I have spent the last 5 years learning to deal with what I call ‘brain fog’ and evolving myself to turn this struggle to focus into a strength for me as an entrepreneur. Throughout this journey, I have discovered that focus is what can make or break a millennial entrepreneur.
Successful entrepreneurs all face this battle for focus. Those who learn to cope become unstoppable.
Brain fog/lack of focus takes many different forms, has many different side effects and rarely has an obvious or easy fix. There’s no real diagnoses and it’s often used as a term to broadly define lack of focus, low energy and periodic memory loss. It is a feeling of mental sluggishness that hinders your mind from performing at even mediocre levels. It can lead to frustration, memory loss, depression, anxiety, extremely low levels of energy, and many other imbalances that have long-term effects.
In other words, it is kryptonite to any young entrepreneur – and particularly so with young, first time millennial entrepreneurs. I found this group of young hustlers to be at particular risk for struggles with focus amidst an ever increasing volatile lifestyle which allows this brain fog to creep up on us and prevent optimal performance.
My experience with brain fog and lack of focus taught me a lot about what it takes to build strong personal characteristics that define a successful millennial entrepreneur.
Over the past five years, the fog was always there, but would fluctuate in severity. Most days I woke up tired, groggy, and out of it. Other days I couldn’t even get out of bed. I constantly struggled in social situations and losing my train of thought was a common occurrence. It felt as if I was stuck inside a foggy bubble and couldn’t do anything about it.
At first I thought I was the only one on the planet with this issue. One doctor said it was ADHD, another said allergies. They recommended medications and specialty doctors, but nothing worked.
Most of us have at least a little bit of brain fog, but don’t know it. You won’t know until you experience the clarity you were lacking.
My frustration grew every day due to my lack of control. I remember having to give a speech in one of my business classes. I had given speeches and presentations with ease prior to my brain fog. The teacher asked me a simple question that I immediately had an answer to, as soon as I started to speak, the thought completely left my brain forever. I said to the whole class…”Damn…I lost my train of thought.”
Embarrassing to say the least!
It affected my entire life. Everything from my mood to my relationships and my job. Something drastic needed to be done because I couldn’t live like this any longer!
I finally got rid of my brain fog and made my focus a defining characteristic of my entrepreneurial success.
I decided to start from scratch and rebuild from the ground up since nothing else was working. I finally understood that nothing would happen overnight. I had to work at it. My brain fog was the result of years of unhealthy living and eating, so in order to lift the fog, I needed to make this a long-term effort.
I knew diet was probably the main contributor, so I started there. I eliminated the obvious – – fast-food, junk food, sugary foods, processed foods, bread, and anything else that seemed less than super-duper healthy.
I then began to introduce different fog-lifting foods to my diet to see how my body reacted. These brain-fueling foods started to slowly heal my body and my brain, and I began feeling the difference.
I kicked it into high gear and focused on going to the gym at least 4 times a week. I made sleep my main priority and started reading and meditating more. I stopped watching TV, drastically lowered my alcohol consumption, and started giving my body what it NEEDED.
One of the biggest hurdles was realizing it gets worse before it gets better. So, expect this and take it as a sign that your body is getting ready for a big change.
This process wasn’t smooth or easy, but I kept at it. I had to slowly break the bad habits and replace them with good ones.
I woke up one day and it felt as if I took a pill like the one Bradley Cooper took in the movie Limitless. I had finally lifted the fog! It was the best I had ever felt and I will never go back.
I learned how to become an entrepreneur who can deal with this mental aspect of the hustle.
Entrepreneurs must make such drastic sacrifices and often put their health on the back burner. This inevitably leads to health problems. Since you are the entrepreneur, you are your business. If you get sick, so does your business.
My new business, Hustle Healthy, helps entrepreneurs eliminate brain fog, achieve higher cognitive abilities, increase productivity, become fit, and attain their optimum health while on their crazy entrepreneurial journey.
Here are 4 high–level tips to improve your health as an entrepreneur.
1. Nutrition is EVERYTHING when it comes to focus.
Cook at home as much as possible. This allows you to have the most control over what you are eating (and save some money). Aim for whole, fresh, unprocessed, natural foods. For efficiency, invest in a crock pot so you can throw everything in there and let it cook while you are at the gym or working on a project.
At all costs, avoid processed foods, foods with added sugars and sodas (diet & non-diet). Just eliminating those will make a huge difference.
Drink a ton of water! Have a water bottle with you at all times.
Big picture: Start learning about what you are putting in your body. How we feel is mostly correlated with what we put in our bodies. So much of what we buy nowadays is a marketing tactic. Be careful out there!
2. Exercise makes you feel GREAT and increases focus.
Shoot for the simple goal of breaking a sweat every day. Whether it’s walking or running in the morning, playing a sport after work or working out at the gym, find something you will stick with long term.
You need to incorporate some sort of strength training as well. Working out isn’t just for the people that want to get ripped, it is essential for a healthy body and a healthy mind. Aim for 3+ days a week.
Make sure to stretch your whole body for at least 10 minutes every day. Yoga is a great option. If you are lifting weights consistently or sitting in a chair most of your day and not stretching, you are slowly working your way to an injury. Make stretching a habit and you will quickly see the benefits.
Big Picture: Keep things simple. The minute you start overthinking and over-analyzing every aspect of your routine, is the minute you get confused and give up (especially as an entrepreneur). Do what you enjoy doing and stick with it. Learn to make it an enjoyable habit instead of a chore.
3. Lifestyle, lifestyle, lifestyle.
Start by solidifying your morning routine. Make sure you start the day off right to set the tone for a productive day. Mornings are great for exercise, meditation, goal-setting, affirmations and planning.
Do little things throughout the day that add up to big things over time. If you have an office job, you probably work in a building with stairs. Once every hour or two, walk up and down the stairs for 5 minutes and walk to lunch every day.
Find time to get away from technology and unplug from the constant stimulation and artificial light. Get outside and do something active as often as possible.
Aim for 6-9 hours of sleep per night (everyone is different), and sleep in 1.5 our increments, e.g., 6hrs, 7.5hrs or 9 hrs.
If you are going to take ONE thing away from this article, let it be the importance of sleep. Stop pushing it further down your list of priorities. Stop saying you will catch up on sleep tomorrow or this weekend because you won’t, once you lose that sleep, it’s gone forever.
Your goal for this week or next: Get a good night’s rest every night and take note of the effects.
Big Picture: Your life is essentially the sum of your habits, therefor, you can map out exactly what you want your life to look like and work backwards to figure out what habits you need. From there, it’s just about consciously doing it over and over and over (and over…and over….) until it’s no longer a conscious action. That’s how you create long-term habits and make amazing changes to your life.
4. Health should always be FIRST.
It’s easy to get lost in your pursuit and forget about the important aspects of life, like your health and happiness. Figure out ways to stay healthy during your journey and you will see greater results in all aspects of your life.
Thanks for reading.
Footnote: Throughout my years with brain fog, I learned a lot about it while trying to figure out why I felt the way I did and how to get rid of it. I am not a doctor and most of this article is based on my experience, the experiences of others, and interviews with doctors. Feel free to take it in and make it your own.
Miles Hanson – Creator of Hustle Healthy, Health & Fitness for the Entrepreneur. Currently living in Austin, TX and learning from the best doctors, health experts and entrepreneurs around. Looking for the most effective strategies to improving our mental and physical health as entrepreneurs and allowing for the creation of world changing businesses as well as healthy, purposeful lives. Join our Mastermind Group on Facebook!