First and foremost I'm no doctor
For those unaware what Neuro-fatigue is, this is a great read on how someone with a brain injury experiences neuro-fatigue which goes beyond your normal mental exhaustion. Because our brains function different. It presents itself different for everyone and what one person does that helps them, might not help the other.
"For brain injury victims that is many times worse. The mental energy has already been exhausted after a short time. They use more parts of the brain, because the dead area must be passed by, in the communication between brain cells." - Braininjury-explanation.com
In the beginning, I had a terribly hard time keeping a conversation, my brain couldn't keep up and quite frankly, it didn't want to keep up. When people came to visit me, I would go to the bathroom multiple times during their visit, to just give myself a break. I was in a constant inner battle with myself because I didn't want them to leave, but I couldn't engage as I use to. It took all I had just to get myself out of bed and brush my teeth, and by the time I made it to the table for breakfast, I was ready for a nap. And you add depression and anxiety to the mix, and all I wanted to do is hide under the covers. But eventually, as my brain began to settle, those symptoms led up, but not all of them went away. I did learn how to manage them, however.
Although, I don't struggle with visitors or keeping up with conversations anymore. I love to engage! And I have no problem getting up in the morning and going about my routine. Now that I'm back at work, it shows itself in different forms, such as:
loss of concentration, feeling like I'm being over stimulated from every directions, becoming overwhelmed, physically and mentally exhausted, making silly mistakes, my weak arm (due to the stroke) begins to stiffen and my left hand begins to work slower than normal and begins to hurt and stiffen. Then . . . self-doubt and negative thoughts begin to set in. This almost always happens after those silly mistakes. I also begin to space-out, I become irritable. Now all of these don't come all at once, some might show up some days, some might show up at one point in the day and others at another. Neuro-fatigue is different for everyone.
What helps me:
As I stated above, in the beginning, with my neuro-fatigue, plus depression and anxiety, it took a day's worth of energy to just brush my teeth in the morning. But making a routine for myself really helped me. Start small, for me it was, getting dressed, coffee, a little therapy at home, a little phone/tv time if my eyes could manage it, nap, eat, and play with my son. Then, once I felt better with that, I added stepping out on my balcony for fresh air even for 2 minutes, or longer at home therapy practices. Little by little I began adding more. At this time I had tons of appointments, so staying home wasn't an option. And as anxious as I felt, I think it helped in the long run.
Now, on the days that I know I have to be functioning and alert the next day, like a work day when I'm going to have a lot of meetings, I make sure to get a full night's sleep the night prior. For me that's 7 to 8 hours a night. That may be different for you. Now let's be realistic, this doesn't always happen. Especially if you're a mom. But if I notice, I had an especially terrible day, I do try to get a goodnights rest that night, so I don't have a repeat the following day.
Check yoself-before you wreck yoself
This was something suggested to me by my therapist (although she didn't say it in those words, it sounded much more articulate).
Learn to check-in with yourself. If you start to feel overstimulated, drained, irritable, or any of the signs of neuro-fatigue, learn to see how it manifests its ugly self within you. This takes time. I'm still learning myself. And in that minuted know that it's NOT YOU - it's the NF beast. And cut yourself some slack. You are a warrior my friend! You eat beasts for breakfast and live to tell the tale! The point here is to learn your triggers.
Within me, the beast shows it's ugly face in many different ways that I stated above including, making stupid mistakes, feeling drained, thinking negative thoughts,I get super annoyed at everyone - even with myself, and I physically feel it on my left arm and hand. So my therapist had me first learn to recognize those thoughts aren't mine, they don't belong to me, they belong the NF Beast. this part takes practice. She told me to take toll of my feelings and emotions when they occur and pay attention to my tiggers. Then, she asked me to write an inspirational note somewhere I look every day that reminds me to step back and remove myself from the situation even if its for 5 minutes.
So I wrote this in my notebook that I use for work every day.
How's that for inspirational??! LOL
If you feel over stimulated or overwhelmed by your environment, remove yourself from it - even if it is for 5 minutes. If you're at home and can take a nap - do it! For 10-20 minutes take a snooze and then go back to it. If you're at work, still try to remove yourself from the situation. I'm fortunate that my company has a meditation room, a gym and I work in the middle of a city, where I can just step outside and take a walk if I need to. But, if you don't have these things accessible to you. Step away from your trigger even if it is to go to the bathroom for 10 minutes and to put headphones on with soothing music, or go sit in your car for a bit. Give yourself the opportunity to put your focus on something other than the stressful environment.
Manage your day
This goes back to checking in with yourself. Pay attention to your days and if there is a daily trend of when you feel and are more productive. When you have the energy to get everything done without putting in the most effort. For me it's the morning until about 4pm. So I try to do all my most important work during that time, with small little breaks in between. And if you're not working and your most productive times are also the morning try to do your home tasks in the morning and schedule your appointments in the morning. But please try not to schedule more than one appointment in one day. There were days when I had back to back therapies, and two doctors appointments right after . . . I was crawling home by the end of the day. Don't do that - be smarter than me.
As someone who suffers from neurological-fatigue, I know how difficult it is to do any sort of exercise - trust me, I get it, especially when you're in the thick of your recovery! But it's essential part of fighting this kind of fatigue. Try a 10 minute walk to get your blood pumping and those brain cells firing. More on how it helps fight nuero-fatigue here. At first, as difficult as it was I would put on music and do a little dancing at home during my at home therapy and practice my walking up and down my hallway, I recently posted a video on this on my Instagram. Then I would lay down for 20 minute and that's ok!
It can wait 'til tomorrow
If you find yourself struggling with a particular task, like reading that report, or finishing that term paper or doing the laundry or the dishes - it can wait 'til tomorrow, The world will not come tumbling down because you wait another day. And you just wait and see, by getting a full night's rest and tackling that task tomorrow it might just turn out better than expected because you'll be fresh. It's also perfectly ok (more than ok) to say no to visitors and/or plans sometimes! Because I say so - I give you permission!
These are some of the things that I learned to do in this crazy journey of mine. I understand they don't fit all lifestyles, so if you have any other tips that you do to fight neuro-fatigue that fits your specific lifestyle, feel free to email me email@example.com and share. I'd love to hear from you.
And my dear warrior . . . IT GETS BETTER! It really does, remember - you're a warrior and EAT BEASTS FOR BREAKFAST!
Love and Triumph to all.