UNDERSTAND COGNITIVE FATIGUE
BRAIN HEALTH | 4.3.2017 | BY JACKIE FARRELL, MS, OTR/L, RYT-200
Cognitive fatigue, or mental fatigue, is a feeling of “tiredness” or “fogginess” that can make daily activities feel more challenging, and is very common following a brain injury. After a TBI, the brain has to work harder to focus and think, resulting in more energy expenditure and exhaustion. I have found that if people learn to be mindful about how they spend their time, they are better able to manage their mental energy to accomplish the things they need and want to do each day!
I work with my clients to track their fatigue levels, identify patterns or trends, and then to make modifications to daily schedules to manage their fatigue, and therefore use their time more mindfully. The first step toward managing cognitive fatigue is gaining a baseline of your energy levels throughout the day. Once this baseline is established, you can use this information on your own, or when working with an OT, to determine how to modify your day based on your fatigue levels. Here are three steps you can take to become more aware of your cognitive fatigue and to manage your time more mindfully:
1. Rate your fatigue level throughout the day
- Use a 1-5 scale (1 = fatigued, 5 = no fatigue)
- Chart your fatigue after various activities (physical, social, cognitive, etc.)
2. Review your fatigue levels after tracking for 7-10 days
- Identify times of the day when you have the most vs. the least fatigue
- Identify types of activities where you have the most vs. the least fatigue
3. Use the information you have gained to:
- Schedule activities that require a high amount of cognitive energy for times of the day when you are the least fatigued
- Incorporate activities that replenish your energy throughout your day, such as quiet time, meditation or yoga
- Prioritize which activities are the most important to you, and center your day around those things
Jackie is an Occupational Therapist (OT) and a LoveYourBrain Yoga Teacher. She loves to incorporate mindfulness practices into her treatment sessions, and is generously sharing these tips in honor of Occupational Awareness Month.