Mild Traumatic Brain Injury/Concussion: your guide to recovery

Changes in thinking, memory and concentration following concussion

Some people who have had a concussion may have changes in their thinking (cognitive) skills.

Thinking skills can also be affected by other symptoms like poor sleep, pain, headaches, tiredness, and stress. Certain medications can also affect thinking. After a concussion, people may think slower than before. Some people may also have more trouble:

  • Paying attention
  • Learning and remembering things
  • Finding words
  • Understanding or following what others are saying or what they are reading
  • Problems multi-tasking (doing more than one thing at a time)
  • Making decisions
  • Planning and organizing their day

Sometimes these changes can make everyday tasks more difficult. It is important to know that these changes should get better after a little while.

What can I do?

Try to figure out if there are other things that are making it harder to think. One way to do this is by asking yourself questions like:

  • Did I do too much without taking a break?
  • Did I have a bad sleep?
  • Do I have a headache or pain?
  • Did something stressful happen today?

Read the sections about sleep, headaches, and mood, and see if these strategies help with your thinking. You will think better if you feel good and well rested.

Keep in mind that it is normal not to remember things from time to time. Getting upset or stressed about it will make it even harder to remember. Take a few minutes to relax and calm down — your memory will sometimes come to you.

If you feel that your thinking is affecting your job or school, you might need to take some time off or do less to help your brain recover. Read tips for getting back to work and school »

If the changes in your thinking still haven’t gotten better, here are some things to try:

Keep organized

  • Use a calendar or notebook to write important things down. Recording things onto a mobile phone can also help. If you use a smart phone, there are many apps available to help you remember appointments, names and things you need to do.

  • Make a list of things that need to be done. Set due dates and reminders on your mobile phone.

  • Keep things like keys, glasses and phones in the same place so you don’t forget where you put them.

Use strategies to help you concentrate and remember

  • Use reminder alarms on your phone or watch to help you remember important things like appointments and taking medication. Use sticky notes to remind you to do important things like turning off the stove, or locking the door.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask others to slow down or repeat things if you can’t follow what they are saying or if they are speaking too fast.

  • Reading out loud can help you to concentrate and help information sink in.

  • If you are having trouble remembering words, try using other words that describe the word.

  • Try to work in a quiet area when you need to do work, study or read. Noisy and distracting environments can make it hard to concentrate on a task and make you feel more tired.

Try to reduce stress and brain overload as much as possible

  • Take breaks and rest before you feel tired or overloaded. Resting will give you more energy to re-focus and concentrate.

  • Break large tasks or lots of information down into smaller chunks or pieces.

  • Don’t do too many things at once, like talking on the telephone and making a meal at the same time. You will be able to concentrate better if you are doing one thing at a time.

  • Take your time when making important decisions. Make a list of things you need to do or think about. Talk it over with someone you trust before deciding.

  • Use energy conservation strategies to help you rest and not overload your brain.

If you feel that your thinking doesn’t go back to normal after a few weeks, see your doctor or health care provider.