Brain Fog: How to Successfully Motivate Yourself
Disclaimer: I am not selling nor marketing any supplements. This post is a precursor to a topic that I have been dying to discuss which will be on next week's blog. The information that I discuss below is what has helped my brain become healthy again. Enjoy reading and stay tuned!
In previous weeks I have mentioned my traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and how they have affected my body and my health. This week I wanted to jump further into the effect that those injuries had on my cognition because this was the aspect that I struggled with the most.
ONE OF THE BEST PARTS OF ME
By the time I was entering my freshman year of college, I had been diagnosed with seven concussions. These included incidents from softball and a car accident. I grew up playing softball from a young age and met some of my best friends through the sport. I spent high school practicing after classes and in the summers I practiced everyday with long tournaments on the weekends.
This was such a big part of my life if not the main part at the time. I gained so many important traits from the sport that I believe I took into many different aspects of my life. I think we can all relate to this on some level. For many it was a sport, a hobby, or maybe even a career. Something that made us love a little bit of healthy competition, taught us about dedication and commitment, and taught us about ourselves. It's sad how sometimes something you love can change in the blink of an eye. For me it was my car accident, and that was when when I realized that softball was over and when my cognition really started to decline.
TRAUMA TRANSFORMED INTO BLESSING IN DISGUISE
Seven concussions is an outrageous amount that caused me to struggle through daily life and created problems that I still face today. The way I like to describe the difficult transition of living with numerous concussions is: brain fog. As an in coming freshman at CSU, I knew that I wanted to study Neuroscience because of all that I had been through and I wanted to learn about how to change my brain for the better. Well, it was so much harder than I ever expected it to be. I almost failed out of my first year of college because I was in such a daze. I struggled through lectures and I honestly do not remember most of that year. However, I can remember a specific time that I was trying to read a chapter of a Chemistry book and take notes on. I would read a sentence and couldn't comprehend it. So I read each word individually and copied it into my notebook and at the end of the sentence, I still had no clue what it said. At this point I was contemplating changing my major, or even taking time off of school. I am so grateful that somewhere in my foggy brain I decided not to quit. Neuroscience has truly become the biggest part of my life. Without my TBI's, I would not have been so captivated by the study of the brain. I retook my first year of classes and took summer courses so that I could graduate in four years. I achieved my goal of learning about ways to heal and did not succumb to my adversities.
"You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.” - Margaret Thatcher
In the world of Neuroscience, you hear a lot of thoughts tossed around and I learned to question a lot of information. This was not a bad thing because I learned how to effectively research a topic. However, there were many myths about the brain in society. One of the most popular myths in society and the media is that a person can only be "left" or "right" brained which were to correspond to intelligence or creativity. Another is that humans are only able to use up to 10% of their brain at a time. I learned that these myths could not be further from the truth. Not only do we use far more than 10% of our brain, but we use many different areas at one time that are seamlessly connected and are capable of utilizing different areas of our brains simultaneously. This gave me so much hope and excitement about where I was at in my brain health and where I wanted to be.
THE BRAIN ON MOTIVATION
As many of you know, I am in one of the biggest transition phases of my life right now, (See my last blog post for more info). After such a dramatic life decision, it is difficult moving forward and deciding what is next in my journey. I won't lie, it's taking a lot out of me emotionally as I'm looking into new programs while looking for a more full-time position while I teach yoga. This week as I was thinking about what to write about, I definitely hit a wall. It was hard to be motivated during this phase. However, I realized how appealing it is that I get to write to those who want to learn about the brain and use my life experience to teach it. As I reflect on my difficulties that I had after my car accident, where I am at in my life today honestly seems easy. I am able to work towards optimal cognition and continuously get better because of that experience.
So how does the brain become motivated? Dopamine is the neurotransmitter in our brains that plays a major role in motivation. Motivation on the chemical level is much more complicated than you would expect. It involves the reward pathways in the brain that affect structures located deep in the brain called the basal nuclei, also known as the basal ganglia. When the brain decides that something is a "reward," it is wired to continuously release dopamine. However, an excess of dopamine is implemented in mental illness as well as addiction. In order to avoid the negative effects of too much dopamine, it is important to focus your motivation on things that will benefit you in your life. The ways that I increase my motivation to find the right job and the right masters program for me is by exercising, meditating, listening to relaxing music, and keeping my brain healthy with supplements.
The reason that I wanted to talk about supplements is because they were such a vital part of my brains recovery and continue to be. However, the brain myths that I discussed earlier do have a lot of media surrounding them and products are often sold claiming to improve cognition with a list of great benefits. What I will say regarding brain supplements is what I have seen work the best as a replacement: daily vitamins. For myself and the patients that I have worked with, the amount of nutrients needed is different for each person. Vitamins increase the levels of deprived nutrients and minerals in the body and brain that are needed to help regain energy and reach optimal cognition. Each day I take: a multivitamin, a probiotic, a digestive enzyme, omega-3 salmon oil, magnesium, and a B-complex.
This week I challenge you to motivate yourself by recalling your hardships and how you got through them. I also encourage you to take vitamins, work on exercising frequently, and to set goals that are small and attainable. If you are unsure which vitamins to take - ask me I would love to help! Or you can research some of the symptoms that you have, (fatigue, memory trouble, energy loss, etc.) to discover what supplements would be best for you. We all have brain fog even if you haven't had a TBI. Whether you are tired, dehydrated, low in a mineral, or if something substantial is happening in your life, we all experience it. We seem to search for motivation in other people, but I encourage you to reflect inward and work on what you can control in order to successfully motivate yourself.
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