Brain fog


Brain fog is a symptom commonly reported by people with long COVID.

Symptoms can include:

  • memory problems
  • lack of mental clarity
  • poor concentration
  • word finding difficulties
  • feeling out of it
  • headaches and confusion

It's often made worse by fatigue, meaning the more tired you are, the more your cognitive skills and thinking processes are affected.

You can find more information about managing the effects on memory and concentration on the Your COVID Recovery website.

Support your thinking skills

Try some of these practical tips to support your thinking skills. They're taken from the Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust Long COVID Rehabilitation booklet:

Distractions

Try to work in a quiet environment with no background distractions. You may find it helpful to:

  • wear ear plugs
  • turn off background noise such as the TV
  • let people know they should not interrupt you
  • block off parts of text using paper, or use your finger as a marker if you're distracted when reading text

Complete activities when you're less tired

When completing a task that demands your thinking skills plan this for a time when you're less tired. For example; if you tire as the day goes on, do the task in the morning instead.

Say things out loud

Say things out loud like; 'What should I be doing now?' or 'Stay focused', or read instructions out loud so that you can help yourself stay on the right track.

Take frequent breaks

If the problem is made worse by fatigue, work for shorter periods of time and take breaks. Use 'little and often' as a guide and pace yourself.

Set yourself targets or goals

Having something definite to work towards will help you stay motivated. Set deadlines like 'I’ll do that task at 10 o’clock', instead of 'I’ll do my work later on'.

Best time and apply structure

Work out when your best time of day is for doing this kind of work. Try to set up your daily/weekly schedule to take account of this.

Plan activities ahead of time and create a daily/weekly routine to help with this.

Keep a record, or break things down into manageable chunks so if you do get distracted you can pick up from where you left off.

Use incentives

When you achieve a target or goal reward yourself. Try something simple:

  • make a cup of tea or coffee
  • watch a TV programme
  • go for a walk

One thing at a time

Concentrate on one thing at a time, do not try to take in too much information at once, as this can lead to mistakes. Do one task then move on to the next.

Do not rush things

You may find that you've a tendency to rush everyday tasks and end up making mistakes. Take your time and pace yourself.

Self-monitor or check and double check your work

Do this with everything you do. It will be slow and hard at first, but it will become a habit as you get accustomed to it. This is a successful way of picking up on your own errors.

Gain control

If in conversations you feel you're being 'overloaded' or you cannot deal with it, ask the person who's talking to you to slow down and / or repeat themselves. Be confident and say something like 'Excuse me, I think you've lost me, could you repeat that please?'.

Aids

Use lists, post-it notes, diaries and calendars to help support your memory and routine.

Repeating things

If you immediately repeat something it can help.