Updated: Jul 18, 2021
A look at the causes and a new solution with promise.
You may have heard the terms, Pandemic Brain Fog, or simply “Pandemic Brain” lately and if you’re wondering what it is, then you may be one of the lucky few who isn’t experiencing it.
There are many “Long-Haulers” that are struggling with symptoms post infection right now, and they’re one segment of the population who are experiencing the “not-right” feelings in their heads.
Regardless if you’ve had the virus or not, you may be experiencing the fuzzy brain, inability to focus, depression, kind of malaize that many people are looking up to try and understand lately.
For me, I was diagnosed when I was 19 with PTSD. Since then, and actually, years before the diagnosis, this was my life. Now that these feelings are fully impacting my ability to hold a job, I’m even more fervently looking for solutions.
I’ve been in the wellness world my entire adult life, knowing on some intuitive level that the work that I perform could potentially lead me to tools and opportunities to find a solution to the long-term symptoms PTSD creates.
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What Causes Brain Fog
There are a lot of things that can cause brain fog, and the symptoms aren’t always something that people pay close attention to until they become chronic or problematic. The usual solution is to get some caffeine or sugar to add a little boost to the body and get the brain back on.
This only works for so long until the body begins to break down, and we resort to dieting, hacks to be a better hustler, over-the-counter medications or prescriptions, and possibly assuming that we’re “getting older” and just not working like we used to. If you find that this applies to you, consider the following list of what can cause brain fog.
Common causes of Brain Fog are:
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Lack of sleep
Poor diet, including modulating mood with substances like caffeine, sugar, alcohol, and sleep aids.
Long hours at a computer screen or device
Lack of physical movement
Underlying medical conditions
You may find that the band-aid options employed don’t actually address the underlying issues and may actually exacerbate the whole problem. Throw in a pandemic and now there are laws keeping people in place, confusion and fear, and a whole new need for multitasking. All of which level up stress in a way that no one was ready for.
We all know how we’ve been responding individually to local lockdowns and restrictions. The word “resiliency” has become a trend, similar to the word “unprecedented.”
Let’s actually focus as much as possible on resiliency, because it’s here that we can begin our healing. Focusing on how “beyond our previous experience” all of 2020 was continues to hold us in the mindset of fear. That doesn’t help us at all.
I get to work with a woman who turned 100 in 2020. The amazing part of her is that she was at The Battle of the Bulge in World War II and going through the pandemic being able to speak with her has been very sobering.
She has not stopped participating fully in life. I see more resiliency in this woman who welcomes death when death may come than I see in healthy people my own age, including myself.
Resilience isn’t something that just happens. It’s a muscle that needs to be built. The ‘mindset muscle’ is a new term, and people are looking for the newest hack to shift it.
Well, get up out of your chair and do a few burpees and tell me how you feel. Or move across the room with a high-pitched “ooh!” dancing like Michael Jackson and tell me again, how do you feel?
Mindset is no different from your gluteus maximus. The easiest “hack” is to do what your body was designed to do. Struggle with stairs? Climb them more often and you won’t. Do what shifts your brain, and it will go there easily.
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It’s not always that simple to “exercise” your resilience or mindset when you’ve got something in your way, like PTSD or another psychological condition. It’s not impossible either. You get to choose your way around the “barriers” and keep putting one mental foot in front of the other.
While my path focuses on the remaining symptoms of PTSD and additional impacts from isolation during the pandemic, it’s important to remember that we each have our own journey and our own ability to create resiliency in our lives.
I’m not offering medical advice in any of the blogs that I post. I’m sharing my experience and personal results. I wish that you find hope and that each of us can heal the challenges that life presents so, as a whole we continue to grow and thrive.
Tools to Alleviate Brain Fog
I’ve recently been fascinated with the concept of epigenetics and how they affect our lives and the lives of our children. In this, I have had some great discussions that have lead to my ability to participate in a few unique therapies.
The first was hypnotherapy, which I will discuss in another blog.
The second was using a program/machine called NeurOptimal®. A fellow CranioSacral Therapist friend owns the Denver Recovery Lounge and it’s here that she provides a number of services that are designed to increase immunity, general healing, and assist in recovery from challenges like PTSD, anxiety, chronic stress, ADHD, and others.
I was pretty excited about trying this out. I have been struggling with quality sleep, headaches, inability to focus, and chronic pain for many years, and these specific symptoms have been most prevalent in the last few years.
What is NeurOptimal®?
This is how I personally understand it, and it may not be scientifically correct. If you want true deets, go here.
You have specific brain waves (measured in Hz) and they relate to different levels of activity in the brain. Gamma, Beta, Alpha, Theta, and Delta are the names you’ll hear referenced. You may have heard about the brain fluctuating between Beta and Theta during REM sleep. The deepest sleep happens in the lowest stage of Delta.
