Brain Fog on a Sunny Day: How I Stay Productive on Difficult Days
Last updated: February 2022
With a chronic illness like narcolepsy, some days I am more capable than others. Other days I feel like a mountaintop has crashed over my head, preventing me from getting anything done.
Sleep attacks for me are more common on these kinds of days but can be experienced on my best days. Cataplexy is something that worsens with emotions – so if I'm having an emotionally tumultuous day for whatever reason, it is likely that my cataplexy and other narcolepsy symptoms will peak.
Ways I stay productive on bad symptom days
These are some of the ways I combat these symptoms:
1. Getting outside
One of my favorite activities is mindfully bathing in nature. I do this by walking hiking trails in my area, being sure to touch the different textures that pique my interest. I also enjoy watching wildlife activity during this time, giggling at the squirrels fighting over nuts and the birds chirping emphatically from the trees.
The combination of the mindfulness practice with a little bit of sun and nature exposure can help turn a bad-symptom-day into a more peaceful one. This can help clear my brain fog, but not always. However, every little bit helps.
2. Taking frequent naps
...and accomplishing small tasks between them.
One of my treatment plan strategies is to take frequently scheduled naps on a daily basis. I typically try to aim for an early afternoon nap on a standard day, with a late afternoon nap added in on more difficult days. Sometimes my symptoms are so difficult (for example, after driving cross-country for 4 days with my service dog) that it is difficult to even get out of bed. On these days, I find it helpful to take frequent naps and to try to accomplish what I can in between them.
For example, just yesterday I had a difficult morning but needed to make a few important phone calls. I laid in bed and took naps in between calls and was able to get up hours later feeling more refreshed than if I had just pushed myself too far. The bad thing about pushing my narcolepsy limits is that it's like stretching a rubber band – the harder you pull, the more painful the snap. When I push myself too far to be productive my body ends up responding through worsened excessive daytime sleepiness and other narcolepsy symptoms.
3. Being nice to myself
It is easy for me to be hard on myself because of my symptoms – however, this is damaging to me emotionally, spiritually, and physically (in the long run). I remind myself that the people in my narcolepsy community experience similar symptoms and limitations, and are still worthy of love. I remind myself that I am worthy of love, regardless of my ability to be "productive" or not.
Sometimes brain fog is an obstacle to overcome, and other times it is something that I must simply live alongside.
Do you struggle to stay productive on bad narcolepsy symptom days? Share your story, tips, or experience in the comments below!
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