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Tips to Avoid Over-stimulation

Scott Doane is a TBI survivor and BIA-MA Staff Member

Scott Doane is a TBI survivor and BIA-MA Staff Member

Today’s blog comes from BIA-MA staff member and survivor of traumatic brain injury, Scott Doane. As a survivor, he gives first hand tips on how to take care of yourself and avoid over-stimulation when you go out into the world.

My name is Scott and I sustained my brain injury when I was 7 years old. I am now 53 years old and still face problems that many others with with brain injuries have as well. Not only did I have to deal with my brain injury, I had physical limitations as well. The right side of my body was paralyzed so I walk with a slight limp, depending how tired I am. As I grew up I adjusted to whatever life had in mind for me. I also learned about my mental and physical limitations.

Now that I understand more about brain injury, I have been more aware of what situations to avoid, so I can take care of myself. For instance, when my wife and I go into a restaurant I try to sit with my back along a wall or window. I feel better in a booth instead of sitting at a table in the middle of the room. This helps keep stimulation to a minimum. If I prefer more light I may want to sit where there is more lighting, or less lighting. If I am going shopping at a mall I try to stay focused on what I am getting or where I am going. If I go to a big mall that I am unfamiliar with, it takes time for me to feel comfortable. I will look for the restrooms, exits and look at the basic layout.

When I have gone to company parties that have loud music I hung out in one location or had a conversation with someone. Sometimes I’ve had a difficult time having a conversation due to the noise. When that happens I take myself out of the area, outside or to a quieter section. It’s also a good idea to do a little home work or think ahead before putting yourself in an uncomfortable situation.

By going through it in my mind, I can take control of what I can, and not set myself up. Obviously there are things that will happen that I have no control over and it helps me to remain somewhat flexible. It is important to be aware of how you are feeling, trying to stay in your comfort zone. Look at your surroundings and stay focused. If you have been in an environment that has been overstimulating or if you’re feeling tired, take a break and take yourself out of the environment to recharge.

Steps you can take to avoid or diminish over-stimulation:

  1. Be well rested.
  2. Plan ahead (Phone, wallet, meds, money, ID, transportation, time schedule).
  3. Become familiar with your environment (location of restrooms, exits, floor plan, and location of where you want to go).
  4. Allow yourself to take a break and relax. Have a snack and stay hydrated.
  5. Don’t overdo it. It is not worth running yourself down.
  6. Stay positive and try to remain flexible.
  7. Be safe.

For Brain Injury Survivors: It’s OK…

wordleBrain injury survivors and caregivers alike often have high standards for themselves and their rehabilitation. The challenges survivors face can often be overwhelming and while there are many good days and achievements during rehabilitation, there can also be bad ones that can overshadow the positive moments. Sometimes we all need to take a step back and put it  in perspective. We’ve come up with a list of things to remember inspired by so many of your Facebook comments over the past month!

So remember, It’s OK….

1. To have bad days sometimes. Not every day is going to be filled with successes. You will have a bad day or a bad week every now and then and it’s OK to be disappointed, but don’t let that overshadow all the great things in your life.

2. To miss your life pre-injury. Life post-injury is different and challenging and can be often overwhelming. It’s OK to miss how things used to be and give yourself time to mourn the life you had, but try not to focus on it. Focusing on your successes and rehabilitation can help you move forward.

3. To not want to have to explain what a brain injury is all the time or convince others that just because you “look fine” doesn’t mean that you don’t have a brain injury. Remember, many people don’t know what a brain injury is or how it can affect someone. People may say, “Well, you look fine/normal” so you must be OK, which can be extremely frustrating. Do your best to educate those around you about brain injury, but don’t feel bad when you get tired of explaining. When you get frustrated, talk to those who DO understand and find support among other survivors and caregivers.

4. To be different. Life changes post-injury and you’ve changed post-injury, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t embrace who you are and who you’ve become. It is OK to be different and to accept yourself.

5. To get frustrated with yourself, your progress and life circumstances sometimes. It’s normal.

6. To feel like no one understands sometimes. If you’re surrounded by friends and family who don’t truly understand brain injury and don’t know what you’re going through, it can be isolating. While you might be the only one in a group who knows exactly what a brain injury is because you live it, doesn’t mean there aren’t support groups (online and in person) full of people who DO know what you’re going through. Our Facebook page is a great place to find some of these amazing people who will help you feel not so alone.

7. To not want to hear how “lucky” you are. Those who don’t understand brain injury will often tell you how lucky you are to “be alive” that it “wasn’t worse,” etc. It’s OK to not want to hear these comments and it’s OK to tell someone that those comments can be frustrating or hurtful to a survivor who doesn’t necessarily feel so lucky as he or she works through rehabilitation and to regain skills he or she lost.

8. To ask for help and accept it if you need it. Some people don’t want to ask for help and are afraid to burden others, while other individuals don’t want to accept help in fear of giving up some of their independence. Many caregivers and loved ones would LOVE to help and would be more than willing to offer assistance, all you need to do is ask. However, if you don’t want help it’s OK to politely say no.

9. To give yourself time. Time to heal (physically and emotionally). Time to accept yourself and your life. Time to get to where you need to be.

10. To need a cheerleader, support system and encouragement. Ask your loved ones for encouragement and support! Everyone needs a cheerleader!