Do you feel like your brain has been operating in low-power mode? Kind of like when an electronic device that needs recharging reduces its power output to conserve energy – it’s still functioning, but not performing at its best. Or perhaps you are relying on more and more caffeine to rev up your brain, and feel you need it just to function.
If you’ve been feeling a bit fuzzy or are having trouble focusing, you’re not alone. What is still unfolding across the globe has added to our mental load, but it’s important to know that there are small changes you can make each day to better support your physical and mental wellbeing.
So, let’s explore why you may be feeling this way and what you can do to boost your brain power.
Close some tabs
Just as your computer slows down the more tabs and programs you have open, the drain on your mind power and energy becomes greater the more unresolved situations and open tasks you have in your mental “to do” list. So, what can you do? Try scheduling your tasks rather than simply writing (or trying to remember) a “to do” list, and practise getting comfortable with delegating, if you are in a position to do so.
Add purple to your plate
The natural pigments that give plant foods their different colours offer us an array of health benefits. However, when it comes to brain health, the purple-red, blue and black coloured fruits and vegetables are standouts – think blackcurrants, berries, plums, eggplant (aubergine), red cabbage and black beans. These contain substances called anthocyanins, which have potent antioxidant properties and are protective of the brain.
Unfortunately, many people aren’t consistently consuming these foods, or may not always be able to access them. If they don’t feature regularly in your diet, I encourage you to consider how you might incorporate them more often. If you do find it difficult to consistently do this, or if you simply want to boost your intake of the superstar plant nutrients they contain, you might like to consider a high-quality nutritional powder that you can easily mix up into a daily drink.
Regular movement is incredibly beneficial for our brain health and mood. Being physically active stimulates blood flow, delivering oxygen and nutrients to the brain, which help it to perform better. It can also increase a substance called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which supports the survival and growth of brain cells.
Both aerobic and resistance exercise have benefits for the brain and are great to incorporate into your weekly routine, but don’t discount the value of incidental movement. Look for opportunities to move more in your day. Take the stairs where possible, park a little further away than you need to, or try getting off the bus a stop early (if it is safe to do so) to get some more steps in. Go for a brisk walk after lunch, and notice if you feel more productive and energised that afternoon. Little changes throughout the day can add up.
Build your resilience
Stress and anxious feelings can impact on our clarity of thought, but we can’t always avoid stressful or worrying situations. So, it’s crucial that we have some tools and strategies to help us cope during these times. Breath-focused practices are particularly beneficial for activating the calm arm of the nervous system. Try 10-20 long, slow breaths that move your diaphragm, or consider trying a daily meditation practice. If you are new to this, you might find guided meditations helpful. There are many free apps that offer these. Journaling and talking to a trusted friend, family member or professional, such as a psychologist, can also help with stress management.
Make sleep a priority
Adults require seven to nine hours of sleep each night and during this time our body ramps up some really important processes, like clearing waste from the brain. Sleep is something that many people sacrifice in order to squeeze more into their day, yet productivity can suffer when we’re sleep deprived, not to mention our mood. If you struggle with your sleep, try to avoid caffeine after midday and limit alcohol, as both disrupt sleep. Also consider your exposure to blue light from screens in the evenings, as this inhibits the production of the sleep hormone, melatonin, in the brain.
Tune in to other changes in your body and health
While there are many steps we can take each day to support better brain health, it’s important to listen to your body. If you’re experiencing ongoing brain fog in addition to other symptoms such as fatigue, low mood, hair loss and poor body-temperature regulation, for example, this could be an indication of a problem with thyroid function. If you suspect this, or if you feel that something isn’t quite right, it’s important to check in with your GP.
Nutritional biochemist Dr Libby Weaver (PhD) is a 13-times bestselling author, speaker and founder of Bio Blends, the plant-based nutritional supplement range. For more information on her upcoming detox course, visit drlibby.com/courses