In a world filled with constant demands, stress, and distractions, it’s not uncommon to experience brain fog and low energy levels. But is brain fog just a byproduct of our busy lives, or is there more to it? In this episode, host Penny Zanker explores the science of beating brain fog and boosting your energy with certified sleep science coach, kinesthesiologist, and health consultant, Tanessa Shears. Tanessa explains that brain fog is often a collection of symptoms, such as forgetfulness, constant distractions, and a general sense of tiredness. It’s like thinking through sand, making you less creative and less efficient. But here’s the good news: brain fog can be addressed, and Tanessa is here to say how. From dietary choices and quality of sleep, Tanessa reveals how to optimize your greatest asset (the brain and live more productive days. Tune in now!
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Say Goodbye To Brain Fog: Enhancing Focus, Productivity, And Resilience With Tanessa Shears
In this episode, we’re going to talk a little bit about how to help you through that brain fog that you might be experiencing. Anybody who’s had COVID, you might have experienced that brain fog through COVID. Let’s face it, we had brain fog before there was COVID and we still have brain fog, so it’s got to be something else. Let’s talk about that.
We have a wonderful expert with us. I’m always looking for those people who are going to give you new insights. Pay attention and have a pen and pencil ready for some notes because Tanessa Shears is here with us and she’s a Kinesthesiologist, Certified Sleep Science Coach, and Health Consultant who helps entrepreneurs double their energy and focus so that they can make more money in their businesses with her twelve Becoming Limitless protocols.
Before I introduce her, I want you to know that it’s not just for entrepreneurs. That’s also for you if you’re working within an organization or even a stay-at-home parent or whatever. Whatever you’re doing, it’s about energy, focus, and getting rid of that brain fog. She works closely with people to help eliminate that brain fog and to wake up well-rested so that you can get more done in less time. What I would say is to accomplish more in less time, not necessarily have to do more. She helps us to maintain that stable energy throughout the day so that we can feel good about ourselves. Without further ado, Tanessa, welcome to the show.
Penny, I’m excited to be here. Thanks for having me.
You used the words brain fog intentionally, so let’s start there. What is brain fog and why do we have it?
It’s so funny. You can’t walk into a doctor’s office and get diagnosed with brain fog because it’s a collection of symptoms. It’s like when you’re constantly forgetting things. You’re like, “Where did I put the car keys? Where’s my wallet? What’s the name of that person?” You find you’re getting easily distracted. Whether you’re trying to watch a TV show or maybe you’re at work and your brain can’t stay focused.
I liken it to if you were to go running on the beach and you can do it, but it’s inefficient and harder. I feel like brain fog is like thinking through sand. You can do it, but it’s ineffective and you’re not very creative. It’s not a good feeling. You’re feeling tired all the time. When we’re looking at what causes it, it’s inflammation in our body that is coming up from usually 1 of 3 places. It’s either we’re not getting enough quality sleep, it’s something to do with what we’re eating or the times that we’re eating, or it’s some stress that is not being addressed and letting it run rampant. These are the things that create brain fog most of the time.
Are you saying that it’s those three things, but they create inflammation and the inflammation is creating the brain fog?
I like hearing it in that way. It’s a different perspective. We’ve often heard that it’s about the stress and the distraction, but that’s interesting. That’s the impact that it has on the body and that’s the body’s reaction. Let’s start there and then maybe we’ll go into each of those. How do we reduce inflammation?
Most people are feeling this brain fog. Let’s face it, The World Health Organization declared a stress epidemic back in 2019 or previous to that. Stress is a regular part of our lives that we haven’t been able to manage. How do we better manage that stress and how do we use those other two pieces, sleep and nutrition, to help us if we can’t change other things in our lives?
It’s by looking at how they all interplay so nicely together, or maybe not nicely, but when we have that stress that goes on, we often think, “I need to do more. I need to do all of these things.” We always feel behind, we’re not enough and we’re not getting enough done. We feel that constant need and that stress.
Not only does the elevated cortisol affect us, but when we’re constantly needing to get more done for the sake of feeling like enough, what’s the first thing that goes? We’re usually staying up a little later, getting up a little earlier and that cuts into sleep. When we don’t get effective sleep, our hormones don’t do their job. We are hungrier and our cravings are all over the place, which makes us reach for food that causes these crazy blood sugar swings, which leads to brain fog and energy crashes.
Naturally, if we’re not sleeping well, our brains don’t get the chance to recover and recharge from the day before. We show up the next day feeling like we’re more overwhelmed, exhausted, and tired, and then trying to manage the stress of that day on a brain that’s already feeling exhausted to start the day. We’re looking at this interplay of them.
