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Mild Traumatic Brain Injury/Concussion: your guide to recovery
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Conserving energy after a concussion

It is very common to feel tired after a concussion.

After a concussion, your brain has less energy to spare than it normally does. Everything now takes up a little more energy than before. This can make you feel tired and lose energy. This is called fatigue. Fatigue can happen at any time. You can feel tired after physical and mental activity or even if you are not doing much at all. Fatigue can make you feel sleepy during the day. It can also cause more headaches and make you feel more forgetful, upset or irritable.

It is important to save physical and mental energy so that you can feel better and have enough energy during the day to do things. This is called energy conservation. Energy conservation helps the brain and body rest and is a way to manage feeling physically and mentally tired.

How can I conserve energy after a concussion?

You can conserve energy by using the “Four P’s” principle: Prioritize, Plan, Pace, and Position.

Prioritize

Prioritize your time and energy. Decide on the important things that you need to do and focus on those first. One way to break down activities is by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Is this urgent? Does it have to be done today?
  • How important is it? Can it wait for a few days?
  • Can it be done later? Can it wait for a few weeks, or longer?
  • Is help needed? Can I ask someone to help me or do it for me?
  • Does it have to be done at all? Can it wait until I feel better?

Pace

  • Plan to take breaks. Remember to change your task or rest before you start to feel tired.
  • Try to break tasks down into smaller steps or stages so that you can step away and take a break if you need to.
  • Do things in a different way so you can still do parts of the task. For example, go on an outing with family but go for only part of the day.

Plan

  • Plan and organize your day to make sure you’re doing work or chores during times you feel rested and have the most energy. If you have more energy in the morning, then do the hardest task at this time.

  • Spread heavier or harder tasks out over the week. Try to alternate between physical tasks like folding laundry to tasks that get you thinking like using the computer.

  • Remember to give yourself extra time to do things and to take breaks.

  • Try to make time in your day to things that bring you happiness and give you energy (for example socializing with friends or getting back into a hobby). Setting small goals can help you build up to what you really want to do.

  • It is important to listen to your body and take things slowly. Try to figure out what tasks take up a lot of energy or make symptoms worse. Notice the time when pain or fatigue is not so bad or when pacing or resting may have helped. This will help you figure out the best way for you to do tasks so that you still have energy left at the end of the day. Using an activity log can help. More information on activity logs »

  • Have a back-up plan. Fatigue can sometimes happen at the most inconvenient times. It is important to have a back-up plan for when you feel really tired and can’t do much about it. For example, make dinners ahead or have someone else shop for you. Have a back-up child-care plan for times when you are not feeling well or need to rest. Talk to your family or close friends to help you to make a plan.

Position

  • Think about the things around you and how your posture can affect your energy level. Doing things like standing for too long or sitting in a hunched position while working on the computer can make you more tired.

  • Noisy and distracting places can make it hard to concentrate and will use up more energy. Use tools like sunglasses to block out light, earplugs to block out sounds, or a shopping list to help you stayed focused.

Some other things you can do to help your energy levels

Keep active

Although doing too much can increase fatigue, doing too little can make you feel weak and tired. Gradually start to increase your activities, like walking or doing some light housework. This will help you get used to doing more. Talk to your doctor or health care provider about what is right for you.

Remember: Go slowly, take breaks and don’t overdo it. Going back to physical and mental activity too quickly and/or not paying attention to symptoms can make symptoms worse. Learn more about returning back to activities »


Get a good night’s sleep

If you have a poor sleep you will feel tired during the day and have more trouble concentrating and remembering things. Get more information about improving your sleep »


Pay attention to your mood and level of stress

Stress, anxiety or low mood can make you feel tired and worn out. Learn more about mood changes and the steps you can take to help you feel better »