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Anxiety Disorders

Clear Anxiety Brain Fog and Change Your Life With These Practical Tips

If you struggle with anxiety brain fog and you are looking for long-term solutions that can leave you thinking and feeling better, you came to the right place.

Mental fatigue and fuzziness make anxiety worse. Just the thought of not being able to cope with daily work tasks because you cannot concentrate is debilitating. It creates stress and pressure, and that only adds up to the anxiety load.

As simple as these tips are, they are not ‘palatable’. These are not magic tricks. They represent the foundational blocks of your life. By adding the right type of blocks, you lift the fog and experience anxiety relief.

The 3 chemicals

Your brain needs these chemicals to be in balance in order to function properly: serotonin, dopamine and cortisol. For a proper cognitive function, you need high levels of serotonin and dopamine and low levels of cortisol. And this balance results from your eating, sleeping and working habits. It’s all about what you do every day that affects how your brain functions.

imbalance of brain chemicals triggers anxiety brain fog

1. Eating habits

Our diets affect not only how we look but how our brains function. When discussing managing IBS and anxiety, diet was a major character as well. The good news is that your brain is ‘plastic’. This means that the effects of a poor diet can be reversed with a consistent diet based on the right nutrients (Banjari, 2014).

Below are some tips that will benefit your brain in ways you never imagined.

Carbs – eat the right ones

First and maybe one of the most difficult step is to cut products made by flour and sugar and introduce more complex and slow burning carbs. Complex carbs contain tryptophan. This is an amino acid that produces serotonin. As mentioned above, serotonin is the hormone that soothes anxiety and lifts your mood and helps you feel good (Dow, 2015).

Still, this tryptophan has to cross a blood-brain barrier to get to our brains. Eating plant-based foods that are high in complex carbs can help tryptophan to get at its destination and produce serotonin. Among these foods the ones worth mentioning are pumpkin seeds, tofu, almonds.

Carbohydrates release insulin, causing the absorption of most amino acids into the bloodstream while giving advantage to tryptophan for brain access, leading to increased level of brain serotonin. Serotonin improves sleep, increases pain tolerance, and reduces food cravings (Banjari, 2014).

Swap flour-and sugar-packed foods for healthier alternatives. Complex carbohydrates take longer to digest, causing a slow discharge of glucose into bloodstream, leading to a feeling of saturation for longer time.

anxiety brain fog healthy carb swaps

Avoid artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners reduce the numbers of good bacteria in the gut (Banjari, 2014). Maintaining healthy levels of bacteria in the gut influences your mood and cognition. This is because your body produces serotonin, mainly in your gut. So by disturbing your microbiome, you’re rattling the chemicals in your brain too.

Artificial sweeteners – Low diversity of microbiome – Brain chemicals imbalance – Anxiety and brain fog

Fats – eat the healthy ones

Monounsaturated fats like olive oil or high omega-3 fat found in seafood are crucial for the health of your brain. With anxiety brain fog, the best type of fat is Omega-3.

The best sources of omega-3 fatty acids are

  • oily fish (sardines, mackerel, tuna, anchovies)
  • cold-water fish (herring, salmon)
  • algae, zooplankton and seafood
  • seeds and nuts,

There are 3 types of Omega-3 fatty acids:

  1. ALA – this is the most common type. You can find it in plant foods like kale and spinach, but also in seeds like chia or flax seeds.
  2. EPA – this type of Omega-3 fatty acid can reduce symptoms of depression (Osher, 2009) and helps you fight inflammation in your body (Jho et al., 2004).
  3. DHA – is your best ally against anxiety brain fog (Dow, 2015).

Animal products – go organic? Or not?

Looks like the type of eggs, dairy and meat you are consuming may contribute to your anxiety brain fog. Some say organic animal products receive good quality food, which transforms into good nutrients for your brain.

While both organic produce and animal products are cleaner, organic animal products have more brain-healthy, anti-inflammatory omega-3s and fewer omega-6s.

Dowe, 2014

Still, other studies, as shown in the clip below, don’t support the theory of organic foods being healthier than non-organic foods. In the end, this is your choice. However, organic or non-organic, the general rules for animal products are:

  • try to always eat more vegetables than animal products
  • pay attention to how you cook them (avoid frying)
  • say NO to processed meats and other animal products

Fruits and vegetables

You heard it before and you know it: fruits and vegetables are a most for your body and brain. If you want to lift your fog, you need to get as many vitamins and nutrients as possible. Studies suggest that B vitamins, vitamins A, C, D, and E, calcium, and iodine improve your mood, cognition, and energy (Dowe, 2014).

Caffeine

Drinking the right type of caffeine in modest quantities can be a great tool against anxiety and brain fog, and a secret weapon in the long-term health of your brain (Dowe, 2014). Still, this wonderful black liquid that we call coffee loses its power to help your brain when you mix it with sugar, artificial sweeteners or milk.

Too much coffee can be a bad thing. Like a sugar rush, a caffeine high, often comes immediately before a resounding crash, leaving us craving either sugar, caffeine, or both to get going again. Like sleep deprivation, caffeinated beverages can interfere with our health, mood, and basic ability to function.

Dowe, 2014

One plain coffee a day keeps the brain fog at bay

Making the right food choices is one of the best thing you can do for your brain. Add more fruits and vegetables to your diet, try to eat more fish. You will be well on your way to thinking and feeling better.

2. Overmedication

Some people need medication that’s critical to their physical, mental, or emotional health. But many of us are taking drugs we don’t need. If you suffer from milder forms of depression and anxiety, try to make lifestyle changes that will benefit you a lifetime.

Why?

For example, antidepressants may increase the risk of inflammation in the brain. Inflammation makes the brain age rapidly and leaves you thinking less clearly (Dowe, 2014). When your brain is struggling with inflammation, there is no wonder that your thinking feels muddled and foggy.

About inflammation….

Inflammation is normal in your body. You sprain your ankle or you have an infection, your inflammatory system deals with this. The inflammatory cells repair the damaged tissues. But it is not good to have too much inflammation as it leads to memory loss and brain aging.

Best anti-inflammatory lifestyle habits:

  • Good, regular sleep
  • Exercise
  • Eating omega-3 fatty acids
  • Using medication only when necessary

3. Watch out for toxins in your environment

Toxins are all around us, even where we don’t expect it. Besides a poor diet and overreliance on medication, toxins can contribute to brain fog and mental exhaustion. Still, you may not eliminate all the surrounding toxins. What you can do instead is change what is in your control and make slight adjustments.

  • Toxins in your drinking water? Use a filter to purify the water you are drinking and using for making your food.
  • Cooking pans or other equipments can release toxins as well.
Be aware of leaching from your cookware. Nonstick surfaces, or even naturally occurring metals, might not be the healthiest option for you.
  • The air in your house! Keep your windows open as much as possible. Why? Indoor air is dirtier than air outside (Dowe, 2014). Also, stop bringing dirt into your house. Research shows that people who take off their shoes at the front door significantly reduce the amount of dust containing toxins in their home.
  • Buy houseplants. They purify the air. Try areca palm, lady palm, bamboo palm, English ivy, dwarf date palm, Boston fern, and peace lily.

4. Sedentary habits

Even if you exercise regularly at high intensity (30 minutes per day) it is still not enough if you are sitting 8 hours per day. Exercise is incredibly helpful for anxiety and depression. But consistency beats intensity. A 2005 Harvard study found that even walking fast for 35 minutes had a significant impact on depression (Dowe, 2014). Therefore, it is important to create an exercise routine.

Little things to do to move more and sit less:

taking regular walks helps your anxiety brain fog
  • Take the stairs rather than the elevator.
  • After lunch and dinner, walk for 30 minutes.
  • When you talk to a friend on your cell, put in an earpiece and walk around your neighborhood.
  • Get a wireless headset if you use a landline in your office. (Or take calls on your cell.) When you’re on calls, just stand or pace.
  • When you’re watching TV, walk around during commercials. Or do some squats, hold the plank position, or do crunches!
  • Use an exercise ball to sit on at your office and alternate sitting on a chair and the ball. Sitting on a ball engages core muscles and burns more energy.
  • Park farther away from your office or grocery store.
  • Get a dog. Owning a dog makes frequent walks nonnegotiable!
  • If you take the bus, get off a stop early.

5. Sleep

All sleep issues (unable to fall asleep, unable to wake up, unable to sleep deeply, unable to sleep at the right times) affect how clearly you think and how well you manage anxiety during the day.

Too little sleep → more cortisol → more stress → low dopamine → chronic depression and anxiety

Why is sleep so important? Because sleep is the method through which our brain cleans itself.

During sleep a plumbing system called the glymphatic system may open, letting fluid flow rapidly through the brain.

Tips to enjoy the wonderful benefits of sleeping

  • Expose yourself to natural light as much as possible. Why? Because light helps tryptophan to produce serotonin (Dowe, 2014). This is super important for your anxiety and brain fog. Go outside and get enough light early in the morning or position your desk next to the window.
  • Take a nap. Your sleep-wake cycle goes down after lunch, so the best time for a nap is in the midafternoon. You could schedule your naps in advance, as it helps your brain to get ready for this routine.
  • Avoid electronics 1 hour before sleeping. Or it can be 30 minutes, 2 hours etc. Find your fit. The idea is to spend a bit of time before sleeping away from the computer, phone or other device.
  • Take a hot shower or bath before bed. The warm water will relax your muscles and when you get out of the shower or bath, your body temperature will drop, which will prepare your body for a good sleep.

6. Multitasking vs. Mindfulness

multitasking and mindfulness.

Multitasking is a myth. You don’t do two things at the same time. You actually switch the focus super fast from one task to another. When your brain has to respond to several stimuli at once, learning and memory are disturbed. Also, task-switching makes you lose time because the brain needs to decide which task to perform.

Multitasking has serious effects on your brain capacity as well. A study from the University of London found ‘workers distracted by e-mail and phone calls suffer a fall in IQ more than twice that found in marijuana smokers’ (cited by Rosen, 2008). Last, multitasking overloads your brain so you can’t filter out irrelevant information, hence the brain fog.

Meditation is one of the best methods to counteract the negative effects of multitasking. 20 minutes of practice for five consecutive days decreases anxiety and brain fog (Dowe, 2014). Other studies done on Tibetan monks show what incredible changes happen in the brain through regular meditation (Kaufman, 2005). It shows that the brain can be trained and physically changed in ways few people can imagine.

Not to mention what a powerful tool is meditation and mindfulness practice to manage anxiety episodes.

If your job implies multitasking and you can’t do much about it (fast task switching defines some jobs), then try to eliminate the other sources of distraction from your life like social media:

  • Get an Internet Blocker like mindful-browsing.com
  • Create digital boundaries: 
    • When you work put your phone on silent
    • Move the charger from the bedroom to your kitchen so that you aren’t constantly checking your phone instead of going to sleep
    • Block push notifications
    • Try to have one full day of the weekend completely phone free

7. Connect with other people

Cultivating connection, support, and companionship is a must for a healthy brain. Loneliness can be deadlier than smoking and twice as deadly as obesity (Dowe, 2014).

Romantic love, friendship, and family are equally important. As tempting or easy as it may be, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Cultivate a balance between the relationship with your partner and other relationships in your life.

Conclusion

From diet to sleep, exercise, medication, stress and the quality of your relationships, these tips will help you lift the fog and manage anxiety much more effectively. The extent to which these changes will help you think and feel better will be according to your choices. Follow one or two of these tips and you will see some results. However, if you incorporate gradually all these tips, your brain will function at its peak, you will prevent brain aging and you will cope with anxiety much easier.

Hi! I'm Maria and I am a mental health advocate! I am determined to learn as much as I can about mental and emotional wellbeing.

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