The Surprising Overlap Between Anxiety and Brain Fog

Anxiety and Brain Fog

Ever feel like you can’t keep things straight anymore? Like your mind is in a haze and you can’t concentrate, think quickly, or remember to complete important tasks? These are some of the signs of brain fog. You might be worried that it’s the onset of dementia, or you may be aware that certain everyday things are associated with brain fog—like poor sleep, some medications, or hormonal imbalances (hello, pregnancy brain or menopause!). But what you may not realize is that anxiety can also be at the root of brain fog.

You may be aware that certain everyday things—like poor sleep, some medications, or hormonal imbalances—are associated with brain fog. But what you may not realize is that anxiety can also be at the root of brain fog. Click To Tweet

How Anxiety Taxes the Brain

Anxiety takes up a lot of your brain’s precious resources. When anxiousness fills the corners of your mind with worrisome thoughts and fears, it’s akin to something researchers call cognitive overload. That’s when your brain is bombarded with too much information to be able to process it all effectively.

When stress and anxiety hit, your brain is so busy processing those nervous thoughts that it drops the ball on the other cognitive tasks you need to handle. It makes it hard to concentrate, difficult to pay attention, and gets in the way of memory formation. This leads to feeling spacey, being easily distracted, and being forgetful. And that’s a recipe for brain fog.

Brain SPECT Imaging, Anxiety, and Brain Fog

Brain SPECT imaging shows that people with anxiety tend to have a very busy brain with too much activity in areas such as the basal ganglia (the anxiety centers of the brain). Overactivity floods the emotional circuits in the brain diverting resources away from important mental processes.

In addition, being plagued by chronic stress causes the hippocampus—a brain region that is critically involved in memory formation—to shrink. In the healthy brain, about 700 new neurons, or nerve cells, are formed each day in the hippocampus. However, when your brain is under attack by a constant flood of stressful thoughts, this process can be disrupted, resulting in fewer new neurons. This is bad news for your memory and can be a major contributor to an inability to recall information.

Imaging the brain can be helpful in determining if worrisome symptoms of brain fog are a sign of dementia or related to anxiety, exposure to toxins, or other factors.

4 TECHNIQUES TO CALM ANXIETY TO CLEAR THE BRAIN FOG

1. Use hypnosis, guided imagery, or progressive muscle relaxation.

When stress and anxiety get out of control, hypnosis, guided imagery, or progressive muscle relaxation can quickly decrease the stress response. Here are the basic steps of you can do this on your own:

  • Sit in a comfortable chair and stare at a spot on the wall that is slightly above eye level. Let your eyelids close slowly.
  • Breathe deeply. With each inhale, imagine taking in peace and calmness, and with each exhale, blow out all the tension. Notice a calm come over you.
  • Squeeze the muscles in your eyelids, closing your eyes as tightly as you can. The let them relax and feel that relaxation travel down your face and body.
  • After the tension has left your body, imagine yourself at the top of an escalator and ride down while counting backward from 10. By the time you reach the bottom, you should be experiencing a sensation of relaxation.
  • Enjoy the tranquility for several moments, then ride the escalator back up counting from 1 to 10. When you reach the number 10, open your eyes, and enjoy feeling refreshed and alert.

2. Practice diaphragmatic breathing.

When people get anxious, their breathing typically becomes shallow fast, causing a decrease in oxygen to the brain and body and an increase in toxic carbon dioxide. This can lead to feelings of confusion and disorientation, which are associated with brain fog. Deep breathing—inhaling for about 4 seconds and slowly exhaling for about 8 seconds—reverses that, increasing oxygen to the brain and helping eliminate carbon dioxide to calm panic and restore clarity in the mind.

3. Say a prayer or meditate.

Prayer and meditation have been found to calm stress and quell anxious thoughts. But that’s not all. They also improve focus and memory, and brain imaging shows they enhance activity in the prefrontal cortex. There are many effective techniques, including reading, memorizing, or meditating on Scripture; writing out a personal prayer; reading classic spiritual writings; focusing on gratitude, or meditating.

4. Listen to soothing music.

Music can help you relax, calm anxiousness, and improve focus. In a fascinating study in the journal Brain and Cognition, research subjects rated Mozart’s Sonata for Two Pianos (K. 448) and Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata as happy and sad, respectively. Listening to happy music (Mozart’s piece) increased activity in the brain’s left hemisphere, associated with happiness and motivation, and decreased activity in the right hemisphere, often associated with anxiety and negativity. Beethoven’s piece did the opposite. Create your own playlist to counteract times of stress and anxiety and to increase focus and energy.

Anxiety, chronic stress, brain fog, and other issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

16 Comments

  1. Helpful insight. I have an 18 year old daughter who is struggling with depression and anxiety. Her mother and myself are divorced and she recently kicked her out of her house. I am trying to get as much information as possible to allow both myself and her to live as harmoniously as possible.