According to one article I found, when the brain is engaged in more complex thought it uses higher brainwaves (ie: Gamma is reached during intense focus).
Many individuals with ADHD are found to have lower brain waves activated when tasked with more complex thinking. This makes the brain sluggish and processing information becomes difficult.
When working with traditional neurofeedback, you’d have a practitioner utilizing a diagnosed/prescribed treatment plan hook you up to electrodes that can suppress certain frequencies/brain waves and assign you a task.
The goal is to keep you in a specific frequency while you perform the task and train the brain that this frequency is where it needs to be. Again, this is my oversimplified explanation.
With NeurOptimal®, there is no technician or diagnosis to decide what to do.
The machine is monitoring both the external environment and your brain waves through electrodes attached to your scalp and ears. While it monitors you, you listen to music that will “glitch” or disrupt when the machine notices that you’re outside of optimal frequencies.
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The only input your brain receives is the musical glitch, which disrupts the way your brain is taking in its environment. This allows the brain to catch the disruption and recalibrate or change what it’s doing.
I remember a client of mine who put motion/laser sensors on his counters to keep his cats off. Any time they would jump up and break the beam, it would emit a loud noise. The noise would scare the cats and they learned to stop jumping on the counter.
I liken this technology to that. Any time the brain goes outside “optimal” function, it gets an environmental bump that makes it recalibrate in the way that IT chooses to. The most amazing part of this is that the inherent ability of the body to heal itself is activated.
The brain learns at what points specific waves are “appropriate” and begins to rewire itself. Consider how powerful this is. When you learn something new, if you physically do it, you remember it. That’s what the brain is doing with this program.
I was greeted by Tanya and given my intake forms. One great piece is that I wrote down the challenges I’m currently experiencing, and there was an additional form where I wrote down my pre and post-session experiences.
This gives me the ability to look back on how I felt when I started the sessions and see the changes that I’m experiencing over time.
She took me back to the curtained-off area where I was able to watch a video, kind of like the old computer screen savers that made Escher-like images move around the screen. She hooked me up with two electrodes on my scalp and two more on my earlobes.
Tanya described everything in pretty good detail, answered my questions, and a few gooey electrodes later I was plugged in.
The video actually made me dizzy. I was never fond of the planetarium laser shows, and would typically feel nauseated after one. I decided to read while I enjoyed the glitchy music for my 30-minute experience.
It went really quickly, and I felt pretty relaxed when Tanya came back to check in on me. While sitting there filling out the form, I noticed that I did have a bit more of a headache, my eyes felt full, and my body was achier than when I went in.
When I got to my car and started driving down the highway, I noticed that looking over my shoulder was a completely unfamiliar experience! I had absolutely no pain or tension, and my range of motion had increased in both directions.
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While my eyes felt full, I felt like I was taking in more of my surroundings than I typically do when I drive and it all felt somehow, easier.
These feelings lasted a full 24 hours. It wasn’t until I hit an emotional speedbump that I found my typical “normal.”
Something I was attached to doing was canceled and I was struggling to find a way forward from it. While I’m doing fine, my focus is again off and I’m having to get everything out of my environment to be able to simply write and research this blog.
Needless to say, I want another session. In speaking with my friend, they recommend three sessions to see if you get any results. The product website says to find optimal changes, you’ll want as many as 20 sessions.
While this therapy isn’t the cheapest in the world, neurofeedback is still significantly more expensive and relies on someone else to tell my brain what it needs, and a doctor to go through a full diagnosis.
This is much more in alignment with what I’m able to do, and I don’t need insurance, a diagnosis, or more money than my writing and coaching can pay for at the moment.
Benefits that I found
When it comes to brain fog, you can recognize the triggers in your environment and work to alleviate them. If you have complicating factors that have altered your brain function and want to try a pretty hands-off therapy to help restore function while building resiliency, this is a great option.
In speaking with a few different people, this has been beneficial for the effects from concussions, PTSD, Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders, depression, and anxiety. There is some question about how it can help with the Covid-19 Long-Haulers who are challenged with sleep, depression, and brain fog.
I’m personally curious about more sessions and what the long-term effects are from using this. I can see how employing techniques I provide clients in coaching to build resiliency combined with this can be pretty powerful at re-education or re-wiring of the brain.
While it’s too expensive for me to purchase and use at home, I’m looking at the options for monthly memberships and packages the Denver Recovery Lounge offers.
If you end up trying this out, let me know your experience! I’d like to keep tabs on this and keep learning more about how this works for others and hear your success stories recovering from brain fog!!
Emily Kamala, MA, RMT, MCHC does virtual Wellness Coaching and draws on over two decades of work in the wellness industry. Creating sustainable breakthroughs with parents, business owners, and supporting sustainable wellness programs in underserved communities are her flames. You can reach her at 720-515-4178 or visit her website at www.ConsciousLivingLLC.com for more information. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram