Being tired is the seeming way of the world nowadays. It’s almost expected. Most people can be expected to be tired most of the time. Almost every time I see someone and say “hello, how are you’, I can count on them saying “tired.”
When you have a chronic illness, being tired is a bit different. Some chronic illnesses can affect attention, ability to focus, and overall motivation. These can then go on to contribute to mild to severe depression as well as anxiety. A lot of these symptoms overlap, some cause the others, and it can be hard to tell what started first, or what is causing what.
Brain fog is a common symptom for people with EDS, even hypermobility or connective tissue disease. Brain fog is like not quite being awake but it is very exaggerated. It causes an inability to focus or to even have complete thoughts. I have suffered brain fog most of my life, but it seemed to get much worse after having my children. It was as if when the lethargy of pregnancy hit, (a common occurrence in pregnancy) it just never went away again.
I went grocery shopping with my son yesterday and I had a bad case of brain fog. I had a list but was unable to figure out which aisle had the item I was looking for. I would get to the item and just stare at all of them, not really comprehending what I was looking at. I ended up just getting items based on the colors of the box, the more familiar the colors, the more likely it was that it was the correct item. I could not focus at all. My thoughts could not connect to other thoughts, and even talking was a chore. I ended up telling my son I wasn’t feeling well, because I was getting agitated from not being able to function. It upsets me when I can not even complete a simple task that I should be able to, one that everyone does every day. I get angry with my brain and body for being so crappy!
Brain fog is more than being tired. It can cause severe memory problems. Even making lists so as not to forget important things can make remembering simple things very difficult. Focusing is almost impossible. It can come and go, it can last weeks or just a day or two. There seems to be no trigger for most people, although everyone is different, and some people find that their diet may affect their brain fog and severity.
Fighting brain fog has become a full-time hobby for me, and I am sharing my coping skills.
Stay as Organized as Possible
I am a list person. I am not organized in any way, and I am not one of those list people that have a place for everything and everything in its place. I am scatter-brained, “air-headed”, a space-cadet, however, you want to put it. I am a mess. I wish I were organized. In fact, I have the type of personality that likes for things to be neat and organized, I just either don’t have the energy to get it done or my brain fog makes it impossible to get anything done, let alone in order or in any type of organized manner.
If I didn’t make lists every day and post them everywhere, and have them on my phone, I would get literally nothing done. I use the Google list app, Keep to organize my lists. I use it in conjunction with Google Voice when I need to make a list. I just say, “Ok, Google, make a list.” And it will ask what I want to put on it. It’s really handy and has a checklist option that I use a lot. You can even get a reminder to get something to do something based on your location. I can get an alert to go through the ATM drive-thru on my way out, and when I drive by that area, I will get a notification. It is a lifesaver.
I also keep a planner. Or two. I started keeping a planner when I started taking blogging more seriously a few years ago. I am a graphic designer, and had a design business and was finding myself forgetting a lot of things, and not being able to prioritize things, and felt overall very rushed all the time. A planner allowed me to make sure I had everything planned out the day or week before, write it all out and select time slots for everything. I got more done, I was rarely late with anything, and I just felt more at ease with regard to my online business mixed with my real life. I also like to use a digital planner or reminders in my phone along with a planner. Also, to keep me from going overboard with one task, because I can get carried away easily, setting timers for certain tasks is a must for me. If I only allow 45 minutes for a task like writing or researching or managing my social media accounts, I get that task done and stop myself from going way overtime on it and wasting a large part of my day.
There are a lot of YouTube videos that have meditation guides music and other ways to focus quietly. You can meditate by sitting quietly and thinking about your day you can pray, or read spiritual literature, you can write in a journal or diary. Anything that gets you to focus and have time with yourself You can consider meditation. I also use a website called Ambient Mixer. There you can create soundscapes on your own using free audio clips some of my favorites which help me study or relax are rain sounds, city streets, nature sounds, the ocean, and one of my particular favorites is the Harry Potter sounds. Meditation always helps me feel more focused and calm during the day.
Herbal Supplements and Vitamins
This one is going to be very personal to each person And I also recommend seeing your doctor before taking any of the advice here. Before you start supplementing any vitamins make sure your doctor does blood tests to make sure that you are in need of those vitamins and are not harming yourself when taking them.
