7 Proven Ways to Fix Brain Fog at Work

You know that feeling when your head feels kind of muddled, and you can’t concentrate no matter how much you’re trying?

Your thoughts are scattered, you feel exhausted, mentally and/or physically, have trouble remembering things, and can’t find the motivation to get through your workday.

This is brain fog – and although brain fog by itself isn’t a specific medical condition, it’s the potential symptom of a range of other conditions, like stress, anxiety, depression, unstable blood sugar, insomnia, and even more serious conditions like Alzheimer’s.

But the good news is that you can fix brain fog, not only to help you boost your productivity during work, but also to maintain long-term brain health and reduce chances of cognitive decline in the future.

Take a look at these 7 proven ways to fix brain fog at work!

Table of Contents

1. Mind What You Eat

2. Get Better Quality Sleep

3. Switch Out Coffee for Tea

4. Stay Physically Active

5. Meditate Using Focused Breathing

6. Block Out the Blue Light

7. Stay Off Your Social Media

7 Proven Ways to Fix Brain Fog at Work

1. Mind What You Eat

7 Proven Ways to Fix Brain Fog at WorkOne of the reasons you might be experiencing brain fog is dopamine deficiency.

Dopamine is one of the over 100 neurotransmitters or chemical messengers in your body – you might have heard it referred to as the “pleasure molecule.”

But dopamine has another nickname that I like calling it by – the “motivation molecule.”

As the name suggests, dopamine regulates your motivation – when you accomplish something, like learning a new skill, getting a promotion or a compliment from your boss, the reward centers of your brain light up and your dopamine levels rise.

Because this sensation is so pleasurable, your brain craves more of it, and you feel motivated to repeat what you did or do more of it to experience that sensation again.

This is what gives you the drive that keeps you going to accomplish things. And used correctly, you can take advantage of your dopamine levels to stay motivated throughout your workday and keep the brain fog at bay.

Unfortunately, there are also unhealthy and unsustainable ways you can temporarily boost dopamine, which do more harm than good.

Here’s one major culprit – sugar.

Cut Down Your Sugar Consumption to Tackle Brain Fog

7 Proven Ways to Fix Brain Fog at WorkEating or drinking sugary treats do boost your dopamine levels in the short run, which might be why you find yourself suddenly craving a sweet snack or beverage partway through your workday.

But the dopamine boost is followed by a long-term dopamine crash as your insulin clears out that sudden spike of sugar in your bloodstream. And this dopamine deficiency is what ends up creating brain fog.

This is why you experience sugar crashes – you feel lethargic, irritable, unable to focus or think critically and analytically.

The risky thing about sugar is that despite knowing its bad for you in theory, you might still end up craving it because the dopamine surge it causes is addictive, similar to the effect smoking, drinking, gambling and drugs might have on your reward centers.

And that’s not good news, is it?

In the long-run, excessive sugar intake can even lead to more serious health conditions like diabetes, Alzheimer’s, chronic inflammation, and greater symptoms of depression and anxiety.

And sugar doesn’t just mean desserts and sweet treats – refined carbs, like pastries, cookies, and many types of fast food all fall under this category of unhealthy sugars.

How Can You Boost Dopamine in a Healthy Way?

7 Proven Ways to Fix Brain Fog at WorkA much more sustainable method of boosting dopamine is by incorporating more healthy fat into your diet.

60% of your brain is made up of fat, so your diet needs to include enough of it to help keep your brain functioning and growing at a healthy rate.

But not all fats are good fats – saturated and trans fats, which you’ll find in greasy fast foods, margarine, baked goodies, vegetable oils and some red meats are harmful for your brain and can contribute to more brain fog.

Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, which you’ll find in avocado, a variety of nuts and seeds, and fatty fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel and so on, are brain-friendly fats you benefit from.

The latter is an excellent source of the Omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Although the body can synthesize these fats from other unsaturated fat sources, it doesn’t do this very efficiently, so fatty fish and fish oil supplements are often the primary source for these fatty acids in a balanced diet.

These Omega-3 acids play a crucial role in maintaining your brain’s functioning, growth, learning, and memory.

It also boosts dopamine and serotonin in a far more sustainable and healthy way than sugars and saturated fats, reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, which might be causing you brain fog.

So, if you want a snack while working, munch on some nuts and seeds instead. Switch out your fast-food lunches for a sushi bowl. And of course, you can get your Omega-3 fatty acids in supplement form but be sure to consult your doctor first before taking them.

Another healthy way of boosting dopamine is including more sources of the amino acid l-tyrosine into your diet.

Your body can create dopamine from l-tyrosine, a nutrient found in many of the same foods that contain good unsaturated fats, like fish, avocados, pumpkin and sesame seeds, almonds, etc. as well as sources like chicken and turkey meat, dairy products, and so on.

