EC is vital for brain injury survivors and challenging to achieve. Exhaustion is a consequence for TBI survivors
after simple daily routines. Add some appointments and interactions with family or friends and BAM– zero energy for anything extra, let alone zero reserves to appropriately cope with minor irritations or keeping up with basic independent living activities.
Energy conservation doesn’t exactly reflect American culture- as a Nation we have fewer paid holidays than many other 1st world countries. Work ethic is incredibly important, and we have pressure to just KEEP GOING.
There are many layers to living with TBI that are difficult to explain, fatigue is one of them. Often family and co-workers do not understand.
Brain injuries are invisible diseases, we are the “walking wounded”…although we are living the symptoms- fatigue is one of the more complex confusing symptoms. Fatigue can occur on day you do not necessarily feel was particularly exhausting. A task you used to do exhaustion free prior to the brain injury now has you wiped out!
Think of energy as money. We want a lot of money in the bank, as we want a lot of energy in our bodies/brains. Here is an exercise that will help you assess your energy reserves, make energy deposits and protect the energy in your bank:
- On a sheet of paper, divide your day in 3 parts: morning, noon and night. Take a moment and reflect which part of your day is most exhausting? When are your TBI symptoms aggravated most? Put a circle on that part of your day.
- Review your day and figure out the optimum time for you to gain energy and engage in self-care. When is it realistic for you to recover and take it easy? High light that area and write down the exercises you can commit to doing that preserve your energy. For example: turning off devices, deep breathing, stretching, napping, mindfulness/meditation, take a bath etc.
- Make a list of little tasks that expend energy, that are un-necessary. For example, opening public doors is an unnecessary energy expense. The majority of public doors have an automatic button- use that! If you have a neck/spine injury on top of your TBI, many public doors are so heavy it is not a good idea to pull them open anyway! Stairs are a huge energy expenditure- I recommend taking the elevator especially days you are stacked and have a lot going on. Are there tasks/chores you can delegate at home? Think of ways you can avoid certain tasks and ways you can modify certain tasks/motions for the sake of self preservation!
- Take note of your energy levels at the end of the day! Write down what worked (how did you benefit from energy conservation? decrease in TBI symptoms? which ones?), what didn’t work (consequences of not protecting your energy). Logging your observations is important, memory impairment usually comes along with TBI, am I right?!
I was chatting with my husband about energy conservation and he immediately stated “Sloths are experts at conserving energy and have every movement planned out!” He heard it in a pod-cast about sloths, I attempted to seek this bit of fact out and missed that detail in the podcast he recommended….however given how slow they move I can imagine there is a perfectly good reason for their pace! We can take a tip from the sloth.
Thank you for reading this quick article on energy conversation I hope you found it helpful!