Is it Time to Clear Away Your Mental Fog?


There are times in life when we all expect that cloudy-headed sensation. Maybe you know what it’s like to forget where you put your keys or you start to leave the house in your slippers? We can agree that pregnancy, the early months with a newborn, or periods right after a traumatic experience or grief go hand in hand with mental fog.

But, if you are zipping along in your regular routine and wish you could give your head a good swipe to clear the smudges from your memory, you are not alone. The majority of individuals feel less than prepared to remember important information and problem-solve on a regular basis.


Difficulty with memory and focus are frustrating when we really need to stay productive. If our brains would only allow us to go to a setting and activate that brilliant flash of laser focus like our phones, this would be so much easier. Fortunately, there are practices we can institute quickly that can give our concentration powers a jolt so we can excel more often than not.


An almost instant cleanse to our thoughts occurs when we are in a well-organized environment. Simply decluttering our surroundings conveys a sense of calm that our mind craves. The more scattered our bedrooms, living spaces, and workspaces, the foggier and slower your productive patterns are likely to be. In fact, there is a stack of evidence supporting less anxiety, depression, and greater fulfillment in life when we take a few moments to file the stack of papers or put those odds and ends in their proper places right away.


When what we see is structured and clean, our brains can function in a similar way. Jean Piaget followed by multiple psychologists over the last few decades have described the importance of learning based on a well-structured environment. Stanislas Dehaene, author of “How We Learn” explains how we need a mental model for learning and problem-solving. The amazing capacity and function of the human brain is based on a systematic structure that we need to nurture for optimal performance.


That means we need to cultivate an environment with a variety of stimulating activities that are fairly predictable – kind of like school.  Alternating intense concentration periods with breaks that give attention shifts will ultimately prolong our productive spans such as giving our body a physical signal to boost endorphins through movement every hour. Nurturing our bodies with water and nutrition throughout work delivers the fuel needed to sustain our drive and motivation.


Stress and pressure to perform can deliver a blow to our presence of mind and creative endeavors. Stress in an of itself is not all bad. We need a set of expectations to continually meet in order to stay engaged mentally. Yet, system overload, better known as excessive cognitive load, can flip us over the edge of heightened performance to that overwhelmed feeling that paralyzes us.

If you’ve noticed concerning periods of mental fog that are unexplainable, a doctor visit may be in order. But most of us simply need to organize our approach to clear the foggy-headed sluggishness that pops up during the daily grind. Next time you feel buried in the middle of a project, take a look around and see what might need to be straightened in your view.

A decluttered space equals a decluttered mind.

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