Us brain injury survivors are regularly talking about how tired we can become, and how that affects our lives. Whilst I am moving in the right direction, a recent event zapped the life out of me. It was a long day, so most people would have struggled, but my recovery time is extraordinarily long. I was left drained and grumpy for days so I am looking for ways to avoid this.
The draining event.
I had to go have a meeting about my elderly fathers care. That meant a 3 hour journey to the other side of the country. That alone I find difficult enough, but needs must. Of course the subject matter is an emotive one and there are many complex issues to try to understand. All together that is a massive work out for any brain, let alone an injured one.
By the end of the meeting my word finding skills were shot to pieces, and I was being a bit random. A lady in the meeting was trying to build rapport by talking about how years ago she lived in the town I currently live in. As she politely enquired about how good/bad the journey is back using the M25 (otherwise known as the worlds biggest car park) I had a random fact fly into my head. A famous singer had been a workman who helped build the M25. (For those who are struggling to work out what I’m prattling on about: It’s the circular motorway which runs around the outside of Greater London.)
I could picture him, but I couldn’t place his name. Or the group he sung in, or the 1990’s breakfast show he produced whilst his wife presented it. But luckily after much effort, I remembered the name of the event he is most famous for: Band Aid. Bob Geldof! Brilliant, where did I think I was going with that one? Quick, exit stage left.
Drained but inspired to find solutions.
As this was followed by days of sleeping like I was hibernating, I decided I must find ways to cope better. Life is for the living, I don’t want to spend it sleep walking to my grave.
Diet and exercise are key. But I wanted something that feels a bit more like I’m taking instant control. I stumbled across a short article about how athletes can experience brain drain when they spend too much time worrying about their performance. Obviously that’s a bit too specific, but there are points to be taken from it.
Over thinking can leave a brain drained. Even too much activity for a brain injury survivor can result in fatigue. I attempted to explain why in Fatigue. Wicked exhaustion backlash after brain injury. So the key seems to be in pacing yourself, and training your brain to give itself a rest. Many brain injury survivors suffer with increased anxiety. For me that means going over things again and again in my head and panicking that I’m not resolving something. That’s why the techniques recommended to athletes interested me.
Cues to tell your brain to take a brake
Essentially it’s about finding a way to interrupt the unhealthy circle your brain has put itself in. As we don’t all have a life coach following us around reminding us to relax, we need to find other automatic reminders.
- Physical cues – A short activity to ground yourself again. The article suggests the snap of a rubber band on your wrist. I’m going for a cuddle with the cat and a cup of tea.
- Verbal cues – Word/s that you or others can say to remind your brain to stop what it’s doing. They recommend “calm” and I would go with that coupled with a few deep breaths.
- Visual cues – Looking at something that resets your thought process. They mention having something written on the back of your hand. I’m not sure I want to have scribbles on me, but positive notes in the home or on your phone I could do.
I could go on, but I’m going to take my own advice and tell my brain to call it a day. I’m afraid there’s no magical solution but if you count the pennies the pounds look after themselves.