After a brain injury, it is normal to experience fatigue. Your brain is healing, rewiring and adapting. People often experience three types of fatigue: physical, mental, emotional, and interpersonal. Physical fatigue after brain injury is becoming more tired by physical activity than before your brain injury. Mental fatigue shows up as feeling unable to concentrate or focus. Angry outbursts and intense instances of crying are examples of emotional fatigue. Interpersonal fatigue is experienced by challenges tracking conversations or affect. Sometimes these all blend together - walking in the grocery store can impact someone physically, mentally, emotionally, and interpersonally.
Why is it important to manage energy levels? Because fatigue can affect your physical performance, create thinking foggy, increase symptoms of depression and anxiety, make memory challenging, and impair communication.
Here are five tips for managing energy after a brain injury.
Count your "Brain Bucks"
When you wake up, consider your energy level. How did you sleep? How are you feeling? Perhaps rate your energy in "Brain Bucks" on a scale of 0-100. Jot that number in your planner. As you go through your day, check in with yourself. How many brain bucks do you think you have left? Does your plan for the day need to change? If you find yourself in a deficit, it's hard to climb back out, so manage your brain bucks for each day as best you can. You'll notice you are running low on brain bucks if your symptoms increase or you find yourself with an unusual quirky need that feels unfamiliar.
Create a Visible Routine
The less new stimulus the brain has to pay attention to, the less it has to work. Create a routine to follow each day so your brain can use it's energy for working on recovery. Write your routine in large print and post it around your home for a visual reminder. For some people, this routine also includes limiting choices. After all, Einstein has several variations of the same grey suit, so he wouldn't have to use brain power to decide what to wear each morning.
"Do a little, rest a little."
We call this pacing, and you'll hear this reminder from all of our clinicians, no matter what discipline. Taking time to rest gives the brain an opportunity to recoup the energy it is exerting, allowing you to do more over the course of the day than if you overexert yourself and need a longer rest period.
Improve your sleep
Many people find their sleep impacted by brain injury, which then decreases energy. Work with your doctor, your pt, your it, and your counselor on improving sleep. Each discipline holds a piece of the puzzle to getting a refreshing night of rest!
Embrace your Journey
Every brain injury recovery is different. Self compassion is key to your recovery. Remind yourself when you are struggling that your brain is healing, and your brain has its own timeline. Embrace all the feelings that come up as you recover, and find ways you feel supported in your recovery. For some people, this is through TBI Support Groups, for others it's educating supportive friends and family, and for others, it's using social media to share your story and connect with others on the same path.
Progressive Rehabilitation Associates provides multidisciplinary Brain Injury Rehabilitation, as well as support for the community at large. Check out our Instagram and Facebook as well as our resources page for support in your brain injury recovery.