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Brain Fog in a Multitasking World

Last updated: October 2022

The pressure in our society to do everything in the least amount of time is overwhelming, to put it mildly. The pressure on the average, healthy person to keep up with everything is frustrating enough. Throw in a little (or a lot!) of brain fog, and it can feel like we might as well give up now.

Brain fog and "cog-fog"

I was recently talking with some of my friends who have Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Within the MS community, they speak about the term “cog-fog,” which I think is a much better and more descriptive term than what we usually see in our RA community- brain fog. Cog-fog does a better job of encompassing some of the more nuanced parts of living with brain fog. That is, our ability to comprehend what is going on around us, process that information, and contribute to what is going on in a meaningful and clear way.

But for those of us with rheumatoid disease (RA/RD), simply making a to-do list is ambitious, never mind that all-important moment of actually marking items off. However, our modern-day world tells us that multitasking, checking off our to-do lists, and basically being a “getting it all accomplished” ninja should be no problem at all. But the reality is that often, I can barely form a complete sentence, let alone manage multiple things at once.

Multitasking with RA

Now, because single-tasking, let alone multitasking, is so challenging for us, it feels like this is just one more thing about having RA that keeps us from living “up” to the expectations of what the rest of the world tells us we should be able to do. I know many people aren’t bothered by this. People who (let’s be honest, aren’t me) have accepted this difference between us and the rest of the world. But I haven’t. I still struggle with feeling like I am "less" because I can’t seem to manage everything with RD.

This doesn’t dictate my value

So in my attempts to manage my RD brain fog/cog-fog in a multitasking world, I had to first accept and learn to be okay with the simple fact that I can’t multitask, and that’s okay. It doesn't mean that I’m less of a valuable person and contributing member of society because I need to focus on a singular task.

Once I figured this out, and quite honestly, accepted this part about my life with RD, I decided that if I was going to be committed to only focusing on one task at a time, I would be all in. Multitasking with brain fog wasn’t going to work. So I set off to figure out how to be laser-focused on one task at a time, which helped me feel like I could think at least a little more clearly.

3 ways to make single-tasking easier with brain fog

1. Goodbye phone

I know this might be controversial for some, especially if you use your phone for med reminders and such. Still, in my experience, my phone was constantly pulling me away from what I was doing and dividing my already limited focus into many different directions.

2. Give block scheduling a try

Block scheduling is when you set aside specific “blocks” of your day to focus on one task at a time. This schedules the single-task mentality into your day, giving you permission to be single-task oriented while also being super productive.

3. Harness the power of a good brain dump

At the beginning and end of each day, I turn to a fresh sheet of paper in my brain dump notebook and write down everything, topic, task, and thought that swirls around in my head. If something happens to pop into my mind while I’m focusing on another task, instead of trying (and failing) to remember it, I jot it in my brain dump notebook to get back to later.

The simple fact is my brain fog will never allow me to be a multitasking ninja. It has taken me years and many failures, but I’ve finally accepted that and developed a system that will work for my strengths and set me up for success, despite my nearly debilitating brain fog. What have you come up with to manage the busyness of a multitasking world with brain fog?

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