Written by Dr. Inez Van Roy on
April 3, 2022
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Medically Reviewed by our Medical Affairs Team

Written by Dr. Inez Van Roy on:

Do you ever feel like your mind just isn’t working the way it should? That you can’t focus on anything and everything feels like a massive effort?

If so, you may be experiencing brain fog from stress. This is a condition that is caused by stress and can lead to a number of symptoms.

In this blog post, we will discuss what stress brain fog is, the cognitive symptoms associated with it, and how to treat it.

We hope that this information will help you understand the link between stress and brain fog and allow you to take steps to improve your mental clarity!

What exactly is brain fog?

Brain fog or mental fog is a type of temporary cognitive impairment that is characterized by a lack of focus, difficulty thinking and concentrating, and feeling generally “sluggish.”

There are many causes of brain fog, but the most common are the following:

  • chronic stress
  • poor diet
  • lack of sleep
  • and medication side effects.

Brain fog usually lasts in a span of a few days, but others may experience it for weeks and even months. 

While brain fog isn’t a medically recognized term, it is a commonly used phrase to describe the sensation of not feeling like yourself or dealing with mental fatigue.

If you often experience brain fog, you may find it difficult to complete everyday tasks and this can lead to even more stress and anxiety. 

What exactly is stress? 

Stress is a feeling of being overwhelmed or anxious. It can be caused by a number of things, including work, school, family responsibilities, and financial stress.

When you are stressed, your body releases cortisol – a hormone that helps to prepare you for “fight or flight.”

While cortisol is necessary in small doses, too much of it can have negative effects on your body and mind. 

Can stress cause brain fog?

There is a link between stress and brain fog.

When you are stressed, your body releases cortisol, which can trigger brain fog symptoms, and too much cortisol levels can even negatively affect your memory performance.

Additionally, when you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious, it can be challenging to focus and think clearly, aggravating your brain fog symptoms.  

This is because stress can cause a feeling of “disconnection” from your thoughts and emotions.

Therefore, it is vital to address stress if you are experiencing brain fog symptoms.

What are the symptoms of stress brain fog?

The symptoms of brain fog from stress can vary from person to person. However, common symptoms include:

  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Restlessness
  • Inability to focus
  • Easily distracted
  • Low self-esteem
  • Poor memory recall
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Trouble completing tasks
  • Irritability or mood swings
  • Isolation or avoiding others
  • Fatigue or “sluggish” condition
  • Feeling overwhelmed or anxious
  • Trouble with overwhelming emotions
  • Difficulty in organizing activities and thoughts
  • Problem in word-finding when conversing with other people

If you are dealing with two or more of these symptoms and they occur frequently,  then you may be experiencing brain fog caused by stress.

How can I treat stress and brain fog?

There are a number of ways that you can treat stress and brain fog as well as improve your overall brain health and enhance your mental clarity. Here are a few suggestions:

Make time for yourself

When you are feeling stressed, it can be challenging to find time for yourself.

However, it is crucial to make time for yourself in order to relax and rejuvenate and prevent brain fog from occurring.

This may include taking a long, nice bath, reading your favorite genre, going for a walk among nature, or spending some time doing the hobbies you love.

If you are struggling to find time for yourself, try setting aside specific times each day or week that are just for you.

Reduce stressors in your life

Your stressors are some of the significant factors that cause brain fog.

If there are stressors in your life that you can’t eliminate, try to reduce them as much as possible.

For example, if you have a lot of school work, try to study during times when you feel most productive rather than cramming at the last minute, or develop a routine and set a schedule and stick to it. 

If you are struggling with managing your stressors, it may be helpful to talk to a therapist or counselor who can help you develop stress-relieving techniques.

Practice stress-relieving activities

There are a number of stress-relieving activities that you can do which can help you clear brain fog instantly and improve your mood as well as provide relief from stress.

Some examples include:

  • yoga
  • meditation
  • deep breathing exercises
  • aromatherapy
  • journaling
  • a full body massage
  • a day out or night out with family
  • reconnecting with close friends
  • spending time in nature.

Find what works best for you and make sure to do it regularly.

Eat a healthy diet

A healthy diet is key to maintaining your overall health, especially in preventing brain fog.

When you eat nutritious foods, your body and brain have the nutrients they need to function correctly.

In addition, antioxidants found in certain foods can help protect your brain from stress and age-related damage.

Some examples of antioxidant-rich foods include:

  • berries
  • dark leafy greens
  • nuts
  • seeds
  • beans.

