Silhouette of a person holding a missing gear piece, or cog. There is a hole in their body that shows where it belongs.

Breaking Through Cog-Fog

Cog-fog, also known as cognitive fog or dysfunction, is a very common symptom for many of us who live with multiple sclerosis. It’s frustrating and exhausting to deal with on a frequent basis, and that is putting it lightly. I’m sure most of us have other ‘choice words’ for cog-fog.

Cog-fog on top of fatigue

The difficulty of battling the cog-fog is exhausting, and we’re already dealing with fatigue as it is. It always seems that my cog-fog worsens at the worst times possible as well. When I really need to be functioning at 100%, I just lose all train of thought. What I was trying to accomplish just minutes before is completely lost in my brain somewhere. How can something disappear so easily?

My tips for coping with cog-fog frustration

Usually, I would get extremely frustrated, and that would make my cog-fog even worse. Now, I’ve learned some little techniques to help me along the way that I wanted to share with others that also deal with the monster that is multiple sclerosis.

Slowing down and taking a deep breath

Instead of automatically getting frustrated, I take a step back and take a big breath and slow down my brain process. So hopefully, I’m able to remember what I was struggling with to begin with. In situations where it’s important that I remember my train of thought, I’ve started making little reminder symbols to help me keep my train of thought.

“I came, I saw, I forgot what I was doing, retraced my steps, got lost on the way back, now I have no idea what’s going on.” - Unknown

Exercise your body and mind

What really helped me the most with the frequent cog-fog issues was exercising. I know, the dreaded 'exercising.' But not in the way that you really think. I just did things that I enjoy doing, that also happened to get my body moving. This has also really helped out with my stress level, which is not good for MS either.

Work out your brain

The exercises that have helped most with the cog-fog are brain exercises. I love playing games on my phone or on the computer. Just something to keep my brain active and challenge my way of thinking.

Regular sleep habits

For a while there, I would stay up too late for the time that I had to be up the following morning. Now, I have put myself on a better sleep schedule so that I can get a good amount of sleep. This way, I’m not tired from poor asleep while battling the daily fatigue that MS brings on anyway. Because we all know there is a difference in the lack of sleep feeling and MS fatigue.

I know it’s a pain to have to do so many things to function as ‘normally’ as possible, but if it helps save us from embarrassment or frustration, it’s worth it for me personally.

A domino effect

Also, as I stated in my previous article, “The Domino Effect,” our MS symptoms tend to happen in conjunction with one another. For example, when I am fatigued, the cog-fog is worse. Which then leads to me being stressed out. I then try to do too much because I’m frustrated. Later that evening or the next day I pay the MS Tax, meaning my MS is telling me, "You can’t do that because I said so."

I never start the day with a full tank

I try to explain to those who don’t ‘get it’ that I never start my day with a full tank of energy or ‘normalness.’ Depending on outside factors like weather and other things, I usually start my day with a ½ tank in the warmer months. And, if I’m lucky, ¾ tank in the cooler months, depending on if it’s close to the holidays, because that can be stressful, too.

What time works best for you?

Also, I’ve learned I do better mid-day with my cognitive function. When I wake up, it takes a bit to get moving and for all cylinders to fire together. In the evening, I’m usually just exhausted and can’t think clearly. So, find the time of the day that you feel is best for you mentally and physically.

Bottom line, I’ve come to realize that while it’s annoying, embarrassing, and frustrating to deal with the cog-fog, it’s not something that is going to go away it seems. So, I have to find ways to live WITH it the best way possible.

Other things to help with cog-fog

Here is some more information on things to help with cog-fog as well:
MS and Cognitive Function
Living in a Fog
MS Brain Teasers for a Cognitive Challenge

Ashley Ringstaff

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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