By boosting dopamine in this way, you’re improving the health and functioning of your brain in the long run, rather than experiencing short-term dopamine spikes with damaging after-effects.

2. Get Better Quality Sleep

7 Proven Ways to Fix Brain Fog at WorkNot getting enough sound sleep may be one of the biggest contributors to your brain fog and the underlying conditions causing it.

A 2019 study demonstrates that not getting enough Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep can disrupt the function of your brain’s amygdalae.

Along with regulating long-term learning and memory, these almond-sized nuclei in your brain also regulate emotions, especially negative emotions like fear, anxiety, stress, sadness, etc.

The study finds that those who didn’t get enough quality sleep during the night woke up the next day more reactive to negative emotions like stress and anxiety – which may cause brain fog – than those who got a good night’s rest.

Meanwhile, another study indicates how just a single night without sleep can cause a build-up of a waste product in parts of your brain, including your amygdalae, which causes brain fog.

It disrupts your brain’s ability to learn, create and process memory, focus, and puts you in a negative state of mind not conducive for work or productivity.

That’s not all. When you don’t get enough sleep, your dopamine levels are too low the next morning. This means you wake up demotivated, lethargic, unable to focus, learn, or commit things to memory.

Your brain not only needs the rest you get during a good night’s sleep, but it’s also a critical part of its learning and memory-making process.

In fact, it’s when you are fast asleep that your brain’s hippocampus and neocortex process what you learned throughout the day, create connections with what you already know, form long-term memories and come up with new ideas or solutions.

On the other hand, not getting enough sleep makes you more prone to forgetting what you learned, be less focused and coordinated, and in general less able to take in and process new knowledge.

So, even if you have a packed workday, just a 20-minute nap can boost your performance – according to neuroscience, you’ll be performing much better than if you didn’t get any sleep at all!

3. Switch Out Coffee for Tea

7 Proven Ways to Fix Brain Fog at WorkYou might be thinking that you can’t function in the mornings without a cup of coffee, let alone get through the whole day.

Well – while the caffeine in coffee can have some impact in sharpening your focus and alertness, it can also lead to long-term addiction and make your brain fog worse.

The caffeine in your cup of coffee interferes with the work of the neurotransmitter adenosine. Since adenosine makes you drowsy, within about 15 minutes of drinking some coffee, you’re likely to feel more awake and alert.

However, the caffeine can stay in your system for up to 10 hours afterwards, and this effect is compounded when you’re going through multiple cups a day. All this caffeine can actually make symptoms of anxiety and stress worse.

If you’re laying awake at night unable to go to sleep, this may be why. And if you’re then experiencing brain fog the next morning which makes you drink more coffee, you’re stuck in a coffee-induced vicious cycle.

Thankfully, there’s a great and beneficial caffeine alternative for you – black and green teas, especially green teas.

These contain the amino acid l-theanine, which not only boost your dopamine and serotonin levels, but also shift you into what’s called the alpha brain wave state.

This brain wave state is what you experience after you’ve had a great night’s sleep – you wake up well-rested, calm but alert.

The calming effect of l-theanine counteracts the jitters you might experience from the caffeine in black and green teas, and in fact it can even help you get better quality sleep.

So, to banish brain fog, I highly recommend switching out your multiple cups of coffee for green tea – my personal favorite is organic, ceremonial grade matcha to start off my morning!

4. Stay Physically Active

7 Proven Ways to Fix Brain Fog at WorkIf you’re spending all your time stuck at a desk or stuck working at home, you’re probably not getting enough physical activity.

And this is bad news for your brain.

Just a couple minutes of physical activity throughout the day (experts recommend an hour of aerobic exercise) can greatly enhance your brain’s functioning and fix brain fog.

When you’re physically active, you’re breathing in deeper and more frequently and your blood circulation speeds up.

As a result, there’s more oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood reaching your brain!

This not only speeds up your brain’s functioning, by helping it create connections between its nerve cells much faster, but it can also help your brain grow.

Your hippocampus, which is heavily involved in learning and memory, is one of the regions where this new nerve cell generation, called neurogenesis, can occur thanks to exercise!

This boost in cognitive functioning and capacity can nix brain fog by keeping you sharp and alert at work.

There are plenty more benefits too.

Getting enough exercise during the day helps you get better sleep at night, for instance, so your brain gets the rest and processing time it needs to keep you calm, focused and motivated the next day.

Exercise also boosts the levels of dopamine, serotonin and endorphins in your system, and these work to counteract brain fog, keeping you in a great mood while enhancing your motivation and concentration!

5. Meditate Using Focused Breathing

7 Proven Ways to Fix Brain Fog at WorkFocusing on your breathing is a core concept in meditation and for good reason.

Plenty of studies show that by slowing and deepening your breathing and focusing inward as you do can reduce feelings of anxiety and stress, which might be contributing to your brain fog.

