The advice nearly eveyone gets is to ‘get some rest’. But how do you do that?
With rest doctors are usually talking about rest for your brain. You need to make sure that you burden / exert your brain as little as possible. But also not too little, as that will make you miserable. Difficult to find the right balance!
That’s why they often talk about your ‘capacity’ during rehabilitation / recovery therapy. This will be lower than normal, which means that everything you would normally do on auto-pilot (getting on or off a bus for example) is suddenly a big challenge.
Maintaining rest or managing your capacity means:
- Finding the limits of what you can and cannot do;
- Adjust your daily routine to these limits and to your current work capacity. And that is a challenge as you need to reorganise everything;
- Minimizing stimuli (‘input’) such as tv, reading, video games and using your phone. These activities are very demanding for your brain and therefore are not rest! Your brain has to work very hard to process all the incoming information from such activities.
Because of your concussion your capacity will be lower. This means that while you used to have enough energy to deal with unexpected situations (your train has been cancelled) and negativity in your life (conflict with your boss), that may no longer be the case.
Instead of $100 per month, you are now living off $10 per month. Then, as a result of realizing this your stress level increases, which uses more energy and further lowers your capacity. Unfortunately, this way you may end up in a negative spiral.
Make sure you get help in this case, so you can get back in control and relax = recovery!
At the start (first 2 months for me*)
This phase is physically usually the most intense with a lot of symptoms ( severe headaches, pain, the world is moving on while your standing still)
- Sleep a lot (especially at night)
- Take walks
- Eat and drink well
MINIMIZE using your smartphone, minimize messaging/chats, minimize reading, watching TV
DO: listen to soft music, take walks, cuddle your pet, cleanup some stuff (having less stuff means less things to worry about).
Vent your anger on a pillow and scream if you need to. Cry!
Make sure you’re not alone all the time and that there is someone you can call. Why? It’s easy to get isolated / depressed.
In the middle (2-5 months for me)
your physical symtpoms will be less, but you keep running into the limit of your capacity;
Feel how you are actually doing instead of categorizing everything or applying a standard framework. If you learn to ‘listen to your body’ you learn where your limits are. It’s good to try new and additional things, but unfortunately you may often conclude that you’re not there yet. This phase is mentally challenging as you keep running into your limits. But also as you will notice the clear difference between your current possibilities and all the things you couldn’t do in phase 1!
At the end (5-7 months for me)
It’s been four times now that I’ve experienced the fog in my head clearing away after a number of months. Only some residual symptoms would remain; especially physically I really had to rebuild. There was also an emotional blow as I realized in what a miserable state I had lived! Happiness and sadness would come and go for a while, until I found balance and truly got to enjoy rejoining normal life!
After my 4th concussion I unfortunately went back to work too soon. 9 months back on my job (fulltime) I had a complete relapse. I then alternated my days between sleep and working from home. This period lasted 3 years, but thankfully I fully recovered in the end. You can read about how I accomplished that in this blog.
* this will really differ per person. Some people go through the entire process in just 3 days and fully recover (for concussions, the normal assumption is that the physical damage will completely heal). A small group of 10-15% of concussed people recover only gradually over a much longer period of time (as I did) or even not at all.