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.
We are thrilled to introduce the new Medical Director of our Brain Injury Rehabilitation Program, Dr. Natalie Boodin. It is instantly obvious that Natalie is a perfect complement to our dynamic and experienced comprehensive team. She prefers to be casual and comfortable with clients, and strives to listen more than she talks; when clients meet her for the first time, she refuses to wear a white coat and introduces herself by saying “call me Natalie.”
Her attitude is approachable, but her education and experience are extensive. Dr. Natalie Boodin grew up outside of Detroit Michigan, and achieved the deans list at University of Michigan for her undergraduate education, completing her BS in Biopsychology and Cognitive Science. She then received her MD from Ohio State University, while receiving recognition for being an Outstanding Student in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Schwab Rehabilitation Institute, a stand alone rehab unit in Illinois, was where she completed her residence. Se reflects “there was a significant amount of trauma in Chicago.” Serving individual recovering from brain injury became a passion. She also has training in medical acupuncture, which she has found effective for treating headache/migraine related to brain injury. She moved to Portland, Oregon in 2008, and has worked at PeaceHealth and Providence, as well as smaller independent practices.
She often sees individuals struggling to recover from a Traumatic Brain Injury as “the walking wounded”. “This is an invisible injury. So many people don’t understand TBI, and there are such varied and individualized symptoms and outcomes.” She is excited to lead a team of experts in treating TBI, because, “we can’t physically see what is going on inside the brain, so treatment needs to be creative. There are so many ways to treat brain injury, and each person needs an individualized treatment plan.”
If you are attending a first visit with Natalie, you will find her approachable and down to earth. She’s also an excellent listener and very validating. She shares “by the time people get to me, they have been blown off by many medical providers who don’t know why they aren’t getting better.” Her patients will be reassured that she knows everyone heals differently. You’ll find that she wants to really understand both your history and the impact this injury is having on your life. She wants to understand your unique symptoms. She’ll complete the physical exam, and discuss the plan with you.
She’s delighted to be the medical director at Progressive Rehabilitation because treating brain injury is by it’s very nature collaborative. She views herself as just one piece of the treatment puzzle, or “the glue that holds the team together, making sure everything is working well for the patient.” She notes that multidisciplinary treatment is ideal, because communication is easier for the team and the clients when everything is in one place.
In addition to her exceptional clinical skills, Natalie has a lively personal life. She is married and has eight year old twins. Her partner is a musician, and together they operate a guitar store, venue, and bar in Portland. In addition her two children are studying music, with her son taking piano lessons and her daughter taking guitar lessons. Her favorite part about living in Portland I the outdoors. “I love getting out and going hiking.” She also loves animals and has one dog and will be adding another furry friend to the family soon.
At Progressive Rehabilitation Associates, we are committed to individualized treatment for people with Traumatic Brain Injury, and we know that Natalie’s warm demeanor and extensive experience will serve our clients exceptionally well. Please join us in welcoming her to our team.