Over time, an acquired brain injury survivor may experience some challenges with mapping the progress of their recovery. In some situations, things may seem muddled in together, perhaps creating a sense of distress as it becomes difficult to identify the real progress that is being made.
As individuals evaluate how things are going overall, on a specific activity basis, it can also be helpful to acquire some concrete assessment information. This data will help to map the gains being made.
The following Activity Planning Assessment Tool can be used as a companion throughout the recovery process.
- Track progress
- Identify activities that bring positive results overall
- Understand how participating in various activities might bring on symptoms
- Identify activities that may be challenging, yet overall are beneficial to engage in
- Develop strategies to manage symptoms
The first part of this assessment is to build awareness about the types of activities you typically engage in, and to determine how your participation in these may affect you and others.
You can choose to answer these questions by recording your responses, or you can go through the list and make a mental note of your thoughts. You can also discuss your responses with a trusted partner; family member; friend or colleague.
The debriefing questions will bring to light any comparisons, challenges and/or gains that you are making, and will allow you to prioritize which activities you might like to engage in.
Using this information, you can choose to invest your time and energy where you believe is the most appropriate for you at this point in time. It’s important to note that while you may choose not to participate in something now, you may feel like you will want to in the future. With this in mind, the assessment is also a good opportunity to help you to identify these activities for the future.
- What is the activity that I am considering?
- Overall, is this an activity that I want to engage in? Why?
- What positive results might this bring to me? How will this affect me and/or others?
- What negative results might this bring to me? How will this affect me and/or others?
- Will participating in this activity affect my energy level? In what way?
- If this does drain my energy, what are the energy management strategies that I can develop to address this?
- Is this activity something that I have participated in pre-injury?
- In my estimation, this is how I will be feeling after this activity
- In my estimation, the recovery time following this activity will be
- What is the value that I am contributing to this activity?
- What value will this activity bring to me and/or others by my participating?
- If you have participated in this activity pre-brain injury, how does this time compare overall?
- What were you aware of this time?
- How did you feel when you were participating in this activity?
- In reality, this is how I felt after this activity. Compare this to your estimate above.
- In reality, this is the recovery time following this activity. Compare this to your estimate above.
- Were there any specific symptoms brought about as a result of engaging in this activity?
- At what point, if at all, did you begin to feel your energy drain?
- What do you believe contributed to this?
- Describe specifically how you knew your energy was draining/what was happening?
- What did you do?
- If you pushed through it, what happened next?
- Describe any gains, no matter how small or big that you experienced.
- Did you receive any comments/feedback/encouragement from others either prior to, during or following the activity? What were they saying?
- Did participating in this activity give you any confidence? In what way?
- What, if any adjustments could you make in order to improve the results for next time?
- Would you participate in this activity again in the future?
- On balance, is the activity worth your time investment and engagement?
Back-up Plans and Developing an Exit Strategy
- Part of deciding to engage in an activity will depend on whether you have a back-up plan and/or if you have an exit strategy developed. Following are a couple of examples of this.
- Rather than commit to attending a full event, perhaps you can agree to attend on a reduced timeframe. This plan balances out having to take an all or nothing approach. You are signaling that you are interested in attending, yet at the same time you may not be able to manage the full event and the potential sensory overload.
- If you would like to attend a concert or a ballet – but you are not certain if you can sustain the energy required, or manage the sensory stimulation - have an exit strategy pre-arranged. Tell your partner or whomever you are attending the concert with that you would like to experiment by attending. However you may not be in a position to remain for the full concert. On a pre-arranged signal, should you need to leave, you can exit the concert when suitable.
- For pre-planning, when you purchase your tickets, plan to sit on the end of a row. This way, you will know that you are not disrupting anyone should you have to leave.
- If attending a movie, plan to arrive just as the movie begins. Avoid the trailers as they can be noisy and visually disturbing. Pre-plan as much as you can. Step out if you have to. Try this out to see how long you can stay in a movie theater. In the beginning, attend a quieter movie and build from there.
- Go to the concert or movie prepared, bring sunglasses, earplugs or other noise dampening devices.
- If you normally bowl three games, if you feel ready – try one game.
- Sudden energy crashes can occur. To the extent possible rest or sleep prior to attending an event. On the way there, reduce any noise and/or distractions. Remain as calm as possible and connect to the positive aspects of taking this step.
- If you are somewhere alone and you need to leave unexpectedly, always have a back-up plan developed. Whether this is a pre-arranged ride that you can contact; money on-hand for a cab or a ride-share, it will be important for you to know that you will have some support with returning home. This step will give you confidence as you begin to experiment with re-engaging in social and/or other activities.
The benefits of pre-planning are far reaching:
- Opportunity to experiment with re-engaging in social and/or other activity; assess and adjust as may be required for the next time.
- Maintain control over the factors you can control – and on your own terms.
- Allows for energy mapping strategies to work in your favor.
- Brings enjoyment and fulfilment back into your routine.
- On a holistic level, it will balance out your overall outlook.