Someone who follows my blog recently asked me for my thoughts on how to deal with ‘brain fog’. It’s not a term I’m very familiar with, but she described it as the feeling that results from being overloaded by input: texts, emails, meetings, social media requests etc, whilst also trying to balance home life.
It results in lack of sleep, lack of focus, missing things, lack of coordination and accident proneness. Contributing factors she suggested are the difficulty of focusing on one thing at a time because of new technology and perhaps an addiction to being available, not missing out or not being seen to be on top of things if you don’t respond immediately to a message.
I think most people can probably relate to this if they have a social media account and use email a lot for their work. It’s never been harder to concentrate, to prioritise and to switch off after work.
It’s good timing because I’m feeling a little more foggy than usually having had a bit too much red wine last night, which I don’t normally do because I don’t like how this feels!
To have a calm, clear, focused mind, in my experience you need to both look after your internal state and the way you work. Here are things that I think both help and hinder your internal state:
Leads to Fog
Leads to clarity
|· Lack of sleep
· Being continually connected to email/social media
|· Eight hours sleep
· Doing one thing at a time
· Using the pomodoro technique
· Allowing enough time
· Switching off from email/social media
· Gratitude journaling
Whether you’re mostly engaging in behaviours on the left column or the right, probably has more to do with your beliefs than anything else.
Over the weekend, I came across a helpful definition of stress as being, “the feeling that we have when we perceive that we have a need or obligation [but] inadequate resources to handle it”.
It’s the belief that we have an obligation to respond to everyone and everything immediately that causes us to feel so over-loaded. We don’t have adequate resources to give everyone what they want as soon as they’ve asked for it, but we try, by multi-tasking, working later, sleeping less and pumping ourselves up on caffeine.
I once ran a mindfulness session at an office where the techy was known for having a to do list for requests that people had of him, that he worked through methodically. Everyone else in the team knew that if you asked him to do something, he wouldn’t respond until he’d dealt with whatever was ahead of you in the list, and they respected that.
He seemed a lot calmer than everyone else, and he did a good job.
Inside all of us is a ‘people pleaser’, but perhaps a big part of avoiding overwhelm and brain fog is having the courage to say you’re not going to do something immediately.
In my email signature it says that I only check my emails once per day, and if you need to get hold of me sooner, call or text me. I don’t think there is a way to be always connected, rapidly responding to everything and have a calm, clear, focused mind. I think we just need to learn to say no.
If you’ve got a topic you’d like me to cover in a future blog, please let me know!