Back to the Beginning: EXCELLENT Brain Budget Analogy from rehab (posted Feb. 22, 2009)

[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.)

Brain Budget
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.

About Resilient Heart

TBI x3, that's me! If you had a Traumatic Brain Injury (or Injuries!) and knew you might not remember dates, events, people, etc., would you live each day differently? Would you give more, forgive more, heal more? I am. The statistics for me developing Dementia or Alzheimer's is a high possibility - one, because of the TBIs, and two - because I'm genetically predisposed. Come with me as this present moment is all we know we have... Wishing you all the best - today & always. Blessings, Love & Peace, RH
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4 Responses to Back to the Beginning: EXCELLENT Brain Budget Analogy from rehab (posted Feb. 22, 2009)

  1. This is great! Having both bipolar and multiple whacks on the head, I experience exactly what the article says. For instance, right now my apartment is terribly cluttered. I spend five minutes trying to unravel the mess, lose track of everything, make a worse botch job of it, and then desperately want to go to sleep. Today I decided to divide it up into tiny bites, and so far (other than dropping a very heavy skillet onto my bare foot, haven’t made it to the putting on shoes part yet, oh hell it’s only 1:30 p.m.) it’s working. Now if I can just keep the tidied areas from getting cluttered at least until tomorrow 🙂

    • Hello Laura! Thanks so much for your comment, I’m pleased this was a helpful tool.

      I get the same exact way too, it’s almost impossible to plan ANYTHING because overload and fatigue take over.

      I’m sorry to hear about the heavy skillet being dropped on your bare foot! It never seems to be just one thing, does it? At least not for me most of the time!

      That’s great you’re taking it in tiny bites. Like a favorite horse trainer said, “Reward for the smallest try.” That applies to humans too.

      Please feel free to stop by anytime, we may not have all the answers but we can usually get a laugh or two along the way! 🙂

  2. Pingback: Tools: Homemade Signs | The Fight of My Life: Living with TBI

  3. Pingback: Pre-Memorial | The Fight of My Life

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