It’s time to farewell brain fog and confusion for good
I admit it – some days are a complete struggle when it comes to focusing. I always need my latest caffeine shot at the 2-3 pm mark. It’s become so essential that I feel like my brain cells are calling out for it. Many years ago, I suffered from what we call “brain fog.” It was a feeling of constantly being caught in a cloud overshadowing my thoughts, feelings and brought on extreme lethargy. At first, I put it down to an ant’s attention span – or perhaps I just wasn’t bothered with specific tasks. But then, I honestly found it extremely hard to focus on one thing. Research confirms that multi-tasking is a recipe for disaster. Put that one situation in front of me when I was experiencing brain fog, and it was all over. I could smell my brain cells burning from confusion! It took a lot of harsh self-reflection and throwing myself in the deep end, but I finally uncovered the cause and how to put an end to it. Some of these points might surprise you and perhaps are already quite apparent. However, the changes take place when we get in there and try them out for ourselves. If you suffer from brain fog, lack focus – don’t despair! These tips can clear the dust from your eyes for good.
Focus point one: Nutritional Alterations.
I won’t lie here; making some straightforward yet nutritionally viable changes to your eating will provide you with a higher concentration. Irritable bowel syndrome, allergies or gut imbalances can produce higher levels of inflammation. That feeling of uncomfortableness can also increase your chances of brain fog and will most definitely interfere with your concentration levels. Stomach cramps, gas or constipation, can all play a part in making us feel awful. We all react differently to food choices, but the main culprits are the following: • Anything with gluten (white bread, pretzels, cakes, biscuits, pastries etc.)• Anything containing white sugar• Processed grocery stored foods in packets• Sweets, ice creams and candy These may give you an initial hit of love and comfort – but slowly, it will diminish your energy levels and see you experiencing those mini microsleeps in between work meetings. In addition, concentration lags due to the sugar hit reduction. Swap those highly processed snacks with the following:• Veggies & fruit such as carrot, celery, cucumber, berries, apple and green bananas• Yogurt with nuts• Fatty nuts like almonds and walnuts• Protein sources like eggs Those food choices are better for focus and concentration because they provide a steady release of energy during the day. There are no highs and lows – only steady flow. Try swapping your highly processed snacks to those containing nutrients – and the change will instantly provide benefits.
Focus point two: Intermittent fasting
I can’t even begin to shout out enough, how profound the benefits of fasting are. They are all out of this world and will instantly change your health, energy levels and body shape. I love fasting because the high level of focus and concentration you will experience is second to none. There is a certain point in your fast where you will feel like superman/woman. It’s like your mind is on fire, and your body responds at the same time. I would always write my best pieces in this phase. The thoughts seem to flow outward without effort. Why is this the case? Why is this the case? Here is an exert from Dr Jandial—a college dropout turned neurosurgeon.”Going without food for even a day increases your brain’s natural growth factors, which support the survival and growth of neurons. Evolution designed our bodies and brains to perform at their peak as hybrid vehicles. Metabolic switching between glucose and ketones is when cognition is best and degenerative disease is kept at bay. As a recent paper in Nature Reviews Neuroscience put it: “Metabolic switching impacts multiple pathways that promote neuroplasticity and resistance of the brain to injury and disease.” Fasting forces your body to burn its fat reserves. The exhaust from this (ketones) will not only keep your brain going during those periods of fasting and hunger but will improve cognition, grow the connections between neurons, and stave off neurodegeneration. There are many more benefits to fasting, but this is just one of the reasons why so many people appreciate the cognitive experience it brings — as well as the many fat loss bonuses.
