Written by Dr. Inez Van Roy on
July 5, 2021
Reading Time: 7 minutes

Medically Reviewed by our Medical Affairs Team

Written by Dr. Inez Van Roy on:

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Brain fog anxiety is a serious issue for many people. How do you get rid of brain fog anxiety? What causes it and how can you avoid it in the future? In this blog post, we will take a look at 12 different ways that will help reduce your symptoms.

What is brain fog?

Brain fog is not a medical diagnosis. It does describe symptoms with effects such as difficulty concentrating and bad memory recall. Some might even report it as a strong mental fatigue that disrupts their logic. 

Brain can feel like having mist, fog or cotton in your head. The result is that your brain doesn’t work like you want it to. Brain fog has many cognitive symptoms. They could be interpreted as a sign of mild cognitive impairment.

Symptoms of brain fog

Some of the most common symptoms are:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Excessive mental fatigue 
  • Memory problems
  • Inability to focus clearly

Brain fog can impact your productivity. You might feel like your brain is heavy, or that it’s hard to think straight. You might also notice an increased level of difficulty in communicating because you can’t see through the mist. Those troubles can lead to negative feelings about yourself and your abilities.

Brain fog and mental Illness 

Brain fog can be caused by some mental illnesses like depression, burnout and anxiety. However it could also be that long-term brain fog causes these negative feelings. If you are going through an emotional rollercoaster, you might suffer too much to concentrate on other things like work or school.

Some people describe brain fog as a symptom of anxiety and depression, but there are other cases where that isn’t the case. That’s why it can be hard to diagnose and treat this problem. We don’t know for sure what causes it all the time. 

What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a feeling of unease and fear, worry, or general nervousness. It can be an emotion that runs high in anticipation of something bad happening. 

Feeling fear is a natural and normal reaction of your body. It means that you are alert and aware of your surroundings. We all should feel anxious when we see a tiger coming right at us at a very fast speed. The anxious feeling is a chemical reaction of stress in the body. You will be ready to fight, or flight. If the fear becomes overwhelming then it is called anxiety disorder. In that case, we might be afraid of small triggers, like going outside or seeing dirty dishes.

Anxiety makes them feel overwhelmed with worry about things they have no control over, in anticipation of the future, or even a fear of what they might think. 

Anxiety can cause panic. You might perceive physical symptoms such as:

  • Nausea
  • A racing heartbeat
  • Increased sweating
  • Shortness of breath 

It can feel like you’re drowning in your own feelings because you will be unable to see through the fog and the thoughts.

Additionally, anxiety can be caused by a health condition like anemia or neurodegenerative diseases. Anxious thoughts and feelings might disrupt you from living your best life.

How does anxiety cause brain fog?

It’s possible for anxiety to cause brain fog in two ways. The first is that you might be so preoccupied with your thoughts and worries, or the possibility of something bad happening. This distracts from your ability to focus on anything else. 

Second, as mentioned before anxiety is a natural response to a threat. This stress causes the release of adrenaline and cortisol in your body which is responsible for some of the physical symptoms. A racing heart, tension in the muscles and a shift in your focus are all reactions so our body is ready to survive. 

It might be that your anxiety is high because of the rhythm of our modern world or other things that objectively are not a direct threat to our existence. In that case, those physical symptoms are not helping us but hurting us. Your brain might drown in the stress hormones and produce what we know as brain fog.

How do I get rid of brain fog anxiety?

Getting rid of brain fog related to anxiety is not impossible. There are things you can try yourself to lower your anxiety and stress levels. Following these 12 tips might be a good first step:

1. Trace it back to the source of your anxiety

Going to the source of your anxiety can help you know what makes you stressed out. Recognizing your triggers can be a first step. You can try to do this by keeping a journal about what makes you anxious. Talk therapy or any form of CBT therapy could also support you in this journey. Triggers might be people, places or certain situations. Although avoiding these triggers might be a solution for some, it is shown that it is better to accept the situation and your anxiety and take action towards what you actually want.

2. Get more sleep

A lack of sleep can be a cause of foggy thinking. Sleep problems (or insomnia) and anxiety are also correlated. Research shows that many people with anxiety have difficulty falling asleep because they have ruminating thoughts.  

Some people also suffer from anticipatory anxiety, dreading the moment to go to bed as they think they won’t fall asleep. The distress this creates makes it very difficult for your mind to turn off, and in turn creates a negative loop that reinforces the anxiety and the thoughts associated. 

Following the sleep hygiene rules can be a first step to get more rest (and experience less stress and brain fog. It is recommended to:

  • Keep a sleep routine, let your body know when to sleep and when to be awake
  • Avoid blue light in the evening (smartphones, tablets, television)
  • Avoid naps during the day
  • Avoid caffeine in the evening
  • Avoid substance use 
  • Have a quiet, dark bedroom
  • Don’t stay awake in bed for more than 5 to 10 minutes

3. Practice mindfulness 

Just trying to sleep is not going to work because you want it. Some people need to first relax their mind so their brain can shut off.