A few vitamins or supplements that other people have found to provide them with a pick-me-up or an energy boost are B vitamins, specifically b-12, magnesium, electrolyte replacement, iron, and Coenzyme Q10.
Green tea has also been found to be more energizing to some people than coffee. I have tried green coffee extract, and it has been more beneficial to me than regular caffeine, I don’t know what the difference is, but it helps perk me up without giving me jitters. You can find it at Walmart or anywhere online. Are they even have green coffee extract drinks at Starbucks. Of course, you know coffee is one of the most popular pick-me-up energy supplements, but tea is also an excellent alternative to coffee. I have heard good things about green matcha tea, but I personally don’t like it.
If your lethargy is severe enough to see a doctor, they can also recommend medications to help fight fatigue. Ritalin has been known to be prescribed to people with low energy as well as for people who have ADHD. I might not start out requesting that but asking your doctor if there is a medication that can help fight fatigue is a good place to start.
Don’t get excited. Underline I’m not going to suggest you go out and run a marathon. I am suggesting that taking a few minutes a day to move around more than you usually do Can give you a natural energy boost more than anything else. If you work in an office Maybe take a walk around the block a couple of times a day with your co-workers or alone. After work maybe take your dog around the block a couple of times. If you’re really adventurous, Take a day a week to go outside of your town and go find a great place to hike. Maybe your job offers a discount on a gym membership. You can start out doing small things and if you are able, build your way up. Endorphins are some of the best energy providers that our body has to offer. I started out just walking up and down my street and slowly very slowly became a runner. Unfortunately, I am unable to continue running due to my joint joints, but I know that when I exercise even a little bit my energy levels rise naturally. Be careful if you do start an exercise regiment, to not start in the evenings Are you around the risk of not being able to sleep at night.
Take on a New Hobby
Sometimes finding something you are good at or are interested in but is not one of your usual habits can inspire you and Give you more energy. Maybe start with something like Getting a paint set and setting aside some time at night to do one of those Bob Ross paintings. Or find crafts on Pinterest and going to buy the materials and Create something unique. (Feel free to follow me!) Maybe you’ve always wanted to get into knitting, now is a great time to let your brain work a little harder and learn something new. You could even take a community college class, volunteer at a senior citizen home, start a blog, or even write a book. (Here are some of my favorite resources for those things) If you just start with one small goal and write out each individual step to getting it done, eventually you will be able to accomplish something big that you didn’t think you could. I love Pinterest and I use it every single day. I’ve learned a lot of different things on there and found a lot of new interests that I didn’t know I had, blogging for one! I do a lot of crafts with my children on Pinterest and overall get a lot of great ideas from it. If you don’t already have an account you should make one and see all the wonderful ideas Pinterest has on it. There are so many different things that you could start doing. Write down some ideas and choose one that you would seriously like to start on today.
Change your Sleep Patterns
This one is a really big one with a lot of people. Most people with chronic pain or illness is Do not get regular or adequate sleep. Either pain Keeps Us awake anxiety worried or wakes us up early, or we cannot sleep through the night. Changing your sleep schedule can change The way your brain works. You may not be getting enough hours of sleep. Most people need 8 hours of sleep I cannot function on just 8 hours I need at least ten if I do not get 10 hours I am groggy tired and grumpy. I also like to take naps if I can I am just The type of person that needs more sleep. Some people can run on for 5 hours of sleep and be fine, Usually not people with chronic illnesses. Start by taking a sleep inventory or tracking your sleep for a week Write down when you went to bed what time you fell asleep if you woke up throughout the night how your dreams were how your pain level was or your anxiety whatever bothers you and then what time you wake up. The next week you can start adopting with things such as cutting out caffeine after a specific time, doing a ritual before it is bedtime going to bed earlier, not watching TV in bed, taking a sleep aid an hour before you need to fall asleep, or getting up earlier so that you can go to sleep on time to next night. Try to get consistent sleep for one week and then note how you feel after that week.
These are all of the ways that I have used to fight my brain fog. Not all of them worked all the time, and I don’t do all of them all of the time. But I do try to keep doing most of these things because brain fog can take over my life And I start to get depressed and feel like I’m just sick all the time. If you have any tips or tricks that you use to fight your brain fog, please do comment below so that other people can utilize them.