If you are experiencing fatigue after brain injury, you are certainly not alone. Fatigue is one of the most commonly reported and persistent symptoms after acquired brain injury. Here are 5 tips to help you start managing your fatigue:
1. Try to identify things that trigger your fatigue
Some unhelpful ways to cope with fatigue include avoiding doing certain activities and taking a ‘boom and bust’ approach, where you do too much one day and feel completely exhausted the next. Even if you’re having a ‘good day’, it can be tempting to push yourself to do more but taking this approach means that you could take days to recover from the fatigue.
A key part of managing fatigue is being aware of which activities or situations you find more or less tiring, which will be different for everyone. Different activities will use up physical, mental and/or emotional energy. It is likely that some activities leave you feeling more drained than others.
One way to identify activities which are more draining than others is to rate how tired you feel before or after doing an activity. It can be helpful to use a rating scale of 1-10 for each activity you do and write it down to keep track. You can read more about how to do this in Headway’s Managing Fatigue after Brain Injury booklet.
Once you can identify how different activities impact your energy levels, you can then start to plan and prioritise them in your routine so that they are spread out across the day and week.
2. Notice your signs and symptoms of fatigue
It is really important that you can recognise when you are starting to get fatigued in order to manage it, even if it feels that this happens in a very short space of time. What does it feel like when you are starting to feel fatigued? How do you behave?
Signs of fatigue can include:
- Getting irritable
- Slurred or slowed speech
- Losing concentration
Again, this differs for everyone and it can be difficult to recognise these signs after a brain injury. It can be helpful to ask others, such as your friends, family or any professionals involved, for their feedback and what signs they have noticed.
If you struggle to identify when you are becoming fatigued, you may need to ask other people to let you know when you are starting to show signs of fatigue.
Pacing is a strategy to spread out, and balance, activities across your day and week. Establishing a routine is an important way to manage your fatigue, and knowing your fatigue triggers and signs (links) will help you with planning it out.
Having a written schedule of each day and week can be a helpful way to plan when you are going to carry out certain activities, take breaks between them, and have rests such as a nap or doing a relaxing activity.
It is important to schedule naps into your day, if you find them helpful. Be mindful that taking long naps later in the day, such as after 3 – 4pm, might interfere with your sleep at night and sleep/wake cycles. If you need to nap, try to take one earlier in the day for no longer than, say, an hour.
Prioritising activities or tasks for the day can also be helpful. Think about what things you have to do that day, what things you want to do and make you feel good, and what things you are doing because you feel you should. Can some tasks be moved to another day? Can some tasks such as cleaning or food shopping be delegated to others? .
4. Educate yourself
Learning about the causes of fatigue after brain injury can be empowering and help you to feel more in control.
Cognivate runs a free online fatigue management group for people with acquired brain injury which is led by our occupational therapist.
Other helpful resources include Headway’s, ‘Managing Fatigue after Brain Injury’ information booklet and the Stroke Association’s ‘Fatigue After Stroke’ leaflet.
5. Seek help
There is no single or simple way of eliminating fatigue after brain injury, but assessment and guidance from healthcare professionals can be very effective in reducing fatigue and the associated problems. If you are struggling with fatigue after brain injury or with your mood, speak with your GP or healthcare professional.
A referral to healthcare professionals who specialise in working with people who have had a brain injury can support you to manage your fatigue.