My Top Tips

Noise

1. Wear headphones
I used to wear them whenever I left the house. It gives the brain a little bit less to process, allowing it to relax a bit more and not get as tired as quickly.

2. Plan Ahead for Social Events
If you're planning on attending a socialising event, plan as much as possible in advance.
(i) Where are you going? Can you request a quieter table? Sit at the end of the table so that your brain only has one voice to process as opposed to 2 voices - one on either side of you. Look up the menu in advance and decide what you want to eat - decisions can be hard to make when there is a lot of noise!

(ii) Can you arrange to meet at a time when there are fewer crowds both on your commute and at the location?

(iii) Are you familiar with the location? New places can often be quite difficult for someone with a brain injury to process. Perhaps stick to a location you know, or make sure you familiarise yourself with the new location as best you can before you go there!

3. Run Errands at Quieter Times
Work your appointments, your grocery shopping, etc. around quieter times, when there will be less crowds. Your brain will have less noise to process.

4. Avoid Public Transports
However, if you need to use it wear your headphones! And don't browse your smartphone. There is already so much for your brain to process on public transport, so don't add to it!

5. Practice Mindfulness
The more I practiced, the quicker I was able to catch my breath and stay calm when the noise all got too much for my brain!

Dealing With Episodes

1. Go straight home to bed and switch off from the world. Both your brain and your body are exhausted after an ‘Episode’, so you need time to recover.

2. Try to forget about it. It's happened now, there's nothing you can do about it.

3. But, do try to learn from it! Was there anything in particular that you think set you off? How can you manage that going forward to try to prevent it from happening again? This is where your headache diary can come in really handy!

4. Eat! You may not feel like it, but you need to refuel your brain and your body.

5. Track your episodes and share them with your Consultant, Occupational Therapist, your Councillor and anyone else who maybe able to help identify trends in what is causing this extra pressure on your brain.

6. Talk to a friend or family member about how you are feeling after it! Don't bottle it up! Let it out and you will feel all the better for it!

Preventing Episodes

1. Wear headphones when you’re out in public, or at your desk in the office to help block out any additional noise and distractions.

2. If you're planning on socialising with friends (anything from going to a cafe or restaurant, to going for a walk, to staying in and watching TV) - plan as much as possible in advance.

i) Where are you going? Can you request a quieter table? Sit at the end of the table so that you only have one voice as opposed to 2 voices [one on either side of you].

ii) Can you arrange to meet at a time when there are fewer crowds both on your commute and at the location?

iii) Are you familiar with the location? New places can often require extra brainpower to process.

iv) Look up the menu in advance and decide what you want to eat. It will be one less thing for you to have to worry about when you're there. I found making decisions impossible after my accident! Not just when it came to food, but with everything!

3. Do your grocery shopping, make appointments, run errands etc. at quieter times to avoid busy crowds.

4. Avoid public transport where possible, but if you need to use it, wear your headphones and don't browse your smart phone. There is already so much for your brain to process on public transport, so don't add to it! Try to sit or stand in a quite place and near an exit so that if you need to get off suddenly then it's easier.

5. Practice Mindfulness; the more I practiced, the quicker I was able to catch my breath and stay calm during my episodes.

Mental Health

I'm going to keep this one short and sweet.

1. Talk openly about any worries you're having - be it with a family member, a friend or a complete stranger! I promise it will help you feel better!

2. Don't let yourself get bogged down by guilt! The things you feel guilty over are usually out of your control anyway, so worry about the things you can control in your life.

3. Exercise - you can't underestimate the number of positive effects exercise has, especially when it comes to your mental health!

4. Practice Mindfulness - I know I keep harping on about it, but honestly it has so many benefits!

5. Focus on the positive things on your life! Celebrate the little victories - a pain free day! A week without an 'Episode'. Returning to work - even if only part time. Surviving a whole night out with your friends! Getting through a whole meal in a public restaurant!

Fatigue

Learning to manage my fatigue and sleep pattern was a huge factor in my brain recovery.

First, I had to overcome my insomnia.

Then, I had to manage my inability to get through the day without 18hours sleep! Below are my top tips on how I found the right balance for me, but for more tips and to understand how I managed my fatigue in full, read my full post on managing fatigue here.

