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Getting out of the Fog

April 20, 2021
Author: by Sharon Kelly, VIU’s Success Coach

8 helpful fuzz busters that support clear thinking

It is that time of year again when reading break is a distant memory and sh*t just got real.  Completing end-of-term projects and studying for tests, as well as ensuring you are still sleeping and getting a breath of fresh air now and then is getting extremely challenging. “And my brain – oh my foggy brain. It is getting so difficult to think clearly.”

Andrew Budson, MD, says: “Brain fog is not a medical or scientific term; it is used by individuals to describe how they feel when their thinking is sluggish, fuzzy, and not sharp.” And: “We all experience this feeling from time to time.” 

A key disclaimer before we continue: Brain fog can be caused by underlying heath conditions; if you have not ruled out those first, please connect with your health care provider or a nurse practitioner at VIU’s health clinic. If you have difficult emotions that you feel stuck in, seeing a counsellor is helpful.

8 Helpful Fuzz Busters

Sometimes we can get so busy that we forget to take care of ourselves and do things that help clear our thinking and support our memory. Here 8 tips to bust the fuzz. 

1: Get a good night’s sleep.

Want to feel more alert, and improve your memory, mood and immunity? Get adequate sleep. Neurologist and sleep medicine expert Dr. Brandon Peterson explains that one of the key ways to get enough sleep is to get up at a consistent time every day. Anchor your morning wake up and get natural light on your face to re-set your circadian rhythms too.

2: Exercise regularly.

Moving your body with some physical exercise not only helps you get better sleep, but it also helps to clear cortisol (stress hormone) from your system as well as create new neurons in your brain. When you get more than 15 minutes of cardio exercise, your heart releases something called brain-derived neurotropic factor, which is to neuron growth like Miracle Grow is to flowers.

3: Eat brain-healthy food.

Food nourishes our body and most definitely our brain. A healthy diet that contains olive oil, vegetables, nuts, beans and whole grains is proven to improve brain health. Did you know blueberries can help you cope with the aftermaths of trauma? When studying and creating assignments, our brains consume a whoppingly high percentage of our calories. If you want to know how food can impact your mood and mental functioning, read This is Your Brain on Food by Dr. Unu Naidoo.

4: Cultivate a belief in your ability to cope.

Do an inventory of your beliefs and assumptions about yourself and go through each one, asking yourself if they are helpful or hindering you. Once you pinpoint core beliefs that hinder, a closer look is usually called for. As a coach, when I reflect back a belief that someone holds with a powerful metaphor that gives a visual of their belief, I often hear them say something like, “Wow, when you say it like that, I can see how silly that sounds.” Discovering and then talking through core beliefs that are often unconsciously held is sometimes what is needed to shift into a more positive and life-sustaining frame of mind that support a person’s capacity to cope or resilience.

5: Mind your narrative.

How you talk to yourself during challenging times has a huge impact on the outcome of the situation. Try setting the bar at a realistic height and focus on celebrating small wins. Whenever you catch yourself being critical of yourself, try reversing that narrative and looking at it from the positive. For example, “I didn’t spend a few hours studying last night like I wanted to, but on the positive side I am starting to understand a concept I was struggling with all term.”

6: Nurture positive emotions.

Cultivating gratitude is another helpful way you can develop your own positive emotions. Check out my blog post called Habits for Happiness, which gives more ideas for ways to help you nuture positive emotions. If you are experiencing depression, anxiety or are feeling stuck in dark and recurring emotions, seek help from VIU Counsellors or see your family doctor. 

7: Develop connections. 

Resilient people remember they are not alone. Belonging and being part of something greater supports resilience. Resilient people reach out and ask for help. They practice vulnerability and courage. They reach out and they do the next tip on this list.

8: Talk it through.

You can talk it through with friends, family, colleagues and professionals. At VIU we have a number of different supports for different kinds of conversations with professionals with different varieties of expertise. Check out these sources of support through VIU:

  • Advising Center: Watch the video on the home page, in which advisors talk through what kinds of conversations they host.
  • Counselling: Connect with counsellors for one-on-one sessions or sign up for one of the events and workshops counsellors host to support you.
  • Student Success Coaching: I am the success coach. I regularly partner with students in an adult-to-adult relationship where I primarily serve as your thinking partner. You choose the topic of conversation and together we think through the outcomes and actions you want to take to address whatever it is that you are seeking clarity, a decision or plan of action for.

Please do not hesitate to reach out and together we can think through ways to bust through the fuzz. Appointments are available through till near the end of May.

Foggy mountainside

Extra Reading: 

Burnout: The Key to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily and Amelia Nagoski is written for women, but men can also glean some key tips too. 

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