To address your question of what we are going to do, it’s not like we can snap our fingers and make stress go away. I like to look at this idea of resilience. Meaning that if you’re doing something right now, like you’re going through a divorce or you’re moving, these are big stressors. They’re not something we can go through instantly. I like to look at this idea of building resilience, our capacity to hold that stress without letting it break us down in those types of moments. You can do that in a bunch of ways. You can do that through exercise or sleep. There are a couple of cool biohacking ideas we can talk about too.
We want cool biohacking ideas.
If you think about what resilience is, it is adding intentional stress to the system to increase your capacity for it. I don’t mean like go get in an argument with someone, that kind of stress. I’m looking at things like heat exposure acts as a stressor on the body, which causes us to build up our resilience.
Another good one, cold exposure. You’ve probably heard that cold showers are a thing you might’ve been hearing about. Nobody jumps in a cold shower for fun. The reason for that is it allows our adrenaline to increase so that we can adapt to those levels of stress. Another good resilience builder that we’re all aware of is exercise. It’s a stressor. It breaks down body tissues. It causes adrenaline and cortisol to go up also that you can come back stronger. These are tools that I like to put in place to help feel like you can manage the stress of the day and how you build capacity for it so that it doesn’t wear you down.
If I think about the most stressful times in my life, 2008 was this crazy year where everything happened at once. You can share some of your stories and I’m sure that people who are reading can think about how they navigated difficult times. The first thing that I did was allow myself to get more sleep. I went to bed with my kids. My kids were young. I was like, “I’m going to bed.” That extra sleep helped. I got more exercise. It’s about letting go, letting it out of the body, the stress, or as you’re saying, it’s letting it in and whatever. I view it as letting it go. It releases the stress. While it might be putting other stressors on, it releases my mental stress anyway.
It’s funny. Those are the things that I felt better and helped me to manage the stresses that I had. I used to be a huge mountain biker and found in those times when I was working a lot of hours in my startup business, that it was that mountain biking and the challenge of climbing these mountains. As hard as it was when you get to the top, it’s so euphoric, but I believe it made me overall more resilient and able to handle that stress in a much calmer and easier way. I can personally relate to that. How have you seen people responding to these types of things through exercise, nutrition, and sleep?
I agree with you on the exercise. It’s an outlet. It helps boost those endorphins and those feel-good chemicals. it also allows you to have space and time away from whether it’s your job, your business, or your family. It allows you to plug back into you. I have two very small kids. I am not far out of that crazy first six months or so where your sleep is disrupted. It was in those moments where I was like, “Oh, my gosh.” It’s one of those moments where you’d almost be like, “Why even bother working on my sleep? It’s never going to get messier in this.”
When my first daughter was born, I leaned into getting better sleep because we focus on the sleep we are getting and if we can make that quality, it does help. That was the first time that I was like, “If I’m going to be up three times at night and it’s going to be all funky, how can I make sure that sleep is solid?” That’s when I started understanding how color and tone of light affect our brain. Meaning that red light winds us down, blue white lights, like our phones and our TV, wind our brains up.
If we cool our body down at night, it helps us fall asleep and stay asleep. If we warm it up, it helps us stay awake and alert. I understand what levers I could pull so that I could get good sleep because I’m a firm believer that there are not all these equal pillars of health to focus on. Sleep is the foundation on which everything else is built. It’s very hard to manage your mood, emotions, hunger, and cravings and stay motivated enough to get your workouts done if you’re feeling exhausted. Since it’s free and we’re doing it anyway, I like to start there. I find it’s one of the safest and most result-oriented ways to build resilience.Sleep is the foundation on which everything else is built. Click To Tweet
I hadn’t heard about or maybe I didn’t know about the red light. When you’re wearing those specific glasses, like those blue light blockers, are they red? Is that the point or is this a hack that we haven’t heard of and don’t know about?
It’s super neat. Your body has an internal clock that’s built in that tells your body, “Release this hormone at this time. Feel tired at this time. Feel awake at this time.” Light is one of the most potent stimulators of this body clock. When our brain perceives red light, think back to before we had indoor electricity and we were all sitting around the campfire at the end of the night. That was what used to tell our brain, “It’s time to wind down right now.”
Our brains produce this hormone called melatonin and it helps us fall asleep and have great sleep. Now, we stare at our phones, TVs, or computers until we go to sleep. This is the equivalent of telling your brain, “It’s the middle of the day. We should be wide awake right now. You need to be busy. You need to be focused. You need to be alert,” and then we find we have struggles with quality sleep.
