The 80% Rule After Brain Injury

Brain Injury Blog

The 80% Rule After Brain Injury 

by Janelle Breese Biagioni 

Fatigue is a common issue following brain injury. Generally, we encourage people to get lots of sleep and to take rest breaks during the day. When a person doesn’t listen to cues their mind or body gives them (i.e. feel as though you have hit the wall; can’t take in anymore information etc.) the physical and emotional fatigue can result in unintended consequences (i.e. outbursts, tears, anger, agitation).

Recovery and rehabilitation is hard work. It takes great energy and commitment and often, the person has to push themselves each day to get a little stronger. Having said that, it is important the person and support teams recognize when they have hit the wall and need to take a break.

At home, the survivor wants to contribute to their family and/or they are striving to increase independence, which means they strive to complete the tasks of daily living. I had the pleasure of working with an individual for several years who is not only delightful as a person, but also very dedicated to rehabilitation and increasing his independence. For him, as it is for many of the clients that I have worked with, if he didn’t pace himself in performing daily chores/activities it resulted in increased anxiety, agitation and anger outbursts. To avert these unwanted outcomes, he was encouraged to use the 80% rule.

The 80% rule is essentially to help create balance. The individual works to 80% of their capacity, reserving 20% of their energy. The 20% remaining is the starting point to recharge one’s batteries with rest. The reserve will help the person to cope with other decisions that may need to be made and their personal interactions in the day. It may sound simplistic, but think of it like a car… only a few people would keep driving through the desert with less than a ¼ tank of gas although the next known gas station is hundreds of miles away. When your tank gets low… refuel. In doing so, you will accomplish a lot more and go further than you think.

2 responses to “The 80% Rule After Brain Injury”

  1. Jaime Weintz says:

    I can relate 100% to this article.

  2. Marie G. Cooney says:

    Thanks Janelle for good advice. I know that when I hit the wall, I forget to eat, make unwise decision like staying out even later, spend money unwisely, isolate from those who I’m afraid will judge me, go to the casino and spend more time and money than I planned, become too tired to even sleep, forget to take care of myself and ignore the needs of my dog. None of these were problems prior to my brain injury. I think I need a “snooze alarm rule”. When I hit 50% hit snooze and rest, then 60% hit snooze and rest, then 70% snooze and rest. When I hit 80%, STOP, STOP, STOP!

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