Here’s how.

How does your body react when you’re stressed or anxious?

Shallow breathing, faster heartbeats, escalating blood pressure, sweaty palms – does that sound familiar?

During times like this, your sympathetic nervous system is active, and keeping you in this reactive “fight-or-flight” mode.

However, out of all these physiological functions, breathing is the one that you can consciously control, and you can literally flip the system around using it.

When you take deep, slow, deliberate breaths, you activate your vagus nerve, which in turn activates the parasympathetic nervous system.

This system connects the same parts of your body as your sympathetic nervous system. By slowing down and focusing on your breathing, you start off a chain reaction that in turn slows down your heart, reduces your blood pressure, relaxes your muscles, and so on.

Deep, steady breathing can, in fact, switch you into your alpha brain wave state – you feel much calmer, more relaxed, and alert.

This effectively helps you counter brain fog, by reducing the stress and anxiety which might be causing it.

So, the next time you feel as though you’re too anxious, stressed or tense to focus on work, do this –

Close your eyes, sit up straight at your desk, and breathe in deeply for 4 counts.

Then, hold it in for 4 counts.

Finally, breathe out for 4 counts.

Do this a couple of times, focusing on counting your breaths and tuning out everything else.

You’ll feel a marked difference afterwards!

6. Block Out the Blue Light

7 Proven Ways to Fix Brain Fog at WorkIf you spend a lot of time on your computer screen for work, or just a lot of time on screens – phone, laptop, TV etc. – in general, you’re exposed to a lot of artificial blue light.

Some amount of blue light – the type that’s naturally occurring and mixed in with other types of light rays your eye can see, like sunlight – is actually good for you.

However, blue light not only causes you a lot of visual strain when you’re bathed in it while staring at a screen all day, blue light after dark can also mess up your body clock and sleep patterns.

For starters, because blue light scatters more than any of the other light wavelengths, your eyes have to work a lot harder to read and make out contrast on your screen.

This might, in the long-run, damage your eyes, and the strain can lead to irritated and tired eyes, dryness, headaches – all bad for focusing at work.

Meanwhile, excessive exposure to blue light after dark interferes with melatonin production – this is the hormone that makes you relaxed and sleepy after sunset.

The blue light tricks your brain into thinking it needs to be alert and awake for the day when you should be getting ready for bed, which is bad news for your sleep cycle.

And as you know, not getting enough sleep leads to brain fog!

There are a couple of things you can do to block out blue light.

Of course, you can consciously reduce the time you spend on your screen. If you still need to use your computer or phone after dark, use a blue-light blocking filter for your device – you can purchase one from medically approved brands like Ocushield.

You can also try out tinted glasses – yellow ones during the day let in enough of the good blue light while blocking the bad stuff. Red or rose-tinted ones completely block out artificial blue light at night.

I’ve recently started using blue light blocking clip-ons with my glasses, and I can tell you from first-hand experience that not only are the eye strain and headaches I was experiencing gone, but I’m also sleeping a lot better.

And yeah – it’s helped fix the brain fog I was experiencing!

7. Stay Off Your Social Media

7 Proven Ways to Fix Brain Fog at WorkOne of the reasons you might find it hard to stay off your devices is your social media.

You might not realize it, but you might be addicted to social media because it’s one of those unhealthy dopamine addictions you read about earlier.

When you get a message notification, come across a post you enjoy, or get engagement on something you shared, your reward centers light up with a sense of pleasure and accomplishment.

And your brain keeps craving it, which is why you keep scrolling through your feeds and timelines even when nothing is happening.

This is bad news for your productivity at work as well as for your sleep.

You might think taking a quick look at your mentions during work is harmless, but just this quick break in your focus can cost your brain almost 30 minutes to refocus on what you were doing.

This sets your productivity back quite a bit, and makes your brain work overtime to process what you’re doing.

Meanwhile, the longer you spend on your phone into the night because you just can’t seem to stop scrolling, the more you disrupt your sleep.

All of this culminates in productivity and focus disrupting brain fog.

So – turn your social media notifications off, and if you still end up tapping into your apps or opening those tabs, use blocking software to keep you out of them while you’re working and before bedtime.

With these 7 proven ways to fix brain fog at work, you can not only concentrate better and boost your productivity, but also improve your overall brain and body health!

Which of these tips are you trying out first?

pat wymanPat Wyman is the CEO of HowtoLearn.com and an internationally noted brain coach known as America’s Most Trusted Learning Expert.

Pat’s superpower is helping people learn, read and remember everything faster. She has helped over half a million people in schools and corporations such as Microsoft, Intel and Google improve their lives with her learning strategies, learning styles inventory and courses, such as Total Recall Learning™. 

Pat is the best-selling author of more than 15 books, a university instructor, mom and golden retriever lover!

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