There are two hacks that you could do with this. One is there are certain blue-light-blocking glasses that have red lenses in them. They work fantastic if you need to be in an environment that is very well-lit. They help to calm my brain down and wind me down. The other thing that you can do is this. In my bedroom, one of our bedside tables has a red light bulb in it and the other one has a regular light bulb. In the mornings, we flip on the white light, and in the evening, we flip on the red. When I’m winding down, I’m reading a book, I’m brushing my teeth, I’m letting my brain understand that it’s wind down time through light and it’s a set-it-and-forget-it thing. It’s super simple and it cues my brain.
Let me ask you. You can get these melatonin pills, gummies, and things like that that help people sleep. It’s been all the craze in the last couple of years. What about that? Can I do that? What’s wrong with using those or would you suggest those in the red light or not those at all? What’s going on with these supplements?
I have a bit of a hot take on that. As far as supplements, if you’re looking to take a supplement as a way of bypassing a way of taking care of your brain the way it was supposed to be taken care of, that’s the first red flag I hear. What are the things that you could be doing to help you sleep better that you’re bypassing?
The second thing is that I have had a lot of clients who ask me about melatonin, but there was a research study that was talked about. Andrew Huberman, a neuroscientist out of Stanford, spoke about this and he mentioned that melatonin suppresses sex hormones, testosterone and estrogen. Melatonin is quite high in prepubescent kids because it suppresses puberty and it is that drop-off in melatonin that allows them to go through puberty.
There was an interesting study that was done in mice. When they gave mice melatonin, it shrunk their testicles substantially and the hormones that were produced from there, so it does interfere with hormones. If you are struggling with low testosterone, you have hormones, estrogen, and progesterone that are out of balance, I don’t know that this would be my first choice, at least without talking to someone who has extensive education and research and how melatonin affects our bodies.
All the people reading, especially the men, are like, “No.” Nobody wants to have that affected. Good to know. I did not know that. The challenge with a lot of information that comes out is we get little pieces of it. We don’t get the full picture. We don’t understand what some of the challenges are that we may face, but I love what you said. It’s a red flag if we’re taking some action to work around how things should work just so we can override the system for no good reason just because we’re lazy and don’t want to use other methods.
That is the thing. We have become much more complacent in autopilot and like, “Just give me the pill.” I hate to say this, but I know people who are like, “Give me the pill. I don’t want to work on my anxiety. I don’t want to have to do meditation and breathing. I want the pill. Just give me the pill.” I don’t prescribe. I’m saying as I talk to people, they’re telling me that they’d rather do that. It’s a shame because then it’s not a long-term fix. It’s a short-term thing that might make other things worse.
It’s always too reflective of the support and education that we have. I’ve been in my own business since 2014 and have gone through many stages of what I feel has been an evolution. It’s like the deeper you get into something, the more you realize there is to know. it’s that involvement of like, “What is the first step?”
A lot of us think, “I can’t do all the things, the walking, the exercise, the food, the sleep. I don’t have time for that. I shall do none of it.” What if you looked at this as a lifelong journey? It’s like, “What is the literal next step that needs to come in and what would I need to know about that next step?” I find so much of that. Learning about melatonin was something I didn’t know until a couple of years ago and I’ve been doing this a while. It’s that layering approach and allowing yourself to be curious.
How do you feel about talking about energy and getting rid of this brain fog? We’re learning some new things from you. People talk about juicing or going on a water fast and not eating and letting your body cleanse itself out. What is your knowledge base around those types of practices to help to overall gain energy and lift that brain fog from those methods?
I’m never going to say something doesn’t work because I’m sure there’s someone out there who has had amazing results with it. I always speak from my experience and I’m working with my clients. I am a big fan of believing that the body was designed to do everything it needs to do. You have an organ called a liver that is designed for detoxing us specifically.
If we didn’t have a liver, maybe there might be room for detoxes. Instead, I ask, “What do we do to nourish the body and the liver so that it performs so that we don’t need to do these types of fasts?” As far as when it comes to juicing and stuff like that, you’re probably getting some nutrients in there, but the counter-side of that conversation is looking at what it does to your blood sugar.
When it’s fruit or it’s vegetables, you are getting a very isolated high dose of carbohydrates. I call them naked carbohydrates when you eat them. No proteins, no fats. I love carbs, but when you eat them by themselves, they cause blood sugar spikes. When you get a blood sugar spike, it then crashes. With that goes attention, focus, alertness, and brain fog comes in.
There are always pros and cons to everything, but when it comes to fasting or detox, we have a liver. When it comes to juice and things like that, I would want to make sure it’s balanced. When you said about the water fast, that goes into a different territory because fasting is a way of building resilience. It’s an added stress on the body to encourage regeneration. I don’t think fasting is for everyone. For women, at certain times of the month, it is not appropriate. However, there is a place in that in terms of rebuilding a gut that has been affected by antibiotics. There are case uses for sure.
