There are many cognitive functions at play in managing schedules, including attention, memory, time management and communication. At least at this time, in the interest of brevity, I’m only going to address energy management. Many of us who are dealing with the consequences of TBI have to daily deal with managing our energy levels. I like to manage my energy rather than deal with fatigue, a more proactive approach. The planning and following of schedules greatly affects our daily energy management. When I give presentations about dealing with cognitive function deficits after TBI I discuss three areas of energy management.
This means to look at your week, and don’t just plan the number of activities for a day or week, but plan based on the energy needs of those activities. If you’re using a phone calendar, for visibility sake you usually only view one day at a time. A mistake with this is to see an open day and think you can plan an energy-intensive activity, without seeing an energy intensive activity already scheduled the day before or after. It helps to look at the week, or even better, month view as you set up your schedule. I love PDA or cell phone calendars for their reminder functions, but like to plan my schedule on my computer where I can see more than one day at a time.
Once your energy gets severely run down it can take days to recover. Plan breaks in your day and week for recharging. That includes planning fun activities in your schedule. When you are tired all the time, and not very productive, fun seems to be the last thing you plan for.
Pay attention to signs of fatigue, and when evident, you need to think about bailing and consider ditching your schedule. You are not going to be productive or accurate in your functioning when you are overtired. Signs of a “Bad Brain Day” may include less ability to follow conversations, headache, slower speed of thinking, dizziness, blurred vision, more disorganized, losing train of thought, increased errors, or trouble finding words. You need to consider your safety in driving, operating equipment and other potentially dangerous activities.
Those of us dealing with the consequences of brain injury (or our supporters helping us) need to sit down with our calendars and plan activities to allow for the best managing of our already limited energy resources in order to set ourselves up to succeed in our daily undertaking.
About the Author: Dr. Cheryle Sullivan, MD, was a practicing physician for 18 years until her medical career ended due to a traumatic brain injury (TBI). She lost her mother to a fall-related TBI and is primary caregiver to her 81 year old father who had a fall-caused TBI. She is the author of Brain Injury Survival Kit: 365 Tips, Tools & Tricks To Deal with Cognitive Function Loss and conducts presentations on this subject around the country. Dr. Sullivan received her medical degree from the College of Human Medicine, Michigan State University, and completed a residency in family practice before working as a family physician for 10 years in Michigan and 8 years for Kaiser Permanente in Colorado.