People who have a brain injury experience what is called cognitive overload. Some of the neurons in our brain died when we sustained our injury so now those remaining must handle much more than before. Our brain controls everything. For example, when I drive I must keep track of the other cars, traffic lights, signs, and everything else. I drove to a physical therapy appointment this morning in the light rain, the sun blocked by heavy clouds. As a result I had to be more attentive to my surrounding.

This ability to pay attention is another thing difficult for survivors. I become more tired when I have to focus on something. So my ten-minute drive (some on the highway which means I must process information quickly) followed by a short appointment, and then my ten-minute drive home, wore me out. I then spent a few minutes in contemplative prayer.

I find that getting in touch with God is important to managing my brain injury. I feel much more relaxed when I can pour out my concerns and I’m in touch with God’s healing presence. This is important for all of us but it is crucial for me in order to function. Since I am no longer able to push myself without breaking down completely, I’ve become much more aware of how those around me stay too busy. Some of this is unavoidable but sometimes we need to cut down on our responsibilities for our own well being. I don’t believe God calls any of us to spend our lives tense.

Now, back to cognitive overload. Since I cannot handle as much as before, it is also important for me to simply “rest my brain” by doing something mindless. I receive the Sunday New York Times, which I save to read throughout the week. I still have a few “mindless” stories (style etc.) left to read which allows me to “rest my brain.” All survivors must find their own ways to rest, which may be different from what works for me.

How do you handle cognitive overload? Have you found ways to “rest your brain?” Is it difficult for you to pay attention? Feel free to comment or email me directly at tamara@indylink.org.