Living with a TBI – Tip #1: Find a Way to Unwind your Brain

If you suffer from a TBI (traumatic brain injury), you may, like me, be on the constant lookout for helpful tips in dealing with your injury.  As a part of my blog, one of the things I would like to do is share some helpful tips that either I’ve discovered on my own, or have learned from others throughout my journey.  Some tips may be obvious, others may be new to you, but regardless, I hope they are helpful.

Tip #1 – Find a way to “unwind” your brain.  When you have a TBI, it is fairly common to experience what I’m going to call “brain overload”.  This happens when your brain has been inundated with stimulation and it starts to rev out of control.  For me, it happens when I get done with teaching at work, when I’ve been talking to someone for too long (typically over an hour), or when something stressful has happened during my day.  When this occurs, my brain cannot stop processing and it continues to ramp up versus slow down.  In talking to other TBI survivors, I’ve learned that this is an extremely common occurrence.

In order to “unwind” my brain and slow it down, I searched for things that were comforting, soothing, and repetitive.  Through trial and error, I landed on the following combination:  I crochet blankets while drinking a cup of chai tea and I have a “Murder She Wrote” episode playing on the TV for background noise (yes, Angela Landsbury calms me down – go figure).  Other survivors that I’ve connected with do things like color in coloring books, paint, make lanyard bracelets,  put puzzles together, and the like.  The common thread is that all of these activities make use of your hands and the tactile component appears to allow the brain to slow down and decompress.

Galit Liffshiz and Assosiates have written a wonderful article on Sensory Defensiveness which nicely describes the tactile relationship to brain injuries and suggestions of things that can be done if you experience this “brain overload” that I described above:

Repetition also seems to be part of the solution.  If you are doing a repetitive activity, the automation of the activity seems to allow the brain to slow down and get back to a state of “normalcy” versus the amped-up version.  So, even if you find it difficult to identify a tactile experience to perform, try engaging your other senses in a repetitive activity – listen to the same music over and over, look at a favorite picture, chew a piece of gum, whatever soothes you (although I highly recommend avoiding unhealthy activities like consuming alcohol, nicotine, drugs, or other non-productive soothing techniques).

As for me, the crocheting piece has served a two-fold purpose – it helps to unwind my brain, and additionally, once a blanket is finished, I put it in a bag with some snacks, a bottle of water, and some personal care products and have it ready in my car to hand off to someone who appears to be in need wherever and whenever the opportunity presents itself.  It’s a win-win situation.




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