Get help to break through brain fog
Aug. 10, 2023—If you've had COVID-19, or if you know someone who has, you've probably heard the term "brain fog." It's one of many mental health conditions experienced by some people for days, weeks or even months after recovering from a COVID-19 infection.
Brain fog basics
Brain fog is also called neurofatigue or mental fatigue. It is a decrease in cognitive ability. Essentially, the brain doesn't work as well as it normally does. Brain fog symptoms can vary. But according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, they include:
- Trouble concentrating.
- Difficulty choosing the right words when talking or writing.
- Trouble remembering, planning things or completing daily tasks.
- Misplacing everyday objects.
- Being easily distracted.
- Feeling mentally exhausted.
Brain fog has been linked to a wide range of health conditions—including COVID-19. Estimates vary on how many people have brain fog after having the coronavirus. But it's one of the most common lingering or recurring symptoms of long COVID-19. According to the American Medical Association, nearly half of patients in one 2022 study said they experience brain fog.
Treatment can help
If you're living with brain fog, tell your doctor. They may be able to help. Share your symptoms and how long you've had them. Depending on your needs, your doctor might recommend:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy.
- Occupational therapy.
- Physical therapy.
- Speech therapy.
- Support groups.
They may also be able to offer advice on ways to improve concentration and memory. They may suggest self-care strategies. Those might include these tips from Brainline:
- Focus on sleep. Aim for seven to eight hours per night of quality sleep.
- Eat well and stay hydrated. Consume fruits, vegetables and lean proteins every day. Avoid heavily processed foods. Drink several glasses of water per day.
- Exercise daily. Start slowly. Even 5 to 10 minutes of exercise is good for you. Work your way up to 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week.
- Work around your energy level. Whenever possible, split up your tasks and appointments. Try to get more done when you have the most energy.
- Control stress. Take time every day to relax, breathe deeply, journal or whatever helps you relieve stress.
Above all, take it easy. Don't push yourself too hard as you recover. Let your healthcare team know if your symptoms don't improve. It may help to keep a journal of your symptoms and how they change from day to day.
- American Medical Association. "What Doctors Wish Patients Knew About Long COVID-19 Brain Fog." https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/public-health/what-doctors-wish-patients-knew-about-long-covid-19-brain-fog.
- Brainline. "What Is Neurofatigue and How Does it Relate to Brain Injury and PTSD?" https://www.brainline.org/article/what-neurofatigue-and-how-does-it-relate-brain-injury-and-ptsd.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Long COVID or Post-COVID Conditions." https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/long-term-effects/index.html.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. "Identification and Management of Mental Health Symptoms and Conditions Associated With Long COVID." https://store.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/pep23-06-05-007.pdf.