Five steps for when reality gives you a time-out

One of the certainties of living with a brain injury, is the uncertainty. Is it going to be a good day? Can you do the things you had planned? Will you be left with some energy?

It’s great when you can do more than you’d planned, but obviously, it can also be the other way around.


This didn’t bother me as much while I was travelling. After all, I had no obligations and could do whatever I wanted to do. Which meant that those good days came in abundance. However, now that I’m working again, a large part of my energy is needed for my job. And as a result, I know notice that my limits are closer than before.

Something that I was vividly reminded of last Saturday.

I needed some groceries. Not my favourite pastime, but doing groceries before 11am was fine in the neighbourhood where I used to life. This was that perfect time when most shelves had been stocked and most people were some-place else.

Reaching you limits

This turned out to be different in the new neighbourhood. Apparently Saturday morning was rush hour. People, shopping carts and overall mayhem made me feel like I was quickly reaching my limits. Maintaining patience and tolerance became more and more difficult.

People that were searching for their money to pay or who didn’t understand the concept of lines, were the proverbial straw. My compassion and kindness flew out of the window and I was left with frustration and anger.

All I wanted was to leave the store as quickly as possible and to be home again. And the remainder of the day was all about recharging my battery.

That Saturday morning was my reality check. No matter how well these past months have been, I still have an injured brain. And when everything gets to be too much, I no longer can be the person I want to be.


A roadmap for a forced time out

I’d learned yet another lesson. Nevertheless I don’t want to focus on the things that I can’t change. What I can change though, is how I deal with this all. So it was time to put on my thinking cap. And although far from earth shattering, I now have a handy roadmap for when reality is more demanding than expected or for when reality gives you a forced time-out:

  1. Recharge your battery
    Retreat from the world and do what feels good. In my case that means laying down in a dark room.
  1. Be kind to yourself
    When you notice thoughts of judgement turn them around. “I can’t even go to the supermarket” becomes “I left the house on Saturday after my first week of work and was brave enough to go to the supermarket with an unfamiliar layout!”.
  1. Find comfort
    Put on some loose and comfy clothes and make sure that tea and treats are within reach.
  1. Focus on what brings you joy
    After all you have to wait for your battery to recharge so try to do something that will make you feel better. Watch a funny clip, your favourite series or do something creatives that doesn’t require a lot of mental effort.
  1. Grow and learn from your experience
    When you feel more like yourself, try and come up with a strategy for the future. Can you learn something from this experience Could you try do things differently? And most importantly allow yourself to try again and dare to give it another shot.

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