleep patterns so your brain can function optimally on a regular basis.
Revive Your Mind Mindfully
Sometimes, a foggy brain just needs some peace and quiet to clear the clouds. Mindfulness meditation helps calm the “monkey mind” and other distractions that lead to mental fatigue.
A mere ten minutes of meditation a day (or even just 5!) are all you need to reset the brain. Over time, this in-the-moment flarity boost will compound into an overall improvement in concentration, creativity, and wellbeing. Meditation also has the added benefit of promoting physical health by lowering blood pressure and reducing that pesky stress hormone cortisol.
The next time you’re stuck in a fog, reset with a body scan meditation, or try starting your day with this mindful morning exercise. And, of course, there are plenty of app-based options for quick meditation shots on the fly.
Clear Brain Fog and Get Your Clarity Back
Brain fog is frustrating, and it can happen to anyone, but it won’t last forever. Of course, if these tricks aren’t helping, and your brain fog seems to be lingering (or getting worse), consult with your doctor. Focus on an everyday healthy lifestyle—eat more plants, get more sleep, move as much as you can, and don’t deprive yourself of too much—and your brain will likely feel as healthy as the rest of your body.