Distractions may have a bigger impact on objective cognitive function in people with fibromyalgia, she noted. “One hypothesis that may help explain why cognitive functioning in people with fibromyalgia is compromised is that they are more sensitive to all types of stimuli, including lights, sounds, and temperatures,” she explained.
“The thinking is that they may find their everyday environment more distracting than a person without fibromyalgia, and this distractibility interferes with cognitive functioning.” Perceived Distractions May Contribute to ‘Fibro Fog’
This was a small study but what I like about it is that it feels to be true in everyday experience.
We are over-stimulated by our environments ( see fibromyalgia and sensory sensitivity). And this does make it a lot harder to focus. Like when you are in a crowd with multiple people talking and trying to focus on the person in front of you… it gets tricky. I have had that happen at work where there is a lot of noise and I sort of blank out on the person I am supposed to be talking to. One of the reasons I preferred working in an office rather than customer service. Anyway, it is often mentioned we have hypervigilance issues due to our flight or flight system being off kilter. We are just more aware and sensitive to all the Muchness of the world around us that is harder to focus on one specific thing.
In that way, it reminds me a lot of a migraine attack. Too sensitive to light, sound, smell… everything. And it sort of makes you lose your concentration and have a hard time focusing.
That being said, cognitive dysfunction with fibromyalgia has been researched to be the fault of a) lack of restorative sleep and b) the pain itself. Lack of sleep certainly doesn’t help with functionality cognitively. And pain… in all conditions, is the Great Distractor… makes it harder to think clearly.
So we can take away from this study that, yes, we are hyper-aware of our environments and sensitive to stimulus. And this may or may not contribute to fibro fog. But that there are also a lot of other factors in there including the sleep issues we have as well as the pain itself.
Here is a post I wrote about some research on our cognitive dysfunction:
The tips I listed for fibro fog are:
- Exercise: It indeed it helps boost our mental clarity. Even just a 20 min walk. In fact if you are working and you find your concentration is shot try getting up and taking a short walk around, sometimes the act of changing activities to motion and then getting back at it can stimulate the brain.
- Eat regularly: Do not skip meals. In fact, have regular snacks between meals. Snacks really help maintain your energy and you will find it helps with mental fatigue.
- Change activities or tasks: Sometimes the act of changing what you are doing, shifting the brain from one activity to another can help clear your mind. Then go back to your task and you may find your mind more focused.
- Get sleep: This may be difficult if you have insomnia or pain or both, but good quality sleep also helps with combating mental fatigue.
- Try boosting your B12. Low B12 can affect your concentration levels.
- Reduce stress: Stress also can be a cause of increasing our brain fog so reducing it is beneficial. One way to help reduce it is with such things as deep breathing exercises and meditation. Even if it is just some short deep breathing exercises during the day to calm yourself down.
- Routine is our friend: Established routines help reduce our stress by taking away any stress associated with being flustered or in a rush. It helps maintain balance in the body. It is also beneficial to make lists and reminders to help us remember things, as again this takes stress off of us when we might have issues remembering non-routine events and appointments.
- Avoid multitasking: It has been established in studies that the brain actually works better when we focus on one thing… I suspect a lot better for those of us with chronic illness and issues with brain fog. So avoid this inclination of multitasking.
- Remember pacing: take breaks as needed as we can overextend ourselves and small breaks can be greatly beneficial
- Do a medication check: There are medications that can cause mental fatigue and if it is an issue that is of concern see if it is a side effect you are dealing with and ask your doctor about it.