Woman looking exhausted, hands spread in her hair, surrounded by fog.

Exhaustion-Induced Brain Fog

One of the biggest challenges of living with insomnia for me, personally, is the constant state of exhaustion I feel like I live in. And I feel like in the past few years, it's only increased.

As a toddler mom, a wife, an entrepreneur, and a business professional, this impacts every aspect of my life – and the level of exhaustion feels impossible to explain to others who haven't had 30ish years of consistently terrible sleep.

However, it's even changed for me recently.

I am a different type of tired now

During the past few months, I've ramped up my work hours significantly for the first time since having my daughter in 2019.

Going from working 4 to 5 hours a day to 8 to 10 hours has been a major shift in every aspect of my life – including my sleep and wake schedule, and the amount of energy (mental and physical) that I require each day.

I've also noticed something pivotal – I'm a different type of tired now than I used to be. Pre-motherhood, when work or school was all that took up my time and my brain capacity, I was able to find time to mentally rest, even if I wasn't physically asleep. This at least provided me time and space to re-charge, rather than working off an already almost empty battery.

Whether it was via reading, watching TV shows, playing games with friends, doing an art project, or just lying on the couch – I could mentally check out from the constant to-do lists and calls to action, and just be in a space where it was okay to relax.

My awake brain never has a chance to turn off

Now, those times are filled with mommy things – either playing with my daughter in real-time or taking care of life as a mother (like laundry, groceries, cleaning, activity planning, etc.). And I love being with my daughter, and being her mama, but rather than checking out mentally, or searching for peace of mind, I find that the go-go-go never stops anymore.

It's like, my awake brain never has the opportunity to turn off or even to operate in lower battery mode. Instead, it seems to charge full steam ahead, whether empty or full. And friends, when it's empty, I feel it.

Struggling with brain fog

The exhaustion I experience makes me feel almost catatonic – where it feels like my brain is working through thick mud in order to process and respond to simple questions, requests, and tasks.

The brain fog I have come to struggle with due to my mental and physical exhaustion affects me most when it comes to critical thinking. During the workday, I often feel like I need a break or a rest, or to take my eyes off the screen for a few minutes. I've come to rely on a variety of strategies to help me navigate this:

  • Fresh air – open those windows, especially as it gets chillier out.
  • Caffeine – sometimes I just need an afternoon dose.
  • Extensive to-do lists – ensuring I have absolutely everything written down helps me to try to let go of all I'm mentally tracking for fear of dropping the ball on anything in motion. It also helps when my thoughts aren't very coherent to focus on things that require less critical analysis and complete tasks that are more automatic.
  • Water – drinking extra water not only makes me physically feel better, but it forces me to get up periodically and use the restroom, which is also a good break from work and allows movement circulation to help clear my thoughts a bit.

If you've experienced the brain fog that comes with exhaustion, or the constant exhaustion increased by parenthood, I'd love to hear what you would add to this list below.

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