Stressful Life Stuff

Going through some stressful life stuff lately. Keeping my head above water, but just barely. One day at a time is another 24hrs of struggle without much reprieve or an end in sight.

This might sound melodramatic, but the life  of an adult with a brain injury is tough. At this stage, especially if your injury is decades behind you, everyone expects that there’s really no reason to use it as an  “excuse” any longer. Neither do they realize, however, that the damage is permanent and with age the brain becomes more and more tired as it has compensated for so long. Sure, the best-case scenario sees an individual surrounded by routine and some type of support system, but unless that support system is ideal and the routine ongoing, there really is no way to guarantee a life that isn’t consumed by exhaustion. 

Throw into this mix an above average intelligence but quite a few “bad breaks” over the years, and the frustration and sense of constant drowning becomes the new norm. Good jobs are not easy to come by, survival requires timing and attention that often seems an impossibility. In a constant state of stress, your bio-chemistry actually changes and your body begins fighting itself. 

Life is cruel to some of us. 

If At First You Don’t Succeed…

Welcome to the motto of my life…”try, try again.”

Given that my blog was meant to bring some sort of structure or routine to my week, I have already experienced my first epic “fail” in the process.  I was meaning to write weekly (even twice weekly), but timing has just not allowed for it recently.  It does, however, provide a perfect teaching opportunity as to how this “broken vessel” operates.  So, here we go…the first in a line of hopefully several ramblings…

As I believe I mentioned in the intro blog-post, I have been wanting to write a blog for a long time, but never knew where to begin or how to go about it.  Then recently, as things would happen in life I would jot down quotes that I heard and liked, or lessons I was learning along the way that I thought might make for a good story or reflection.  Then once I had compiled a list of 10 or 12 things, I figured I would have a good “beginning” for a few weeks of writing.  So I began…

…and then I “lost” my list…

Haha! Funny, right? 🙂 I thought, this is one of those “perfect examples” of how I deal with life – I would use it as my first actual rambling post and hopefully restructure my ideas from there.  And then, lo and behold, today I sit down to write and I found my list! It’s comical in my mind because my experience (response to losing my list) is an example of each of my blog ideas in some way, shape, or form.  It’s reassuring to note that these life-lessons that I’ve experienced (and I’m preparing to write about) have become new habits and coping strategies in life.  So I AM actually learning along the way! 🙂

So, the topic of today’s rambling is “time vs energy management”.  I read an article about it through someone I follow on Twitter, and it’s something that I struggle with daily.  If you google it, there are many life coaches who have written blogs and articles on the topic, and it seems to be a popular realm of thought – not only for those of us with a “challenge” but for anyone with a busy schedule.  It makes sense that we only have so many hours in the day/week – an objective measurement that applies across the board.  However, we also need to consider that we each only have a limited amount of energy to be used in that time – and this measurement is not so objective.

I’ve heard people discuss the idea of health and wellness, particularly fitness pursuits, and the time commitment involved.  They break down a 24-hour day into the appropriate increments – 8hrs sleep, 9-10hr work day, etc. – and then they claim there is still plenty of time leftover for at least an hour a day of exercise.  This is likely quite true in the objective sense.  However, let’s also consider a person’s “24-hours” of energy.  If I use an hour of energy (not just physical but mental/emotional energy) for every activity that I perform in a day, how does that change my situation?  And, I’m not just talking “every activity” as in a scheduled appointment (massage or chiropractic) or an overall activity (soccer game or coffee with a friend).  I’m talking about the energy it takes to get out of bed, shower, get dressed, plan meals, cook meals,  plan my schedule for the day, time the drive…and the list goes on.  Consider for a moment that every functional activity, though somewhat “automatic” and seemingly “normal”-looking, expends 3 times as much mental/emotional energy for someone with a brain-injury than for someone with an un-injured brain.  And if there is any hint of depression or anxiety involved that number could be incrementally more.  Now try and fit that 24hr calculation together and tell me how the equation works!

Life with a brain injury involves a delicate balancing act.  And that skill of co-ordinating, itself, consumes 25% of our energy! Plus, the process of learning is extremely draining so learning and re-learning to deal with life on a daily basis = exhaustion.  Allowing myself to “go with the flow” was a huge factor in managing my energy.  There’s an emotional connection to the entire process – needing control of the situation, needing to know what’s happening next, and becoming upset when something goes awry in the schedule.  That’s why structure is said to be the “best thing” for someone with a brain injury.  Because with structure and consistency, a person develops a sense of “mastery” over his or her life and derives a sense of accomplishment or success from it.  And, though I somewhat agree with this need for structure (especially in the first few years of recovery), I found that because structure is not always practical in life (“the only thing constant in life is change”) then learning to be flexible was actually the more helpful lesson for my adapting to society (rather than having to impose structure and deal with consequences). Along with that, was the emotional lesson in “letting go” of having to have my day go a certain way and accepting that the day can be just as great – if not better – by just letting it happen.

The management of time vs. energy, then, clearly needs to be evaluated on an individualistic basis.  It involves a lot of personal reflection, self-assessment, and being open to possibilities along the way.  It involves identifying strengths and weaknesses, then prioritizing and scheduling time according to the required energy investment.  It involves “having perspective” and a flexible approach to life, being gentle with self (if something doesn’t get done it’s not the end of the world) and accepting of change.  That’s why I’ve always loved the serenity prayer: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” 🙂

…this is my life…