Brain fog isn’t a medical diagnosis; it’s usually a symptom of something else going on, whether it’s exhaustion, stress, or, in this case, menopause. Along with forgetfulness, you might struggle with focusing, or mental tasks might just feel more taxing. What does all this have to do with menopause?
Understanding why brain fog happens probably doesn’t make it any less irritating, but it can make those fuzzy moments feel less overwhelming.
What causes brain fog during perimenopause and menopause?
When estrogen production in the body decreases, it has a series of effects on the rest of the body — including your brain function. The relationship between your hormones and your brain is complex, with multiple pathways. Research links higher levels of estrogen with better cognitive function (a fancy term that encompasses learning, memory, focus, problem-solving, and attention). Women who have less estrogen may have a harder time dealing with brain fog.
Other manifestations of (peri)menopause can also contribute to this fuzzy feeling. Without proper rest — either its duration or quality — it’s par for the course to feel foggy the next day. Mood changes common in menopause, like anxiety or depression, can also affect your mental clarity.
We get it — this is a lot to take in, especially when you’re already feeling like a stranger in your own brain. The good news? You probably won’t feel like this forever.
How do I get rid of brain fog?
If your brain fog is feeling more like a nuisance, you might just need to wait for your body to get used to the hormonal changes, but there are a few things you can do to take the edge off.
Eat right and exercise. As with other menopause symptoms, a healthy diet and fitness routine can go a long way in improving brain fog by supporting both your mental health and your sleep. Exercise also increases oxygen to the brain, which could help in minimizing your memory loss symptoms.
Take your brain for a jog. Another simple but effective way to keep your mind sharp? Play games. Puzzles, word searches, and other pattern-oriented activities keep the brain active, helping it recognize and memorize the patterns our eyes interpret.
Activities that require us to store information in short-term memory can ultimately increase long-term memory health. Hobbies involving memorization and repetition — think knitting, crossword puzzles, sewing, even tedious office work — can also help keep the mind active and sharp.
Keep stress in check. Managing your stress levels is another huge factor in reducing brain fog. Studies show that when we experience chronic stress, the part of our brain that deals with memory and problem-solving goes “offline.”
Be patient with yourself. Talk to a loved one, see a therapist, and prioritize your self-care routine. Anything that makes you feel like yourself is fair game. It may take time to get there, but try to show yourself compassion as you navigate this huge transition — and in the meantime, it might not hurt to invest in a couple packs of Post-Its.
When should I talk to my doctor about brain fog?
On one hand, it’s important to remember that the physical and mental changes that come with menopause are totally normal, given the significant shifts happening in your body and brain.
That said, you’re the expert on your own well-being, and if you sense something is off, consult your gynecologist or primary care provider about your brain fog — especially if it’s starting to interfere with your day-to-day activities in more noticeable ways.
There’s lots your healthcare provider can do to help, from ruling out potential causes and treating your symptoms to normalizing your (peri)menopause experience.