How do you rest a brain?

I can’t stress strongly enough the need for rest if you have a head injury. It is really tough to do but I think I’m starting to figure out what brain rest actually looks like now and so I thought I’d share it here. Hopefully, I’ll remember this tomorrow and follow my own advice!

Rest might mean that you can’t work, but it doesn’t mean you have to sleep all day. For me, rest means finding activities that will allow the analytical side of my brain to slow down while the other parts of my brain are entertained. Anything involving focused listening or watching is still difficult. Conversation and driving both require a lot of processing power, so they have to be time-limited while you’re healing. Going to the gym or doing yoga, on the other hand, walking a dog or mucking around in the garden-these are all activities that can pass some time (so you don’t go crazy) and they take up enough of your attention so that you won’t slip into overload. Slipping into overload feels like you have a mouse running in your brain looking for a piece of cheese, seeing something shiny, then heading off into random directions until the point of exhaustion. Breathing deeply in a yoga class or pulling weeds from a garden provide enough interest to keep that mouse from running all over the place. That’s the key to rest – you have to find activities that are interesting enough to entertain your brain, but not so demanding that they tire you out. Simple activities can take up most of the day, but a curious brain still has a need to learn, or it will start looking for interesting things to do. Lacking any efficiency, an unfocused mind will randomly jump from thought to thought, causing more fatigue and a whole lot of headaches, dizziness, confusion, etc. (Anyone with a concussion knows those symptoms intimately.) It’s a slippery slope that needs to be and can be avoided. This is where the right brain can come in to play, the artistic side of you. I’m working on my right brain by learning how to draw. Using books from the library and a few very helpful friends I am using art to give the creative part of my brain a chance to develop, kind of sneaking some learning in through the back door while the left side of my brain heals. The analytical (left) side of the brain wants to count, sort, name, keep track of things. This is all hard to do when you lose your focus. Creative activities allow the sensitive healing brain a chance to really shine because a hyper-sensitive post-concussed brain notices everything! Drawing  takes intense focus and while it allows the left side of your brain to rest, time just vanishes. Any creative activity will work, such as baking or playing an instrument, but if you don’t feel up to trying a new activity, you can even just expose yourself to art. I can get absolutely lost in good music, or just getting outside and watching the breeze through the trees, really looking at nature for a little while, all of these things bring your heightened sensitivity into use. This is all good for anyone, but I think it is critical to healing an injured brain. There is a delicate balance between work and rest that is going to be right for each person, and it will change from day to day, but if you listen to the symptoms your body gives you as feedback, you might just find a new talent, and in the end, this newly-healed brain tissue is going to be pretty special. Give your brain the rest it needs and enjoy today.

(I drew the top of a poinsettia today. I lost interest when it got difficult, but it’s a start!)