Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of brain injury. When you live with a brain injury, the tiredness you feel is often cognitive fatigue. In this article, we’ll discuss what cognitive fatigue is and how you can manage and combat it in everyday life while living with a brain injury.
What is cognitive fatigue?
Cognitive fatigue is a unique tiredness that comes from your brain working harder to concentrate on things that may have been easier for you to do before your injury. It can be exacerbated and triggered by physical activity, cognitive activities (such as decision-making), medication or just the effort of everyday life and activities.
Fatigue is an imbalance in your system where you lack the mental resources needed at a point in time to complete the tasks you had planned. Studies have found even at five years post-injury; fatigue can still affect up to 73% of people with brain injury.
The best way to get tailored advice on how to reduce cognitive fatigue is to speak with your GP, however, below are some tips to help lower the impact of fatigue on your everyday life.
Ways to manage fatigue
1. Plan ahead
Create a calendar or schedule that helps remind you of what you planned to do in a day, week, or month. Make sure this is realistic and allows for rest days and breaks where you need. Putting your plans on the fridge or reminders in your phone can help make sure your brain doesn’t have to remember for you.
If you’re having a busy time, give yourself time to have a nap or rest. Try to mix in easier tasks with hard ones so you don’t feel overwhelmed or consider making a list so you can tick things off when completed.
2. Break things into smaller tasks
Choosing to focus on part of a task rather than the entire task at once can ensure you don’t overdo it. Take your time and break your list into smaller parts. For example, you may need to clean your house so just start with one job or area then take a break and rest if you need before starting the next task.
Time how long each task takes you and find ways to ensure your time is being used effectively.
4. Make things convenient where possible
Take advantage of delivery services, online banking and shopping as well as other technology that means you can use less energy to get access to what you need. Get to know what’s located close to you and what you might take longer to travel to. You can also ask for help when doing longer trips to reduce fatigue.
5. Focus on a healthy lifestyle and diet
Nutrition is important for brain health and therefore reduces tiredness and fatigue. What we eat can affect mood, behaviour and brain function. Fruits and vegetables keep a healthy brain chemistry as well as functioning nerves and support neurotransmitters.
Think about exercise you can do as this will release endorphins, which can help manage the feeling of tiredness. Lack of exercise can also cause sleep problems and a drop in energy, if you’re struggling with sleep considering working exercise into your routine.