Being a student is hard. Experiencing brain fog is hard. Being a student with brain fog is exhausting, frustrating, and at times, disheartening. It's the kind of difficult that is hard to describe unless you've been through it yourself. If you have, hi! I don't know what you're going through, but knowing my own experiences, I can understand a bit of what you're facing. Being a student while being ill is hard, but it's not impossible, and there are some things you can do to try and make things easier.
Tip #1: Take a learning style assessment
You’ve probably taken learning style assessment before, whether it was assigned for work or school or you were naturally curious. They are great (and can be fun!), but it’s important to keep in mind that a lot can change when your brain has changed. Maybe you were never a kinetic learner before, but now, being able to perform the action you’re learning about makes a better connection than just fuzzily scanning the pages of your textbook in a desperate bid for knowledge. For me, I was always a visual learner, but reading became almost impossible when my brain fog struck. I tried audiobooks and found that as long as I kept my hands busy or paced while listening, I could actually understand the story!
Tip #2: Try incorporating multiple learning styles
On a similar note, try using multiple learning styles at the same time. Sometimes, I have to listen to an audiobook and follow along with a written copy to understand what I’m reading. Sometimes, I read aloud and act like I’m teaching to an imaginary classroom. Learning the material different ways, and multiple ways at once, can help the information stick.
Tip #3: If one subject isn’t working for you, move on
This one is tricky. You can’t always put off that English essay or delay doing your math homework, but you won’t do yourself any good by wasting your time and energy staring at an assignment like it’s written in gibberish. Sometimes, a certain subject or topic will work better than another, and life as a student with brain fog is all about working with what you have at the moment.
Tip #4: Try to diminish fatigue
Brain fog is fierce. Brain fog and fatigue are fiercer yet. Whether it’s a fatigue that sleep can help or one it doesn’t touch (I’m looking at you, chronic fatigue), there are some things you can do to try and diminish that sleepiness so that you’re only dealing with one mental processing issue. If your body tolerates it, try some caffeinated teas or coffees. Sometimes, even just a placebo affect can make a difference. Some people respond well to smelling peppermint essential oil for a wake-up call. Also, figure our what kind of naps work best for you! Some people feel worse after an hour-long nap while others awake refreshed. You might do well with thirty minute naps, two hour naps, or no naps at all, so figure out what works best for you.
Tip #5: Take breaks
Remember to give yourself brain breaks. Studying is hard on anyone, and rest is a necessity! Even taking fifteen minutes to mindlessly scroll on your phone, walk outside, or stretch can help you focus a bit better when it’s time to get back to work.
Above all, try to give yourself grace. It can be hard to appreciate all that your mind is doing for you when all the things it is failing to do seem more prominent. It can be hard, but try to take note of all your accomplishments big and small. Finally, know that you are not alone, and that there are others out there cheering you on. I know I’m one of them!