Avoid processed foods and sugary drinks as much as possible, and try to eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Drink plenty of water

Dehydration can cause brain fog and a few other adverse symptoms, such as headaches, nausea, and constipation.

Do your best to drink plenty of water throughout the day, each day (at least eight glasses), in order to stay hydrated and help your brain function at its best.

Take supplements

In addition to a healthy diet, you may also want to consider taking supplements that can help improve your immune system and cognitive function.

Some of the best supplements for brain health include:

  • omega-3 fatty acids
  • Vitamin B-complex, especially B12
  • magnesium
  • zinc
  • iron
  • Ginkgo Biloba

Consult your doctor or a nutritionist to find out what supplements would be best for you, and make sure to read the labels carefully to ensure that you are taking the correct dosage.

Get enough sleep

Getting enough sleep is crucial for both your physical and mental health.

When you don’t get enough sleep, it can lead to stress, brain fog, and a number of other health problems, including mental illness. 

Aim to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night and create a routine that helps you get to bed and wake up at the same time each day.

If you are struggling with getting enough sleep, try to limit your caffeine intake and try some of the techniques listed above, such as stress-relieving activities.

Exercise regularly

Exercise is another critical factor in maintaining your overall health, most especially your brain health.

When you exercise, your body releases neurotransmitters called endorphins, which can help improve your mood and reduce stress levels.

In addition, exercise helps improve blood flow to the brain and can protect against age-related damage.

Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day and find an activity that you enjoy so that you will be more likely to stick with it.

Do memory exercises

Memory exercises can help keep your brain healthy and improve your cognitive health.

Some examples of memory exercises include:

  • recalling things from the past
  • learning a new skill or subject
  • practicing meditation or mindfulness
  • brain-training games (i.e., puzzles, chess, sudoku)

The more you work your brain for the better, the better it will function overall.

Take breaks during the day.

It’s also important to take breaks during the day to give your brain a chance to rest.

When you work for long periods of time without taking a break, it can lead to stress and, ultimately, brain fog.

Try to take a five-minute break every hour or so to get up and move around or do something relaxing. 

If you are feeling overwhelmed, take a longer break and go for a walk or do something calming. 

Quit cigarettes and limit your alcohol consumption

Cigarette smoke and alcohol both have negative effects on your brain function, which makes your brain more prone to stress and brain fog. 

Quit smoking and try to limit your alcohol intake as much as possible. 

Manage other health conditions

If you are managing a health condition such as diabetes, hypertension, or thyroid disease, make sure to take your medication as prescribed and follow your doctor’s instructions.

These conditions, including some mental health conditions, can also have a negative effect on your cognitive function and increase stress levels, thereby making you more susceptible to brain fog.

Seek help if needed

If you are struggling with stress, brain fog, or any other mental health issue, don’t hesitate to seek help.

There are a number of resources available, including therapists, counselors, and support groups.

Don’t suffer in silence; there is help available.

How can stress affect the brain?

There is a growing body of research that suggests stress can have a negative effect on the brain.

Stress can lead to cognitive problems, such as brain fog, and can increase the risk of developing mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.

In addition, stress can damage the brain cells and lead to a decrease in brain function.

Stress can also lead to physical health problems, such as heart disease and diabetes. 

Other Effects of Stress on Your Overall Health

There are a number of other ways stress can negatively affect your physical, mental, and emotional states, including:

  • Undereating or overeating
  • Angry outbursts
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Social withdrawal
  • Less energy
  • Lack of motivation
  • Difficulty to focus
  • Sleep problems
  • Stomach discomfort
  • Muscle pain or tension
  • Chest pain
  • Anxious feelings and thoughts
  • Depressive episodes
  • Chest pain
  • Headache and dizziness
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome

If you are experiencing any of these effects from stress, we highly recommend that you start practicing the suggestions laid out above or consult a mental health professional to guide you based on your unique needs and goals.

The Bottom Line

Stress can have a negative effect on the brain, leading to cognitive problems such as brain fog and an increased risk of developing other mental health issues.

In addition, stress can damage brain cells, lead to a decrease in brain function, and cause physical health problems.

There are a number of ways to deal with stress, including exercise, relaxation techniques, and therapy.

If you are struggling with stress, don’t hesitate to seek help. There is a lot of support available.

If you want to learn more about mental fog and how to treat brain fog more efficiently, check out these educational articles here and feel free to join this online community of brain fitness enthusiasts. 

Join The Mental Health Community You've Been Dreaming Of


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