Steaming through the fog

Remember those old movies of a ship steaming through ‘pea-soup’ fog, perhaps an old Sherlock Holmes film? A ship’s bell is clanging as if underwater, and a foghorn sounds that descending double note.

Image of ship in fog

Do you suffer from ‘brain fog’?

A lot of us these days seem to steam blindly through our own ‘brain fog’ – that feeling of not being able to get your brain into gear. Or literally, seeing the world through a kind of mental fog.

If medical reasons are ruled out, it’s often a result of overload, like when your computer crashes after too many programs are opened all at the same time. And it’s not a bad simile, because that’s basically exactly what may be happening.

It can often be made worse by stress, lack of quality sleep, lack of exercise and poor diet. It’s usually obvious which is the culprit (or the culprits, if more than one), and logic dictates that fixing the cause should relieve the symptoms.

But sometimes it’s not so easy to do that. Sometimes you cannot simply remove yourself from a stressful situation or an ongoing problem.

So then you have to learn to cope with it in a different way. If you can’t change it, you have to change yourself.

Even consciously focusing on deep breathing for a time may help calm you down and clear the cobwebs. Active and deliberate relaxation exercises or some kind of meditation can work wonders. If you’re just starting off in a meditation course, the results may take a while to kick in, but the long-term benefits may make you wonder why it took you so long to try it.

A lot of people use physical exercise to pull themselves out of the fog. This can help, because it increases both oxygen and blood flow to the brain.

Drinking more water might help – you may just be dehydrated, and that definitely fogs the mind. Alternatively, perhaps you need to lay off the coffee a bit, and try some herbal teas.

And have a look at what other kinds of sludge you might be trying to fuel your body with. If your food intake is high in the empty calories of sugars and fats, and low on fibre and nutrients, then here’s the logical place to start.

When feeling completely overwhelmed by something, I find one of the most effective strategies  is to simply shut down for a while.

Do something different, even self-indulgent. Indulge in a hobby activity. Spend a day watching your favourite DVDs, go to a movie or two, read a book, go and walk along a beach for two hours in  the late afternoon.

It can clear the air – and clear your head.

Many people talk about taking a “mental health day”, mostly off work. I’m not advocating taking dishonest “sickies”, but if you can arrange it, a day or two when you just switch off your normal routine, when you just do something you enjoy, can work wonders.

And if that’s what it takes to reboot you- don’t feel guilty about it. It’s surely in everyone’s best interests that you return to form.

It finally comes down to you

So, as you can see from the previous pages, and particularly the page on Modern Life, these days we are facing more and more challenges to our mental and emotional equilibrium. And that pressure is not likely to let up – but probably to increase.

It seems we face challenges to our self-esteem and peace of mind at all stages of life. Whether it’s the pressures of everyday existence, caused by the unthinking or deliberate attitudes and actions of others, or whether it’s our own upbringings and feelings of obligation, you cannot function if you don’t take care of your own mental and emotional equilibrium.

I know that others can be unreasonable and selfish and a host of other such adjectives. But if you don’t insist on your right to be able to take care of yourself, don’t expect anyone else to.

We’re all made to feel guilty taking time off for ourselves these days. We’re all supposed to be at others’ beck and call at all hours, 7 days a week.

Who made these rules? Often no-one. Often we have simply assumed this is expected of us.

Well, if it is, it is absolutely unreasonable, and if it’s your assumption, this is the time to change the way you think.

Learn to apply some common sense about whether you are actually Superman/woman or not. (And unless you were born on the Planet Krypton, I think we can safely assume you’re not.)