Know Your Limits after Brain Injury

Brain Injury Blog by Janelle Breese Biagioni

June 27, 2011

Know Your Limits

One of the difficulties in life is to know our limits. Following a brain injury, it is extremely important to know your limits so that you can manage stress, anger outbursts, and emotional and physical fatigue.  Yes, it is important to build up stamina and to work hard in recovery, but pacing yourself to increase your abilities will actually work in your favour.

Here are some suggestions to consider:

  • If multiple conversations or lots of extraneous noise (e.g. dishes, utensils clanging in a restaurant) are difficult for you then plan to visit or socialize in small groups or one-on-one in quiet surroundings.
  • It’s great to complete tasks; however, pacing is important. You may have to stop short of using up all your energy, take a small break and then complete the task later. Failing to stop when you have depleted yourself emotionally and physically can result in feeling unwell, anger outbursts, and putting your safety at risk. Sometimes falls increase, or people make impulsive decisions when fatigued or they don’t see, hear or think clearly and it can result in a mishap.
  • Communication with others is important. People will understand if you explain that you need to take a break from an activity or gathering so you can rejuvenate yourself. It’s difficult for them however, if you just leave or walk out of the room or don’t show up for something without an explanation. Let them know in advance what your tolerance is for numbers and noise.
  • Understand that recovery is a process – not an event. What you may not be able to do today does not mean that you won’t be able to do it tomorrow, next week or next year or five years from now. You may be able to do it exactly as you had before or you may need to acquire some strategies or techniques to allow you to do it, but differently. Take your time and do a little more each day.
  • Don’t let your brain injury define you. You are still you… your essence is still here and yes, life is different, but it can be good. You are a deserving being who can continue to contribute to society in a meaningful way.
  • Remember… it was the tortoise who won the race!

4 responses to “Know Your Limits after Brain Injury”

  1. Sarah says:

    Good article & great advice. Also what helps me is the fact I live aboard a Motorhome full time (yes even in our cold canadian winters) so when I get brain fatigue I can go & rest right away instead of having to drive home first (like after an 8 hr shift at work, parked on site)

  2. Marie G. Cooney says:

    Dear Janelle,
    Your articles always contain helpful information. I have a few other suggestions: Carry earplugs to compensate for auditory overload. Explain to family that “ping-pong” conversations all at once are exhausting and that it helps you pay better attention to what is being said if only one person talks at a time. Have an escape route. If even one person understands overstimulation is exhausting, they can help by asking if you need to take a break that there is such and such a room while the rest of the gathering continues. Break activities into smaller pieces and choose which are most important to you. Explain you cannot do it all, but you do want to do the most meaningful. Wear dark glasses for visual sensory overload, eye fatigue, and head aches. Play with a child. Often one on one time with a child is great for all. Walk the dog to get away from crowds. Hold hands with someone if you feel cognitively depleted, physically fatigued, and unstead on your feet. You’ll both feel loved and supported. Travel a day early so you can rest before seeing others you are meeting. Sleep, sleep, sleep after holidays. Then start again on your own pace. Congratulate yourself for setting whatever limits you did and for successfully accomplishing what you were capable of doing this time. Thanks.
    Marie Cooney, TBI Survivor

  3. Marilyn Lash says:

    Dear Janelle,
    Thanks for very practical and useful advice. You are right – the hare may be flashier but it was the tortoise who won in the end!
    Marilyn

  4. Ginger says:

    Janel, thanks for this article. It will be helpful for those who work with my husband when I am out of the house to understand his limits and his abilities.

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