Feeling slow? Drained? Uncreative?
Are the words just not flowing like they used to?
If you’ve answered yes to any of these, the dreaded brain fog may have settled in over you like mist in a rainforest, making everything seem ten times harder to do—especially concentrating on your manuscript.
Brain fog is an awful feeling—you just can’t focus and don’t feel like yourself, but you can’t come up with a good reason for it!
To cope, most of us reach for something good and caffeinated, whether that’s coffee, tea, soda, or just mainlining espresso like our lives depend on it.
But this may be intensifying your brain fog, not fixing it, because a top cause of brain fog is dehydration, and caffeine makes dehydration even worse!
Mild dehydration is hard to diagnose—until you’ve lost about 2% of your needed water, you may not even feel thirsty, according to Lawrence Armstrong of the University of Connecticut. But the effects will still be there: feeling lethargic, cranky, uncreative, or even depressed and anxious. You won’t remember things as clearly and you’ll have trouble focusing.
Luckily, fixing dehydration-related brain fog is easy. Just drink more water!
This is helpful in a bunch of different ways. Let’s take a look at a few.
A whole host of scientific studies have shown that being even a tiny bit dehydrated can tank your mental performance. Your creativity declines, your memory short-circuits, you lose some of your reflexes and response times, your fine motor accuracy declines, and more.
This is because water oxygenates your blood and lets your brain function more efficiently, and because your brain relies on a delicate balance between water and essential minerals and chemicals to function—if you’re drinking too little water, that balance goes out of whack.
Plus, if you’re dehydrated, your body treats it as a physical attack—and diverts resources to dealing with that attack. Because it’s working harder to process toxins, digest food, and ferry oxygen around (all key functions of water in your body), your system has less capacity to let you do mental heavy lifting. So when you’re dehydrated, you’re not thinking right!
If you’re feeling like you just can’t get work done, keep forgetting where you are in your manuscript, and keep making dumb typing errors…you may be dehydrated! Grab a glass of water (or two) and see if that helps. Odds are, when your body processes the water, you’ll start to feel refreshed, more focused, and able to concentrate again.
Mild dehydration has been shown to alter mood, making us more anxious, depressed, or irritable. Just imagine if you could perk yourself up and improve your outlook without needing to take a pill!
While drinking more water won’t alleviate clinical depression, anxiety, or other issues, if you find yourself consistently irritable or anxious on days when you haven’t had a lot of water, sipping more might be the answer.
Feeling More Alert
Having just 2.6% less water in your system than you should can seriously affect your fatigue level. Droopy eyelids and a desperate need to nap aren’t just a sign of the mid-afternoon slump; they might be indicators that you really need a glass of water.
Instead of reaching for a cup of coffee to perk up when you’re exhausted, try adding water. Studies have shown that hydrating improves feelings of alertness remarkably quickly, and the effects tend to last longer than using caffeine…without the risk of crashing later!
The more you drink water, the more you have to go to the bathroom. But this isn’t a bad thing! As writers, we have a nasty tendency to sit way too much. And that can lead to a whole host of health issues.
But by drinking enough water and getting up more to empty the tank, so to speak, you can ensure that you’re moving around more and maybe even getting in the recommended 10,000 steps per day that’s supposed to lead to improved health and wellness.
It’s an easy change with potentially dramatic results!
How to Hydrate Better
So how much water should you be drinking to get all these benefits?
That depends on you personally—while there’s the general recommendation of “8 cups per day” (that’s about 2 liters), some experts think we should be drinking even more than that, while others say that the right amount depends on your diet, age, gender, and more.
We get about 22% of our required water from food, although that’s been going down as we start eating more processed foods and complex carbs and fewer fresh fruits and vegetables. So depending on your diet, you may need to drink six glasses of water or all the way up to 10!
Try drinking a big glass of water right before bed; most people can make it through the night without having to get up if they have water immediately before bed, rather than half an hour before lights-out, and you’ll feel better in the morning being more hydrated.
Then have a big glass of ice-cold water first thing after you wake up. Cold water shocks your metabolism a bit, helping you wake up and burn more calories throughout the day while also increasing your hydration levels. It’s an easy way to get your day started right.
During the day, keep a large glass of water nearby or fill up a BPA-free plastic, glass, or metal bottle (I rely on my trusty 15oz. Sip bottle, which can also keep tea or coffee hot!). It’s actually best to have a bottle that’s smaller than your hydration target for the day so that you’ll have to get up to fill it a few times.
Struggling to meet your hydration targets? Try adding a squirt of lemon or lime juice (or a slice of fresh citrus) or some mint leaves to switch up the taste. You can also try adding tea—it’s a good source of liquid, especially if you’re drinking herbal tea or rooibos, which isn’t caffeinated.
It may take a few days for your body to recalibrate, especially if you’ve been persistently slightly dehydrated for a while. But stick with it—soon enough, you’ll find that you’re not running to the bathroom as much, you’re thinking clearer, and you just generally feel better.
Here’s a toast your happy hydration!
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For more on how to boost your creativity and productivity, read on:
- Increase Your Wordcount with Ambient Noise: 5 Tools to Get More Done with Sound
- The Best Writing Tip Ever: How I Doubled My Daily Word Count With One Simple Change
- Time Management for Writers: The Stopwatch Method for Massive Creative Productivity