Battling Brain Fog
Last updated: May 2023
My mind goes blank, I feel like all the education I have has gone out the window, and my head hurts trying to think straight. I get frustrated because I know I’m intelligent, and I know I have a sharp mind (well, most of the time), but it's times like these I feel like my brain has disappeared. It’s as if there is a cloud hovering over my ability to just think, and my mind becomes muddled.
Everyday tasks become more difficult
Common, everyday things like popping a frozen waffle into the toaster seem difficult. In fact, I even tried to put a waffle in the microwave once, because I could not for the life of me remember how to properly cook the darn thing. This is an MS symptom, I feel like it has worsened as I’ve gotten older, and this symptom is... brain fog. Brain fog includes symptoms such as confusion, forgetfulness and loss of focus or mental clarity.1
MS brain fog is frustrating and exhausting
You never realize when receiving an MS diagnosis how much it can affect your brain as well as your body. The cognitive changes are ever-present, too. The brain fog I’ve dealt with isn’t just forgetting how to do simple tasks, either. It’s not always an everyday thing, but when it’s there, it makes its presence known.
On days that I’m extra fatigued, I’m more aware of it also. I lose track of conversations easily, have trouble problem solving, forget things I know I need to do, and have issues with tasks like following directions. It’s exhausting when your mind does not want to cooperate.
The reason we deal with brain fog is because with MS, our lesions can slow down the guidance system in our brains, causing the messages being passed along our nerves to be unable to fire back at one another as they should.1
Tips to battle brain fog
Basically, our brain is losing track of how to think, much like we do. Brain fog is definitely one of my more frustrating symptoms, but it does not have to take over your life. I have a few tips of things I do to help me remember things, and keep my mind sharp.
The notes section in my phone is constantly full. Whether it’s a sticky note, a notepad, or, like me, your phone — use it to help you! Use those resources that are easily at your fingertips (like the alarms and reminders on your phone). Write down important dates, events, passwords, phone numbers, or even daily activities that you need to keep track of. And, make sure you put it somewhere you will remember (because, as we’ve discussed, if you’re dealing with brain fog, things easily get forgotten).
Ask your family for reminders
I’m always asking my poor husband to help me remember things, and if it’s something I’m afraid he’ll forget, I’ll turn to another family member or friend to make sure whatever it is gets communicated back to me. Let them know what you need. Knowing you have a backup plan helps keep you less overwhelmed and can help you relax a little bit.
Talk to your doctor
Brain fog could be because of lack of sleep or depression as well as MS. Talking to your doctor can always help rule out other issues that could be making your brain fog worse. Cognitive issues are difficult, and knowing you have someone to help you balance those can help.1
Keep your mind sharp
I like to do physical activities such as exercise, and challenge myself. I also enjoy playing games on my phone and reading. Activities like puzzles and games help keep your mind challenged. The more I work and stimulate the brain, the more it helps.
Cognitive challenges like brain fog can be managed
As I mentioned earlier, brain fog is tough. But, thankfully it is manageable. Take advantage of your resources, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Try not to lose your mind battling brain fog, like I sometimes do. It’s so easy to get aggravated when your brain doesn’t feel like it’s working properly, so give yourself the extra time and patience you need to figure things out!
What does advocacy mean to you as someone living with multiple sclerosis? Please select all that apply: