On the To-do List: How to Cope When You Have Brain Fog

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by Darla Gay |

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Coping with brain fog

Lupus ‘brain fog’ is aptly named

When I am tired or under a lot of stress, my brain gets foggy. The official name for this is cognitive dysfunction, but it’s commonly referred to as brain fog because it’s like trying to find your way in a dark, dense mist. You have a hard time moving forward when you can’t see where you’re going. You don’t know whether there’s a tree in front of you or if you’re about to walk off a cliff.

Learning to cope

One of the ways I’ve learned to cope with brain fog is to make lists — lots of lists! I have a list that I refer to for routine things, such as filling my pill containers. I have to update it a lot because my meds change frequently. I make the changes, print a new list, and keep it handy. This way, it’s not a struggle every week to remember which pill to take and when.

I keep several lists in my purse at all times. One is a list of the medicines I take: the name, the dosage, which doctor prescribed it, and which disease it is for. When I have an appointment with one of my lupus doctors, I can just hand them the list to compare to their records. That way, I don’t forget to tell them what has changed since my last visit.

My phone is a lifesaver

I use the calendar and contacts on my phone on a daily basis. Anytime I make an appointment, it goes on the calendar immediately. I also set an alert to give me a warning one hour before the appointment time so it doesn’t sneak up on me.

I’ve made a contact for each of my doctors. I can enter not only their name and phone number, but also their address. When I put an appointment on the calendar, I can connect it to their contact info. At appointment time, the phone lets me know how long it will take me to get to the doctor’s office. Knowing that my phone is keeping me on track frees up my mind and lowers my stress level.  

My to-do list is a mess

I make my to-do list first thing in the morning, when I’m as well-rested as I’m going to be. The problem is that I always overestimate the amount of stuff I can get done in a day. I usually plan way more than I can do, and it ends up rolling over to the next day. On occasion, something unexpected happens that must be taken care of immediately, and it puts a kink in my schedule.

I try to go with the flow so the list itself doesn’t become a source of stress. Usually, I start out by making my list using the Notes app on my phone. Later in the day, I may think of something else and scribble it on a piece of paper. Then I end up with two or three half-completed lists.

Fortunately, I have more clearheaded days than foggy ones. I use the good days to do things that need more brainpower. I also use them to make — and update — the lists that keep me on track. It’s kind of like having a backup for my brain. I hope I don’t need it, but it’s there in case I do.


Note: Lupus News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Lupus News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to lupus.