Q:You wrote that you listen to a playlist while you study to help keep you awake to fight fatigue. Can you post it?
Yep, pain steals my attention/focus pretty quickly if I don’t have music and the right environment; music is essential even if it’s just barely noticeable. Sometimes I listen to really uptempo EDM (which keeps me wide awake), sometimes rap/hip hop, indie, whatever. The type of music depends on what I’m studying.
I can post a Spotify or 8tracks link later if there’s interest? Like this post or send me a message if you’d like to see a playlist.
Today I’m spending my entire day studying biology for a massive exam tomorrow. Currently listening to an album called The Awesome Wave by Alt-J. It’s fantastic whether you’re studying or not. Click for a Youtube link to the album.
Check back later for a playlist, anon. :)
Edit: holy crap, okay, playlist it is! Here is my 8tracks page. There are 3: Study Part I, Study Part II, and Forge Ahead, which is the mix I put on in the mornings when I need to tackle the day/kick some ass when pain is high.
Chronic Illness Problems 11/12/2012
- When you wake up at 9am (or a normal hour) and have to nap just a few hours later.
- Fatigue: the feeling of wearing five soaking wet down comforters over your head while running a fever, with heavy weights tied to each muscle and joint, and each step feels like running a marathon through quicksand.
An accurate representation of studying and writing papers with brain fog:
Brain fog: 3
Chronic Illness Problems 10/29/2012
- Pick up water.
- Pick up bottle of pain medication.
- Swallow water.
- Realize about 2 minutes later that I have absolutely no recollection of whether or not I actually took the pain pill.
Does this happen to anyone else?
Edit: I FEEL SO MUCH BETTER THAT I AM NOT THE ONLY ONE. That is all.
College and Chronic Illness: Chronic Curve’s Study Space
I’ve had a ton of requests to show my own study environment after that last College and Chronic Illness post (which somehow managed to get over 1600 notes! Glad people found it so helpful!), so I figured I would share today’s!
- Various colored pens, highlighter, CVS Peas ice pack, index cards, my calendar/planner, text book/syllabus. I have cold water and dried apricots, comfy clothing and my desk chair. Sometimes I light a candle. Not pictured here would be my heating pad which is currently on my low back
because pelvic pain is a terrible thing.Sometimes I sit on a pillow and I do have a small ottoman from Target to use as a foot rest (I’m short so my feet dangle when I sit = pain).
- When I know I’m going to be studying for a long period of time, I typically plant myself at my kitchen table and spread out everything I need. I usually end up getting distracted or too tired (it’s warmer and darker in my room) if I sit at my own desk.
- Once I’ve downloaded or opened all of the powerpoints/study material I need to reference, I disconnect from the internet and only reconnect during breaks. Depending on how I’m feeling, I usually study for about 30-40 minutes, break for 10-15, and repeat. I get up and stretch frequently to keep from getting stiff.
- I typically avoid slow music when I study, as upbeat jams keep me more alert and help me fight the fatigue and fog. Current jams: Muse’s new album, 2nd Law. Which is just so, so, so damn good.
Brain Fog & Fatigue Defined. Follow up to Study Strong & Fight the Fog
I can’t even tell you how flattered (shocked!) I was to see over 700 notes on my Studying/Brain Fog post, but I think there are a few things that I need to clear up based on some of the reblog comments. When you see “brain fog” or “fatigue” written about, here is how the terms are being used:
1. Brain Fog, Cognitive Dysfunction: occurs in people with chronic disease that cause widespead inflammation (e.g., Autoimmune Arthritis). The inflammation in the body, pain, and fatigue* combined cause cognitive dysfunction for many patients, symptoms included but not limited to:
- Poor memory (difficulty recalling words, concepts, directions)
- Disorientation, confusion (e.g., driving and forgetting where you are going; forgetting how to get to a familiar place)
- A feeling of being in slow motion
- Difficulty concentrating or thinking about analytical concepts (making complex sentence structure, reading, and technical subjects difficult to study and understand)
- Difficulty expressing thoughts in an articulate manner
2. Fatigue: the feeling of exhaustion that cannot be pushed though; the feeling of walking around with soaking wet duvet covers over one’s head, broken bones, torn muscles, bricks tied to one’s body, a core temperature of102 degrees F, and being expected to function in this constant state. It does not simply mean tired when used here on Chronic Curve.
