Tips for Managing Lupus Brain Fog
Last updated: September 2021
Brain fog: It’s the bane of many people's existence. Also referred to as cognitive dysfunction, brain fog feels like having a head full of cotton through which your thoughts just cannot penetrate. Other times, brain fog is the result of extreme and persistent fatigue. When you have lupus, there might be times when you can become too exhausted to think. Brain fog can also show up as short-term memory loss and fuzzy thinking that comes and goes over time with no relation to fatigue levels. If you are experiencing brain fog, be sure to speak to your doctor right away. In the meantime, here are some ways to cope with this frustrating symptom.
Be patient with yourself
It’s easy and understandable to feel frustrated when your mind isn’t as sharp as you are used to it. Unfortunately, frustration often leads to increased difficulty thinking. Even healthy brains do not function well when experiencing frustration or when they're under pressure. Never refer to yourself as "dumb" or "slow," even if you are only speaking to yourself inside your head. Speak to yourself with the same love and respect as you would a friend. After suffering a stroke that took away her ability to read, understand math, and live independently, Neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor said, "I am not dumb. I’m wounded." Remember that you are not slow; you are a warrior.
Use apps on your phone
When experiencing brain fog, I am always grateful for my smartphone. Apps like Google Keep help me store ideas for later when I might understand them better. G-Tasks lets me set reminders for when I need to do something, and Google Calendar helps me remember the day of the week and my schedule.
Use timers on your stove
When cooking anything on the stove, I always estimate how much time it needs to cook and then use a timer. I do this even when I think I don’t need to. I arrived at this knowledge after the many, many burnt pans.
Keep a sense of humor
One-liners are perfect for when you are experiencing short-term memory loss. I have spent many afternoons giggling over one-liners when brain fog made regular work impossible. Laughter has an uncanny ability to loosen up some of those neurons and leave you feeling a bit more alert.
Leave lights on
When I know I need to return to a particular room in my house to transfer laundry to the dryer or clean the dishes, I leave the light in that room on as a reminder to return.
Even if you do not feel too exhausted physically when experiencing brain fog, it is important not to drive when you think you might be experiencing brain fog. Brain fog slows your reaction time, which is extremely dangerous when operating a vehicle. While brain fog is never within your control in the same way that choosing to drive while intoxicated is, it can lead to disaster in much the same way. A split-second wrong or delayed decision at the wheel can have life-long consequences for you and other drivers and passengers. If you need to go somewhere, call a friend or take an Uber.
Where you are now is not where you will always be
Brain fog can hang around like an unwelcome guest for months. However, over time, brain fog tends to ebb and flow. It is unlikely to exist at the same intensity throughout the entire course of your illness. Better days are most likely ahead.
Have there been things you have learned along your lupus journey that you wish had been explained to you by a healthcare provider earlier?