[I am grateful to be able to re-post this. When I had it on the original blog it received a lot of comments and folks said it was very helpful. I hope it is helpful to you too.] 🙂
(Posted with permission. If you share this helpful document with others, please give proper credit to the authors and do not alter document in any way. The following is copy written material. All rights reserved worldwide.)
by Sharon Feeney, LICSW and Janice Worman, ORT/L
When an individual sustains a brain injury, function is decreased, especially in the areas of planning, sequencing, and initiating. These changes influence how one accomplishes everyday activities, interpersonal relationships, and success at school or work.
People are generally able to resume some activities and life tasks: however, how much they can do and for what length of time can have limits. Following a brain injury, one’s brain often is ‘working’ 2-3 times as hard to achieve the former results, and thus is subject to fatigue.
Following an accident the brain is frequently more sensitive to surroundings (such as bright lights, noise, and movement) which may add to fatigue and overload. For example many clients share about the over stimulation that happens when they attempt grocery or mall shopping.
Their brain is much less efficient at filtering out the non-useful stimuli of voices, blinking lights, moving people and the sheer mass of products to choose from.
Home disorganization and clutter also deplete one’s brain budget. Worry, anxiety, or frustration subtract from one’s reserves as well. Describing and recognizing these changes can be very difficult for those experiencing it.
To simplify the concept, we use a Brain Budget Analogy.
For example, if one has $20.00 to spend per day (or 20 units of brain energy), one must use the money or units efficiently to avoid negative consequences. After an injury, it may take more money or units to complete basic self-care tasks.
Thus, less money is available for work, family, or community activities. When a person ‘spends’ most of their budget in the first few hours of the day, their function usually diminishes.
Survivors have described this as “going blank,” temporarily “forgetting how to get home,” “difficulty making decisions,” “a sense of not being able to process what is happening around me,” and “an urgent need to sleep or be in a quiet space.”
With rest, their brain is able to renew. Budgeting and planning ahead is useful in keeping activities balanced and creating quality in one’s day.
While everyone experiences brain fatigue at times, the impact on those with brain injury is much greater. Continuing with the Brain Budget idea, if they use up their budget and “go into debt,” the recovery period may be several days.
While experiencing brain fatigue, one more readily becomes irritated, upset with self or others, and much less able to follow through with tasks or goals.
Our clients tell us that the Brain Budget concept helps them to look at their activities and schedules a week or month at a time. They strategize how to best use their energy and are able to plan breaks between demanding activities.
As they establish more organization and routines, less of their budget is spent in those areas, leaving more available for work, family and spontaneity. The Brain Budget is also a clear way to explain their challenging situation to the people in their lives.
While it is an ongoing process (taking practice and patience) our clients report the Brain Budget tool works.
It empowers them in redesigning their lives.