It’s horribly ironic that one of the most difficult PsA symptoms to articulate isn’t actually something formally recognized as a medical condition. Ever experienced feelings of confusion, forgetfulness, mental fatigue or lack of mental clarity? If so, then you may be experiencing something commonly known as Brain Fog.
Brain Fog is a universal term used by people in the chronic disease community, but there is very little research around its causes and, equally as importantly, potential ways of clearing the mist.i The good news is that this is an area that scientists are beginning to make some headway into, and a theory has recently been published on the link.ii
We know that PsA is rooted in inflammation (you can read more about that here), and Canadian scientists have figured out a potential link between inflammation and fog: The team found that inflamed body tissues can actually transmit signals to the brain that can produce symptoms such as malaise and fatigue.[i] But how? Well, chronic inflammation usually “activates” immune cells in the bloodstream, causing them to enter the brain and release proteins called cytokines.i Normally, these proteins help to regulate the immune system’s response to any injury infections. But inside the brain, cytokines may alter the quantity and activity of critical chemical messengers known as neurotransmitters.i It’s this change in the neurotransmitters activity that could be causing the mental fatigue and lack of clarity associated with Brain Fog.i
Another link between Brain Fog and PsA could be through depression and anxiety: Another Canadian study found that the depression and anxiety that so often comes as part of living with a chronic disease can also potentially impair cognition.[ii]
Unfortunately there isn’t yet a medical cure for Brain Fog, but there are simple lifestyle tweaks that may help to minimize its effects on a day-to-day basis:
Listen to your body clock
Most of us fall into one of two categories: Morning lark or night owl. It’s pretty easy to figure out which one you are, so make sure you capitalize on the time of day that feels most productive. Bouncing out of bed at 6am? Try a power hour between 07:30 – 08:30 to tick off all your life-min. More of a night owl? Set aside some time later in the day when you’re less likely to be disturbed and crack through your to-do list.
Which leads us to…
A fixed routine is a fun routine
Having a routine that you stick to as closely as possible might just help clear some of the fog. It’s been proven that developing habits can help our brains conserve energy, so having a set morning or evening pattern could free up your grey cells to focus on other areas.
Exercise the body
Exercise can be the best way of switching off your mind and stop thoughts whirling. Crucially, it could also help to improve sleep and also address the fatigue / fog link. On better flare days, try walking for just 15 minutes longer than you usually would – it might just help!
Exercise the mind
Take 10 minutes out of your day to try something that really does focus your brain, as this could literally help to exercise your brain. Like words? Invest in a crossword book. Numbers more your thing? Then reach for the sudokus…
Make your phone your PA
One of the biggest challenges with Brain Fog can often be memory loss. Stay one stay ahead by turning your phone into your personal assistant: Jot down thoughts or reminders in the notes section, keep a running to do list and update your diary as soon as an appointment gets booked in.