Practicing mindfulness exercises can help you do this. Mindfulness is the practice of stilling your mind. It is focusing on being in the moment to promote a sense of calmness, peace and acceptance.

You can also try to use a body scan meditation in which you follow the sensation of your breath as it moves through parts of your body, or listen to an audio recording on guided imagery meditation that has been designed for lowering anxiety.

4. Spend time doing things you enjoy

Find a hobby, whether it’s joining a sports team or taking up painting. It can boost your mood, and make you feel less anxious or depressed. Having social relationships is a protective factor, meaning that it might reduce stress and anxiety while increasing happiness.

5. Take care of yourself 

Selfcare doesn’t have to be extravagant, it can simply mean taking the time out of your day for something you enjoy. Sleep as much as you need, eat healthy food (or at least enough), take a bath, pray if it helps or read a book.

6. Gratitude

Being grateful for what you have, could help your anxiety. 

Research has shown that gratitude can improve your mood, reduce stress and make you feel less anxious. It also increases empathy towards others (sharing the same feelings as someone else) which might help to lower hostilities or anger in response to simple things like being cut off on the road while driving. Have a gratitude journal to write down what you are thankful for, and try to write down 5 things everyday.

7. Check on your physical needs 

If you find yourself feeling anxious, take a moment to check in with your body. You might be hungry and need some food (or just want to unwind), experiencing physical pain or illness that needs attention, getting tired which can make anxiety worse so it’s better if you get more sleep by following the sleep hygiene rules mentioned earlier or drink more water so your body has the energy it needs.

8. Get some exercise

Exercise is a good way to combat anxiety because it releases neurotransmitters that make you feel better. Your body produces more endorphins which are chemicals in the brain that act as natural painkillers. Exercise also increases serotonin levels–a chemical in our brains responsible for moods–which can help with feelings of depression or sadness. 

9. Take a short break

Exposure is a well known treatment for anxiety. It’s been known to help people deal with a fear of heights, flying and public speaking just to name a few examples. However, too much exposure all at once can be disastrous. For that reason, it’s best to work on facing your fears one at a time and give yourself plenty of breaks in between so you can feel safe again before working up the courage for another step forward.

Be kind to yourself, and take some time to work through what is giving you stress. 

10. Develop a stress management plan

A first step to developing any stress management plan should be to recognize your own triggers and your physical symptoms that indicate stress. 

There are many ways we can lower our stress, some of them are discussed above. Practicing mindfulness and breathing techniques are some. Making selfcare a priority is another option. Another important step is learning how to say “no” or how to set boundaries. Boundaries are necessary to preserve your health and well-being, so it is important to learn how to enforce them. 

It can be tricky at first because we are often socialized not to say no or set boundaries for our own needs. This leads us into a cycle of giving too much before reaching the point where we have nothing left in order that others

11. Rule out a medical cause

Although your brain fog might be related to your anxiety, it is still possible that their is a medical cause. There are many factors that can have an influence on having brain fog. Treating this medical condition could also be an important step to give you a solution, or at least could confirm if there are any related issues.

12. Talk to a therapist or a psychologist

A therapist or a psychologist can help you with a different perspective and will be able to provide coping techniques that could work for your specific situation.  

You could also try to interact with more people, as this will help you get out of your head and make new friends. 

When to contact a doctor

Anxiety or brain fog can interfere with your daily life. Feeling anxious is a normal reaction. However it can quickly snowball into a bigger problem. Anxiety as a disorder should be treated with therapy and medication. Your doctor can advise you on this. He or she can also check if the anxiety and brain fog is not caused by something else. 

It is also important to go to the doctor if you experience one or more of the following signs. 

  • You have the feeling that you are losing control over your anxiety or worrying thoughts
  • Your quality of life is suffering from these symptoms, it is time to go to the doctor. 
  • It is giving you high distress and physical symptoms like headaches, stomach aches, muscle tension.

Other causes of brain fog

Some other factors could cause brain fog, including:

  • Not enough sleep,
  • Medical conditions or stress f.e. Chronic fatigue syndrome, cancer, MS 
  • Side effects from taking medication for f.e. chemo
  • Vitamin deficiencies (or problems with the digestive system)
  • Toxins or heavy metals
  • Hormonal changes like hypothyroidism, pregnancy or menopause
  • Dehydration
  • Drugs or alcohol abuse

Summary

How does anxiety cause brain fog?  Anxious people have a tendency for their thoughts to race and they may find themselves spending hours lost in anxious contemplation or worry about what others think of them. This could lead to chronic stress and brain fog.

Trying these lifestyle tips might lower your anxiety and brain fog. Getting extra help from a doctor and a psychologist can also be needed.

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