1. Mindfulness
Mindfulness is a form of meditation that makes you more aware of the present moment and your surrounding environment, and more importantly helped me to switch off from the pain and stress that came with my brain injury. Mindfulness for me had many benefits, including helping me to overcome my inability to sleep, it helped me to de-stress after the day, it gave my brain an opportunity to relax and switch off without having to nap and it helped me massively when it came to my episodes.

2. Exercise
Exercise had many benefits for me but one thing that it really helped me with was my fatigue. It started with short walks and over time progressed to running and the gym as I felt both my brain and body get stronger.
Firstly, it helped me to overcome my insomnia – it meant that not only was I mentally exhausted but also physically tired at the end of the day. And then, when I struggled to stay awake all day long I found that exercise helped my brain to relax and switch off without having to physically go to sleep. It gave my brain time to rest and recover from the day without having to take ANOTHER nap! The mental exhaustion would ease and my mental and physical fatigue would strike a balance. Of course sometimes naps are best though!

3. Nap: Little & Often
Try napping for shorter periods of time but more frequently throughout the day. Instead of one long nap in the day, taking multiple shorter ones means that your brain is actually getting more time to recover and relax throughout the day and isn’t challenged with long periods of ‘awake’ ‘time at once.

4. Caffeine
This one is pretty simple. Cut out caffeine!
Caffeine is a stimulant. It’s essentially a legal drug. If you have a brain injury you need to cut out all caffeine. And this isn’t just coffee. This also includes tea (even most herbal teas such as green tea have caffeine in them), soft drinks – diet and otherwise – and energy drinks.
However, I found chamomile tea was great for helping me sleep! Decaffeinated tea and coffee are fine too, although I think they should be reserved as a treat!

5. Nutrition
Nutrition and diet is so important for brain recovery, but I often found that I was too tired to even remember to eat sometimes! Then, when I did remember, I was too tired to cook and as a result this led to me being even more tired!
Napping little and often freed up more time for me to get more food into me, which also meant I now had more fuel to help my brain to recover. Read more about how I used the right foods to fuel my body and help my brain to recover here.

Managing Pain

Unfortunately, there's no avoiding the pain, but over the years I have managed to both reduce and manage it to the point where I have completely pain free days! I'm more likely to not have pain now than I am to have pain. And I can almost predict when I will have pain and thus, do what I can do manage and reduce that pain.

To understand why these are my top tips for managing pain, and to find more tips, read my full post on managing pain. And remember, we’re all different. Everyone experiences pain in different ways. But here are some of the things that I did to manage the pain of my brain injury.

1. I kept a headache diary to help identify when the pain was worse and to help identify trends of what set off the pain and other symptoms.

2. I used what I learned from this diary to make small changes to my day to help prevent and reduce the symptoms of brain injury.

3. I wore headphones to block out noise when in public so that my brain had less to process.

4. I made sure my brain was getting enough rest (naps, good nights sleep every night, mindfulness) and made sure I was always well fuelled at all times with food and water.

5. I planned my working hours, socialising, appointments, etc. around times that suited me and my head. So for example I started work later to avoid busy commuting times and I would plan to meet friends for an early dinner or a late lunch to avoid busy/noisy restaurants.

Having a bad day?

1. Rest
Your brain needs time to switch off and relax. But it’s not just about sleeping. It’s about putting your feet up and doing whatever helps you to relax.

2. Exercise
Sometimes nothing beats going outside and running for me. Other times I just want to go to the gym and lift heavy things. Other times I just need to practice yoga to help me unwind. Do whatever you feel will help how you’re feeling at that point of time.

3. Write it down
Writing down how you are feeling can be extremely therapeutic. Writing in a journal every day can also be great for spotting trends in what is potentially causing your bad days.

4. Talk to Friends and Family
Talk to your friends and family about how you are feeling – again it will just help to get it off your chest.

5. Make a plan
Make a plan for the next few days and stick to it. This will help you to reduce any potential stress.

6. Eat Well
Make sure you are getting lots of healthy and nutritious foods into your body, to help your brain to recover quicker!

7. Do whatever helps you!
I’m conscious that I talk a lot about exercise – but maybe you have a different activity that helps you to recover. And if you do, DO IT!

8. Be POSITIVE
Finally, and most importantly, be POSITIVE! Look at how far you have come and focus on that. Check out how being positive changed my whole recovery here