Fibro Fog: A type of cognitive dysfunction reported by many people with fibromyalgia. Also sometimes referred to as brain fog, its symptoms include difficulty with concentration, memory deficits, and confusion. The reason for the changes in brain function with fibromyalgia is not clearly understood.
Fibro Fog is something everyone with fibromyalgia suffers from time to time, at the very least. In addition, people with other invisible illnesses like lupus, MS, RA experience it too. The last sentence in the definition above, that the reasons for fibro fog cannot be understood, is vital. Like many components of invisible, chronic illness, since no one knows exactly what it is or what causes it, they can’t stop it. They can only minimize the effects of it. One effect is fibro fog, and hopefully you’ll find some good tips to deal with it.
Yeah, this is pretty realistic…
So how does someone living with it make things better?
- Do tasks that don’t require intense concentration. Cleaning, laundry, taking a walk, doing some organization of a space you use that’s gotten out of control. I am addicted to these collapsible organizers. They’re all over our house! And if I don’t need an organizer for some reason, it folds right up.
- Rest. In my experience, fibro fog happens most when you’ve been doing too much. Whether that means a nap, a bath, reading – do whatever appeals to you the most. If you’re going to take a bath, you might as well make it a detox bath. All you need is a handful each of baking soda, magnesium flakes (or if those bother you, epsom salts), and some essential oils if you like them.
I use lavender. Others use peppermint to really sweat out the toxins, but if you’re going for relaxation, lavender is a better choice. By the way, the link for the magnesium flakes says to use the entire bag for one bath. Maybe that’s why some people report a tingling sensation. I think that’s overkill, but you do what you think is best.
- Use your phone’s calendar and memo apps. I put an appt in my calendar as soon as it’s made – like actually standing there at the reception desk and typing it in. Make sure you put reminders in. I use an hour before and a day before. I also copy my husband so he knows where I’m supposed to be.
- Make routines. I have a designated spot for my purse and a hook for my keys right inside the door from the garage. I put my keys on that hook as soon as I enter, so I know that next time I need them I won’t have to search for them.
- Stop it with the multi-tasking. It will only make the problem worse. Women are hard-wired to multi-task, but when fibro fog sets in you simply can’t. If that means you don’t make dinner because you had to fill out registration forms for your kid’s summer camp, so be it. And don’t let anyone make you feel guilty about it. In this day and age of microwaves and drive-thrus, no one should starve. I keep a lot of food in the house so if I don’t feel well, hubs can make himself and our daughter a meal if need be.
- Eat as healthy as you can and drink water. This seems like a “duh” thing, but I know when I’m experiencing fibro fog I can’t make a decision about what food I want, much less get up and make it or swing through a drive-thru. Places with a drive-thru are your friend. I just finished a salad from Panera Bread. 660 calories of real food – good food, like avocados and chicken and hard-boiled eggs.
- Watch your meds and their effect on you. It’s possible your dosage needs to be tweaked in order to prevent some of these issues. Don’t take it for granted that the amount you take of any med is the right dosage. Doctors are not perfect. You may have to insist on a dosage, but you know your body better than anyone else.
- Use those small bursts of energy to do things that require intense thought or multi-tasking. Understand, though, that you’re probably done for the day after that. Set expectations with your spouse and children so they know you’re going to need a nap or to chill in front of the TV.
- Make sure your environment isn’t contributing to your problems. When I got diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I started systematically eliminating chemicals from our house. All of the 409/Windex-type products were replaced by a vinegar citrus cleaner. Our dishwasher detergent and various laundry products are also completely organic. I believe there are recipes for at least some of those things in a prior post.
- If you like this sort of thing, do things that stimulate your brain. Crossword puzzles, word searches, Words with Friends, or any other fun activity that keeps your brain engaged but doesn’t require the same kind of thinking that leads to fibro fog are your best choices.
I color. I am obsessed with adult coloring books. These are my favorite ones, and I own no less than ten different books. I have found these are the best colored pencils, fine-tipped markers, and gel pens. I can use whatever I want depending on my mood. It may seem like a lot of writing utensils, but trust me, when you color every day like I do you get bored with sets of 12. I even have metallics in all of these.
When the pain gets too bad or I’m too tired to do anything else, I pull out one of my books and color. Because the pictures are so complex, you have to concentrate on them, but again, it’s not the sort of brain work that would throw you into an episode of fibro fog. They really help with the pain, too, because you’re thinking about the picture, not how much you’re hurting.
- Take a look at the over-the-counter (OTC) supplements you’re taking. Are you getting enough magnesium, a well-know deficiency in fibro patients? What about vitamin D? B12? There’s a huge list of supplements you can take, and some do seem to help with fibro fog. Try some out and see if they work for you. A word of caution: many manufacturers make supplements specifically to help with fibro fog. However, look closely at their ingredients. Many are just a compilation of things you already take.
– Omega-3 fatty acids, whether from real food like salmon or supplements. This is the brand we use.
– Stevia, when used as a sweetener in place of pretty much every other sweetener. Stevia helps regulate your blood sugar. These are the little packets, they also have liquid, which is very popular too.
– Vitamins B, C, and D – hopefully a good multi-vitamin would take care of these needs, but you might need to supplement, especially Vitamin D, which fibro patients are almost always low on.
Wow, that was a lot of information. Sorry about that, but I wanted to be sure I was covering everything I could think of for how to fight back against fibro fog. You *can* do it. If nothing else, say to yourself, “You survived through this before, you’ll survive now. You’re okay, and you don’t have to be perfect.”
Do you have any other ways of coping with fibro fog? Tell me in the comments section!