Losing energy: combination of ‘what’ and ‘where’

This post is a continuation of last week’s post. So if you haven’t read that one yet, check it out here.

The influence of your surroundings

As I mentioned last week, some activities require more energy than others. Which is probably very recognizable. Reading your favourite book is far less taxing than reading a text book. Yet not only the type of activity determines how much energy it costs, the surroundings also plays a huge role. For example, shopping on a busy Saturday afternoon is far more demanding than shopping on Tuesday morning. “So, why is this?” you might wonder. I’ll try to explain using a little bit of neurobiology *grabs a white coat*. Don’t be alarmed! I’ll keep it short and hopefully simple.

Sensory integration

The difference that your surroundings can make, has to do with sensory integration. Sensory integration is the brains ability to take in, process and organizes sensory information that we perceive though different sensory systems in our body. Or to put it in simpler terms, all the information that your brain gets on what you see, hear, smell, taste or feel. Normally your brain will filter the information. This is what allows you to have a conversation in a crowded room or to avoid bumping into object when you’re concentrated on something else. *takes off white coat*

As a result of injury, this integration can be disrupted and the filter can be damaged. In my case, I struggle mainly with what I see and hear (visual and auditory information). This means that I have trouble focussing on a conversation if there is a lot of background noise. Or that I have to wear sunglasses in order to enter a place with harsh (artificial) lighting. It can lead to overstimulation, if your brain has to process a lot of sensory information. This drains your energy and will make it even more difficult to do everyday tasks. Which is why I avoid going to busy places.

Warning signals of less energy

Between us, I’ll admit that I can be really stubborn. Which in this case can be a real hassle. Because my injury is almost four years ago, I learned some of the subtle warning signals of a drained battery (or running out of spoons). These signals are subtle, because if I really want to do something, I can ignore them (whether consciously or not). In my case it starts with my eyes getting tired. The next step is getting dizzy and bumping into things. Side note: I can tell how well I’ve listened to my body, by the amount of bruises on my leg. Next, is the part where I feel ‘brain fog’. It’s like there is fog in your head that makes thinking more difficult. Finding the right words, figures of speech and following my train of thought, becomes increasingly harder.

Shutting down the system

Eventually if I ignore the signs, I feel like my systems shuts down. Rational thought becomes almost impossible and I get really easily irritated or angry until I finally have to cry. In this case my emotions feel like they have been hijacked and are beyond my control. The only thing that helps is to go to bed and sleep. Of course accompanied with a sleeping mask and earplugs in order to shut out the world. In order to prevent a system shutdown, I sleep at least an hour during the day to recharge some of my battery.

All in all it remains a continuous quest to find balance. The upside is that I can try to do better every single day.

Do you recognise some of the above? What are activities or places that cost you a lot of energy? Do you have warning signals or is a good night’s sleep enough to recharge?

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