Focus point three: Breaking the space;
Have you been in a position of focusing on one thing for an extended period? After a short time, your focus starts to diminish, and it becomes harder to devote all your mental resources to that task. Your performance can suffer as a result. I have experienced this on many occasions through a creative outlet. Another instance is when you feel that all of your creative resources have been depleted and trying to force a certain amount of effort becomes useless. This sounds all too familiar to me right now. When my mind starts to wander and the depletion takes place, I break the space. I get up, go for a walk somewhere- preferably near a park or near trees. Changing your area allows you to re-focus your attention on something peaceful, calm without the expectation of thinking, feeling or constructing anything in your mind. Allowing the breaking of space to free yourself of doing anything, gives your concentration an energy reboot. Are you short on time? Get to the lunchroom and make a tea, coffee or snack. A hit of protein or caffeine can also give you a booster shot of concentration.
Focus point four: Write it out.
There are countless studies to prove that writing things down helps give you clarity and focus. For example, writing down my deadlines, notes or mind wanderings helps me return to them later and expand on the chosen task. Usually, our brain is quite good at throwing us off course – and perhaps adding in a bit of confusion and an element of insecurity to the mix. When we write something down, according to Michael Lebouf – a former management professor at the University of New Orleans, “It automatically forces you to devote your full attention to them. A pencil and paper make excellent concentration tools.” He adds. I’m all for endless notebooks, pens and pencils to jot down things, doodle or even write out something that’s causing me a bit of confusion. But what I have found in terms of setting tasks, writing them down in a diary, helps me automatically set the wheels in motion to make them come to life. Unfortunately, tablets, computers or even typing them into the iPhone doesn’t have the same effect. Several studies back up these findings too. Next time you need to focus on a piece of written work, tasks, or trying to solve a complex problem, get out a piece of paper, pens, pencils, or even coloured markers. You will be surprised by how practical a whiteboarding session is in terms of engagement and problem-solving.
Focus point five: Plug into music to eliminate distractions.
Music is one of my favourite ways to enhance my concentration and block external and internal noise. But, according to research, you don’t even have to use actual music because nature and white noise mask the background sounds and help improve concentration and other brain functions. Electronic or beats are my choice of focus music. Somehow that puts me in a creative zone, where I can focus intently, tapping into creative expression, solving complex visual tasks, and pulling together an article or piece of written work. It seems to resonate well with a lot of people – no matter what age.
Focus point six: Mindfulness moment
You might suspect this is all about getting caught up in the moment, where you experience the phenomena called “in the zone.” But it has more to do with that. I like to put two aspects together. First, you are expressing mindfulness in an exceptionally concentrated task – but you are also living in the moment at hand. Usually, when our concentration becomes muddied, we think of a million different things to do whilst trying to get that one task completed. This is a disaster because putting all your efforts and heart-space into one job at a time will guarantee the output will eventuate into something spectacular. It is being able to shut off the world and thinking the only minute by minute, word by word and line by line. Usually, the problem with allowing the noise to come into this mindful moment occurs out of insecurity. Maybe you are questioning your ability to do the task, or it’s an overwhelming project. When experiencing a moment such as this, I like to do the following, which helps bring me back to the moment at hand.
- Focus on your breathing—deep breaths in through your mouth and out through your nose. Deep breathing will calm the overwhelming feeling of the situation.
- Break up the task you have – or start on page one. That’s all you need to focus on one page or one thing at a time. I recommend tackling the most challenging part first. Spend the most time on that, gain your confidence and keep going.
- When the feeling of overwhelming consumes you, take a break. Make a cup of tea, go and get some fresh air. Getting off your chair and away from the situation for a few minutes makes a huge difference. That overwhelming phase will suddenly quieten down – even slightly. Although it can be challenging, once you find out what works for you – it will occur like clockwork. So keep practising, and don’t allow your old patterns of behaviour to start to flourish again.
You might find that one works better than another. Personally, when it comes to complete laser focus, you cannot beat fasting hands down. Fasting has not failed me yet, in terms of an all in one solution to health, longevity, and endless energy with focus. Fasting works in conjunction with all of the other finer points – especially nutrition. Focus is a learnt skill, but it always helps when you’ve put your body in a position to sustain the focus with proper nutrition, lifestyle habits and training yourself to clear distractions – without having to throw everyone out of the office!