So please, refrain from using the term “brain fog” when you mean to say “tired,” “worn out,” or “studied out." They are not one in the same and do patients like myself and my readers here an unintentional disservice. Using the words improperly just leads to more misunderstanding. We have enough of that already!
*If you know the original photo source, please send a link my way. Was unable to locate it
College and Chronic Illness: 19 Tips to Study Strong and Fight the Fog
I get a lot of students asking me for advice on how to change their study habits to fight brain fog*. It’s no easy task and often feels like a lose-lose situation. Pain medication might make you feel sleepy and out of it. Pain itself is distracting and takes up a good portion of your mental effort. Add brain fog to that mix and retaining large quantities of complex information is quite a task.
I’ve shared these tips with an anon ask in the past, but it’s appropriate to include them in my College and Chronic Illness series. Plus, I’ve updated my list. Enjoy!
- Color Coded— Writing the main concepts, theories, formulas, whatever, in a bright color (or multiple colors) helps me recall the content later (especially helpful for those of you who tend to have a photographic memory). Color coding your content with various colored pens works too.
- Highlight, Highlight, Highlight— Even if the entire 12 page section has to be highlighted, do it. This can help you track where you are when you’re reading, while also forcing you to pay attention to exactly what you’re highlighting.
- Write— If you’re a flashcard person, perfect. If not, writing out study content onto sheets of paper (copying notes, concepts, whatever) at least five times can help with retaining information and preventing memory lapses. It’s not particularly easy on the hands, but absolutely worth it if it works for you. If typing the information and then highlighting it after it’s printed, that might be a better alternative if you struggle to write like I do.
- Try Study Groups— if you are in the process of figuring out which study habits work best for you, try getting a group of people together to study. If you don’t have any friends learning the same content, send out a mass email to your class and see who’d like to get together or if study groups have already formed. Great way to meet new people and motivate and help each other get through difficult content.
- Repeat, Vocalize— Repeating terms and study content aloud allows you to hear it, focus on it, and remember it. It’s a great way to study.
- Have someone quiz you— When you get the answer wrong, have the person quizzing you repeat the correct answer to you twice. Then, start from the beginning each time you get wrong. This forces you to go back over all the ones you already got correct (reinforcing them) AND the ones you got wrong. Keep doing this until you get past the one you got wrong. This is hands down the best method I’ve utilized to study and it really works well.
- Acronyms— I think this speaks for itself.
- Method of Loci— Method of what? MOL: a metacognitive technique/mnemonc strategy in learning; based on the idea that you can best remember places that one is familiar with. If one links something worth remembering with a familiar place, the location will act as a clue to help trigger the memory. As LupineLady put it, “you picture a room you know really well, and attach pieces of information to each thing in the room.” You can read more about how to use this technique here.
Time Management— This is probably the most important tip of all. Instead of cramming four chapter’s worth of information into your brain the two days before the exam, start a week (or more ) in advance and take in information slowly. Then, the two days prior to your exam should be reviewing the entire four chapters and focusing on any content you found particularly difficult to retain.
- 10/20, 20/40— Study 20 minutes, then take a 10 minute brain-break OR study 40 minutes, then take a 20 minute brain-break. Break your study periods up into blocks. This gives you brain a break and you avoid the brain drain of studying without breaks for an hour+. Play around with what time increments work best for you.
