Brain Damage, Part VI: Advanced Recovery, Brain Process Remediation
Once again, I’m dedicating this to folks in more or less advanced recovery from brain injury. Remember, brain damage isn’t just from an impact, there are many illnesses that can cause cognitive impairment. Many people are able to recover very well. Much of this is good for people who just want to maintain their brain as they age.
The topic of this entry is remediation of brain processes. The art and science of healing your brain is in its infancy, but there is some very good info out there. What we’re talking about is expediting your recovery.
1. Conditions for recovery. Just in case you forgot, you have to give your brain the conditions that it needs in order to heal as efficiently as possible. That means rest, nutrition, not taking too much on in your drive to get back to normal, and having as much peace and support in your life as possible. My first regular work in my recovery was falling back on an art I dearly love, massage therapy. What a working environment for someone recovering their brain. Dim light, people who you make happy, physical exercise, aromatherapy, doing one thing at a time, hour to hour and a half-long conversations with doctors, lawyers, design professionals and biotech scientists of San Diego that helped me perfect my conversational skills. Does it get any better? Oh, and using mostly motor memory skills that I already knew. Generally, motor memory sticks best of all, so people in manual professions may have an easier time getting back to making a living.
2. Practicing and building basic brain processes with brain games. I wish I were deep into this, but I can only tell you that research is starting, repeat, starting to support the use of things like brain games to support recovery. Plenty of elderly people are playing games on the Internet right now in order to maintain their brain function. That’s gotta be even better than watching Jeopardy on TV. I have been using Lumosity.com (not luminosity, it’s lumosity) and have been getting results after about five weeks of use. I’m not getting paid for saying this. Wish I were. I’m getting more ideas and engaging in more forethought, for example. And this is more of a jump in ability than I’m used to seeing in my recovery. The games are designed by neurologists specifically for this kind of purpose. They offer a two week free trial. It tracks your progress with charts, too. As I go about my affairs, I notice that my brain is reaching for the same resources that the games have been training it on, in order to improve my scope of competence in real life.
3. Nutrition and exercise. Whatever your specific needs may be, there are some general guidelines that may be helpful. This is such a big subject, but here are some basics. It seems that creating more brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is an important consideration. Exercise and Omega3 fatty acids have been identified as supportive of this. Diets already thought of as healthy appear to be good for your brain. Gee, you’d almost think your brain is part of your body. Wait! It is! Less high glycemic index (sugary or starchy) foods, less animal products, more green and orange vegetables, lower calorie intake, and variety are good principles for most folks. Keep learning about supplements and nutrition. My ADD and supplements page has some related information.
4. Systems. When it comes to organizing your information and calendar, what works for everybody else probably won’t work for you. People in recovery may have to go as far as having an emergency page in their notebook that tells them what to do if they get too confused while they are going somewhere. It might have tips like reminding them to call their key people with the cell phone. Creating systems is a task fraught with potential pitfalls. It’s best to have help putting something together that you can commit to, and making sure you post a note to remind you that it exists and that you shouldn’t create a new one that splits your information into yet another location.
5. Appropriate retreat. I said you should not assume that you belong at a lower level of functioning. You might just be missing splinter skills. But then there is the matter of how MUCH to do. Pulling back from quantity is definitely a good idea. Building up your skill and handling of specific situations is much more important than building volume, at least in the beginning and intermediate levels. Be aware of the signs of stress that tell you to back off. For me, it was sound becoming painful. Yes, hearing sound was painful. I love sound, so this was a strange symptom.
6. Effective sleep and stress reduction. Make sure that psychological trauma, sleep apnea, and other factors are not interfering with your sleep. Stress management training, hypnotic recordings, and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) are example modalities that can prove helpful. This is another huge subject.
7. Busy work. If you aren’t able to take on full responsibility or employment, and you have some time on your hands, come up with tasks related to your profession to do, whether it’s physical or mental. If you’re a white collar professional, keep reading as much as possible about your field. Trouble reading? Get someone to install a text reader, or to discuss the material with you.
8. Social interaction. Without overdoing it, get into conversations about anything and everything. Expand your world. Building up that neural net of yours includes getting up to speed with social cues and interplay, as well as working with ideas on the fly.
Great Related Reading
I Wanted My Brain Back, By Sherri Dalphonse, Washingtonian.com – This is a wonderful article about a woman’s recovery from brain injury. It’s more than just a human interest story, it’s helpful.
Eat Smart: Foods may affect the brain as well as the body. Science News, 3/4/2006.
Buff and Brainy: exercising the body can benefit the mind. Science News, 2/25/2006.
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