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Clear out the brain fog

Bharat Savur | Updated on October 04, 2012

When stress and fatigue cloud your brain, step back and let the sunshine in.

Researchers are talking about ‘brain fog’. The brain becomes like a misty hill-station. While the hill-station is cool in this state, the brain is not; it is a mass of grey turbulence, and it forgets things. Brain fog may be caused by a couple of factors:

Excessive stress — a drive that goes into overdrive. Excess stress equals distress. Recently, I was surprised by a man’s attitude. He has had cancer for the past two years. One day, his wife went out with her friends, and came home at 6 p.m. instead of 5 p.m. — and he fumes at her. “I have been waiting for an hour,” he shouts. I was surprised because he should have been saying, “Thank you for looking after me so lovingly these past two years. I am happy you had such a good time with your friends.” He should be sending her flowers for being with him all the time. She says, “I have this fear in me; I have no friends anymore.” But he does not hear her. She is insecure, worried, confused, beset with diabetes, hypothyroid and other ailments. “We have to be there for each other,” he says angrily, forgetting that he’s not there for her, when he’s out playing cards, and so on.

We must understand that when the brain is pushed beyond its tolerance limits, it fogs over. When the brain is given support and appreciation, it becomes clear and alert.

Fatigue — It also happened to a boy during his final examinations. He studied without a pause, night and day. The axiom —‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’— is a fact. The boy became like a zombie. When you overfill a cup with tea, it overflows; but when you overfill the brain, it cannot overflow. Oh, it does its best — it tries to set up new nerve networks, but if given no respite or rest, it just fogs over. Just like water turns to vapour in extreme heat, all the information and nail-biting anxiety become an indecipherable mist from the pressure one puts on oneself. This boy had to be given medical treatment. He is better now, but he has to take care that he doesn’t fatigue his brain anymore.

I’m not saying we should fear hard work. However, we must respect our tolerance levels and take breaks. It’s good to have a balance between work and leisure — we owe it to ourselves. Some more thoughts:

It’s okay to take small bites of study or work, and slightly bigger slices of leisure — without guilt. This mindset itself makes you committed in a contented way, instead of ambitious in a restless, egoistic way.

The scout-master said to his scouts, “Make the fullest use of your talents. March to your tune as long as you can. And always pitch your tent when darkness falls.” Treasure your sleep — get 7–9 hours of it. Avoid checking e-mails and SMS-es before bedtime. Fall asleep to soothing music if you can.

Practise relaxation-cum-breathing meditation with eyes closed. Relax each part of the body from toe to head. Then do the 8-8-8 breath (count to 8 each time as you inhale, hold, exhale) until you feel calmness settle in you.

Walk briskly or cycle for 35 minutes daily to blow away mental cobwebs and refresh the brain.

Check with your doctor about your nutrient needs. You may require vitamin C and E for immunity and balance, B vitamins for memory, zinc and essential fatty acids to regulate brain functioning, and magnesium to alleviate fatigue.

Note down things to do, calls to make, reminders… Better that they’re on paper than cluttering your mind.

Eat a balanced diet of whole grains, protein, vegetables, fruits, and low-fat dairy. Don’t ever pass up the carbs — the brain loves them; it welcomes the energy-rich glucose they provide.

Drink a minimum of 1.5 litres of water daily. Dehydration makes the brain fuzzy and the body wooden.

Stick to uni-tasking — doing only one thing at a time. Work and live at your pace, to the beat of your drum.

Break the ‘should’ rule often. When you don’t listen to the ‘should’ cacophony, you can deal with difficulties when they’re still manageable. Life is simpler than you think. Sometimes, a sensible “No” dissolves a stupid difficulty instantly.

Don’t judge and condemn yourself. Self-forgiveness and self-understanding are the greatest gifts you can give yourself. Get to know the things that make you happy — and do them.

A brain fog can also indicate absolute distaste for your current existence. Take off. Walk on the beach with only the waves as your companions. Listen to the silence of the trees. Get an experience of not necessarily doing things the right way, but doing things that are right for you. Consider the changes you can make in your daily life. And, oh yes, you need not wait for anybody to send flowers to you — send flowers to yourself with loving messages. And the sunshine will come pouring in…

The writer is co-author of the book ‘Fitness for Life’.

Published on October 04, 2012

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