- The Feynman Technique — a technique that helps you pinpoint exactly what you are struggling to understand or remember about a specific concept and make your study habit(s) more efficient. Simple and so effective. Here’s a PDF file with instructions for those who don’t want a video (the video is not too long & is better).
- Study Stress Free— Okay, maybe stress-free isn’t realistic, but being in the right frame of mind helps. If you cannot force yourself out of bed, if you’re in agony or you know it isn’t going to happen— don’t force it. That said, plan ahead so you don’t end up without the option of not forcing it…avoid cram sessions unless it works for you.
- Prep Your Study Space— Do you like to study with music? Make a playlist. Do you like a candle lit? Snacks? Prep your environment. If you need to take pain medication in order to be able to study, take meds 30 minutes (or however long they take to work) prior to your set study time. Have some ice packs or your heating pad ready.
- Avoid Social Media Distraction— Get off of facebook, twitter, instagram, Reddit, whatever your weakness is. If you know you lack the self control to put these away, use a program that limits your internet access for a period of time. If you know you won’t be able to study if you have access to the internet, use a program that limits your access (google to find ones that work for Mac and PC).
- Create a Physically Comfortable Work Area— Do you have a comfortable desk chair to sit in? Large space to spread your materials out? Curling up in a corner on the floor? Find/create your ideal study work area. When you are less distracted by physical pain (amplified by uncomfortable seating), you’re more likely to focus and have one less thing keeping you from studying.
- Good Eats— Gum, mints, trail mix, fruit, etc. Healthy snacks are a great way to gain some nutritional value. Do not forget to take breaks to eat actual meals. Use dinner and lunch as a study break. Cook a healthy meal, enjoy it, and give your brain some fuel and a rest.
- Stay Hydrated— this is paramount, especially for those of you inhaling massive amounts of caffeine to combat the fatigue (Starbucks espresso shot & 5 hour energy users, I am speaking to you). Drink a LOT of water while you study and don’t drink yourself into a caffeine crash. FYI: two Monster energy drinks have over FOURTEEN soda can’s worth of caffeine. Think about that and then think about your heart rate before you open up another can.
- Utilize Outside Resources— I use Khan Academy to review (and sometimes learn…) course content. I find the interactive step by step videos to be easier than learning a concept from a textbook. KA is totally free and the concepts are explained correctly and quite simply. You can review a video as many times as you want at your own pace. Definitely something to hold onto whether you’re fighting the fog or not, for everything from stats to American History. If you are struggling with a particular concept, go ask your professor, TA, or find free tutoring on campus (it’s there, you just have to find it). Google the concept or find online interactive tools. Another good one for technical concepts (math, formula/calculation work) is Wolfram Alpha, the Computational Knowledge Engine. Find someone who will walk you through the basics and will work with your foggy brain and…
- Don’t Be Embarrassed! Even people without brain fog go to tutoring and need concepts broken down. So what if we need them broken down a little more? So what if we need to re-learn basics again? So what if we forget basic algebra because our brains function in slow-motion? Who cares? Remember that this education is for YOU. YOU are earning your degree and anyone who looks down upon you for going at your own pace is not someone whose opinions you should take to heart anyway! "It does not matter how slow you go, so long as you do not stop."
These are great tips for students regardless of whether or not one is dealing with brain fog, but for those of us who are struggling to fight the fog, it’s crucial we adapt our study habits to our bodies. I will add to this as I find more study strategies. Feel free to leave your comments, feedback, and/or any suggestions you have for others in the Disqus box!
*Please note that brain fog is not being tired, worn out, or “studied out.” It is cognitive dysfunction as a result of very serious disease(s). Please click & read this follow up to learn how not to use this term and how “fatigue” is defined here on Chronic Curve.
Fatigue has reached the point of no return. First sign is being too tired to speak. Second is being unable to eat solid foods. I knew it would get worse— it always does when I transition back into classes & a structured daily routine, but damn.
I just want ice cream and a b12 shot. Perhaps a caffeine drip. They can do that, right?