This is a guest post by writer Joanna Mechlinski.
Oscar Wilde nailed it when he said, “Success is a science; if you have the conditions, you get the result.”
When you put it that way, it seems almost impossible to forget things, even when you live with the brain fog and memory impairment that often accompany lupus and other chronic health conditions. But I’m sure it’s no major revelation when I tell you we live in a fast-paced world. There’s more going on than any human being could possibly keep up with – and that applies doubly to those of us dealing with additional challenges.
That said, there’s no need to despair! Here are a few simple pointers that may help keep you on top of your game:
- Fully utilize your devices – There are so many awesome apps and programs out there, and many are extremely versatile so you can tailor them to your needs. Some people find it helpful to use electronic planners or alerts; personally, one of my favorite methods is still old-fashioned emails. I leave the body blank, simply writing a few words in the subject line such as “call pharmacy”. Since I check my email numerous times each day, I know the reminder will catch my eye.
- Break down larger tasks into smaller ones – For example, instead of noting down that you need to clean the living room, write down specifically what tasks you want to accomplish, e.g. “vacuum,” “dust furniture,” “put away shoes,” and so on. This way, not only will you be sure that you won’t forget anything, but you’ll also be able to work on it in pieces if need be.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come home from work, exhausted, but knowing I should do laundry. Instead of thinking of it as one huge task, I will break it down into “put dirty clothes into washer,” “put clean wet clothes into dryer,” “take dry clothes out and put on top of dryer for folding/putting away,” and “actually put laundry away”. Most times I actually end up doing multiple steps at one time, simply because I told myself I didn’t need to if I couldn’t. It’s really amazing how much is in the mind.
- On a related note, don’t multi-task – Research has proven that the human brain isn’t equipped to do two or more things at once. This is actually why magic tricks are successful; the magician has the audience focus on one thing, while whatever is happening in the background might be noted but not nearly to the same degree. We actually waste more energy switching from one task to another than if we simply completed one before moving on to the next, because our brains need to refocus on the new task. When you live with a limited amount of energy, it’s super important not to waste any needlessly.
- Create a system – If you need to remember to take something with you when you leave the house, make sure to put it right next to something you absolutely wouldn’t leave without, such as your wallet, keys or cell phone. Bonus points, of course, if these essential items are kept in the same place each day. For example, I put my purse down on the same chair the moment I come home. I also can’t emphasize the usefulness of a key hook enough! It’s such a basic thing, yet once you get in the habit of using it, you’ll never waste time looking for your keys. I also keep small amounts of my meds in the bag I use whenever I’m out of the house. That way, I’ll never find myself lamenting that I’ve missed the next dose – especially if it’s a painkiller. I use a pill organizer for the ones I use less frequently, such as aspirin, and the previous month’s vial for any prescription.
- Get plenty of sleep – Yes, that’s often easier said than done, especially when you experience chronic pain. Then, there are many of us such as myself, who may be in bed for eight hours but never wake refreshed, due to a lack of restorative sleep. Nonetheless, give it your best shot. A well-rested brain will always be able to think more calmly and clearly. Consider a warm bath, meditation, prayer, or alternative or prescribed sleep aids to help you get some rest – speak with your physician about your options.
Will any of these tips make brain fog a thing of your past? Most likely they won’t. But as you navigate your days with chronic illness, you never know just what might help you alleviate the symptoms and strengthen your memory.
How do you deal with brain fogs? Share your tips in the comments to help others.