    Comment by George — July 2, 2021 @ 12:08 AM

  2. Great content! Keep up the good work!

    Comment by Modern Citizen Coupons — July 2, 2021 @ 12:55 PM

  3. Do you offer classes for anxiety attacks for so I would love to join pls let me lnow

    Comment by Katherine — July 4, 2021 @ 9:55 PM

  4. Thank you for this information. Very helpful and optimistic self help. It is important to have tools to use when a situation arise.

    Comment by Jorunn Mehammer — July 4, 2021 @ 11:59 PM

  5. To whom ever can help on this subject. I would very appreciate because I wish to have some information sent to my home address simply because it is very difficult for me to just sit at my laptop to read imperative information has such when I have very much so lack of time but I would bring reading materials in bed before bed. Thank You! I will try other methods and time to read this at another date and time.

    Comment by Miriam Ethier — July 5, 2021 @ 6:34 AM

  6. Health providers and physicians must be educated.. too many elderly are just being cast aside, over medicated, and sheltered in expensive noncaring administrations of multilevel care- who are money grabbing from estates of unsuspecting and desperate families.. Twenty years ago there were not levels of elderly care for independent, assisted and long term care? Each level is a promotion to charge considerably more money. Its a racket with no end in sight. Anxiety is treatable, and without meds. Our culture is over run with fear and anxiety. Thank you for what you do and get more clinics and physicians and professionals on board… Its education not medication….

    Comment by Glenda — July 5, 2021 @ 8:05 AM

  7. I have a 29 year old son who suffers from severe anxiety and is a self diagnosed depression. He has been speaking with a counselor for over a year with no progress. He calls me when he’s having an anxiety attack and can be “snarky” with me because he “knows everything “. He’s been to the ER multiple times racking up thousands of dollars. How can I help or how can he help himself?

    Comment by Nancy Rutowski — July 5, 2021 @ 8:18 AM

  8. I found several of the relaxation techniques very helpful. Thank you.

    Comment by Karen — July 5, 2021 @ 8:50 AM

  9. For this brain fog what do you recommend

    Comment by Tina — July 5, 2021 @ 9:18 AM

  10. I would like to know where I can get more information on brain fog and anxiety.

    Comment by molly moore — July 5, 2021 @ 9:49 AM

  11. I definitely have brain fog, but I have been diagnosed with ADD. I think brain fog can also be caused by yeast infections, which I constantly have. The anti-fungal meds work temporarily and then I get the infection back. Candidiasis (yeast infection) can also cause anxiety and depression.

    Comment by Margaret — July 5, 2021 @ 10:15 AM

  12. I am having the above problems for the past month. I had a hard case of COVID and I feel fine but I can tell something is wrong with my brain. It scares me. I can’t afford a Brain Scan (Mediare) but I am going to try some of your products. I do a lot of Treasury volunteer work for several organizations, and last week thought I was having a melt down. I know I need help.

    Comment by JoAnne Burke — July 5, 2021 @ 3:46 PM

  13. Lyme & other tick borne diseases can cause anxiety & brain fog.

    Comment by Peggy Furey — July 5, 2021 @ 4:17 PM

  14. I live in a very stressful environment. I live in an ALF. There are 9 clients here n I’m the only normal 1. The others all have different degrees of mental illness, insufficientcies, other various birth defects. In 10/2013 I let my PCP talk me into getting a flu shot. I started falling down n my head didn’t feel right. I had no reflexes, n a spinal tap showed protein in my CSF. I came here in a wheelchair. I got myself walking in 5-6wks. I’m still off balance to this day. I take ginko biloba120mg TID. My PCP dc/d it. I told her my memory was lapsing again, so I went back on it. I take herbal supplements for my joints, memory, n well being. You have wonderful products, but they’re out of my budget. I’m going to call for an appointment, but do you accept healthcare insurance!? I also have insomnia n take 50mg Benadryl, n 10mg Melatonin. I’d greatly appreciate some feedback, Dr Amen. GOD BLESS you for all you do‼❤😷🙏👼🏻😇😊👍🏁

    Comment by Nancy Ruth Krauch — July 8, 2021 @ 1:11 PM

  15. I had a very mild case of COVID19 in November. My mind hasn’t been the same since. I’m sober over 7-1/2yrs, smoke free too. I quit coffee 3/2/2021. My joints feel better. I will be calling to set up an appointment. If there’s no Amen Clinic near me, do you have virtual visits⁉ Thank you very much.❤😷🙏😊👍🏁

    Comment by Nancy Ruth Krauch — July 8, 2021 @ 1:17 PM

  16. Hello Nancy, thank you for reaching out. We do have telehealth services, but you would need to come to one of our clinics (https://www.amenclinics.com/locations/) for the SPECT scan. For more information, please contact our Care Coordinators: https://www.amenclinics.com/schedule-visit/

    Comment by Amen Clinics — July 8, 2021 @ 6:21 PM

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Have a Question?