I’ve heard a lot of things about gut health. That’s one of our major issues and causes of inflammation. If we were to talk about things that we could do to build and keep our liver healthy and to keep a good balance in our gut, what would be some things that we could do for those types of things?
Here’s a simple one and this will depend on how far along you are in your health journey. Let’s say right now everything feels messy and you don’t know where to start. Take one meal a day, look at your plate, and ask yourself, “Did everything on this plate come from the ground at some point or have a mother?” What that’s looking at is are these real whole foods?
As soon as you start mixing in their processed foods, whether that is sugar, flour, baked, or fried, you start introducing other variables like seed oils, which cause fluctuations in blood sugar, leading to inflammation. Taking a whole food approach allows us to start supporting the body with food that we were intended to eat. It wasn’t made in a factory. It wasn’t made in an oven. It was like, “Did it come from the ground or have a mother?” Start with one meal a day and get good at that, then move on.
Is that good for our liver as well or is there something specific that we can use for liver health?
That specifically is out of my scope. I don’t want to specifically say something to that. Having said that, whole foods in general. I want the energy that our body needs to come from real food.
We’re getting everything in here. One more question. I’m going through all my little nutrition hacks over the years that I’ve learned. One of the things that people talk about is acidic and non-acidic foods. To eat the foods that are acidic are not those whole foods are not good for you and the things that are non-acidic are good for you. Is that also something that you follow and recommend?
No matter what approach you take, whether you’re looking at the acidity of foods or how processed they are, they all come back to agreeing on the same thing. It’s whole foods because you said the acidity is from the process nature. If you peel away the names of diets, the marketing, the branding, the ways to sell products, most ways of eating agree on fundamental things. We stay hydrated, we eat whole foods, we eat satiating foods, and we repair our bodies. that that’s what they all focus on. There’s everything else is meant to sell you something unique when it’s all the same.
If you strip out all the marketing and everything, that’s true. It’s coming back and we come back full circle around to the main issue that it creates inflammation in the body and our objective is to reduce the inflammation. Thank you so much. One of the things we talk about is productivity and focus, so I’m interested. What’s your definition of productivity and why?
For me, productivity is being able to move the big tasks forward that have an impact and being able to get them done within the time that I want to get them done. If I know that in a day, I have three hours of available time to work, that I am optimally using those three hours and spending that time on the biggest task, not just on the busy work.
Thank you so much. Is there anything I didn’t ask you that you feel people need to know that I didn’t bring up yet?
Maybe not that’s something you didn’t ask, but a mindset shift that I’d invite your readers to consider. I am a firm believer that your brain is the biggest asset you have, more than your career, more than your business, more than your bank account, whatever it is. Have you ever been sick and you’re lying on the couch and it doesn’t matter what your job is doing?
You just want your health back. My question is, what would be possible for you if you felt better than you did and then not wait until your back is up against a wall to take action on that? Don’t wait until you’re sick or you’re so foggy that you can’t get out of bed in the morning to do something about it. It doesn’t have to be big. Start now.
Thank you so much. Everybody, start now. We heard you can start with one meal, making sure that it’s whole foods and you can start with the quality of your sleep. Those are two simple things that you can do immediately now for your next meal and your next sleep. How can people reach you, Tanessa, and find out more information about you and how they could work with you or any of your materials?
If you like the short form content like the Carousels and the Reels, I’m on Instagram, @TanessaShears. I’m responsive if you want to come and say hi in the DMs. If you’re looking for more of a deep dive, I have a playbook called 12 Ways to Biohack Your Energy. It’s specifically if you want to wake up and have what I feel are productive mornings and energy in your business. I’ve put them in a playbook.
The nice thing is every one of them is linked to a podcast episode I’ve done that deep dives on that topic, should you want to understand the why behind it and not just the surface and what to do because I’m always motivated by the why. You can grab that for free on my website at TanessaShears.com. There’s a little tab at the top that says Free Training and you can grab that there.
Thank you so much.
Thank you all for being here and being committed to feeling better, to being able to be more focused and more purposeful and intentional about what it is that you’re working towards. That means taking care of this vessel that we are in. Do it. Start now. Tanessa had some great tips in this episode, maybe dispelled some myths and put us on the right track. Start now. We’ll see you in the next episode.
About Tanessa Shears
Tanessa Shears is a Kinesiologist, Certified Sleep Science Coach, and health consultant who helps entrepreneurs double their energy and focus so they can make more money in their business with her 12 Becoming Limitless Protocols. She works closely with business owners to eliminate brain fog and wake up well rested so they can get more done in less time, maintain consistent, stable energy throughout the day and feel better than they have in years. Tanessa is also the host of The Becoming Limitless Podcast, sharing her expertise on optimizing health and focus for business success
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