Neurofatigue can be a bear to deal with, and it’s not like regular fatigue. It can be ongoing and cause both physical and mental exhaustion. It’s also really difficult to explain it to others who have never experienced it. People around you may say that you’re being “lazy” because you’ve been unable to get out of bed, but you know that’s not the case.

Why does it happen?

Neurofatigue happens for several reasons. It can be the result of the brain injury itself and a result of the healing process. It takes a lot of energy for the brain to repair itself. The brain is essentially the computer that runs our body. It’s responsible for so many things. So, when it has to continue running everything and also work on itself, that results in neurofatigue!

How can I improve it?

This list is meant to be a starting point. We know that sometimes it just takes time or that it might not completely go away. We also know that there will be good days and bad days. But I have had clients implement these strategies with good results, so I wanted to share!

Move more

I know. It seems counterintuitive to move more when you’re exhausted. But when we’re sedentary this leads to a vicious cycle. Fatigue leads to inactivity, which leads to fatigue, which then leads to more inactivity. Remember, you can (and should) start small!

Look at sleep

Do you wake up feeling completely unrefreshed after getting 7+ hours of sleep? Does your partner notice that you snore, or do you wake up gasping/choking? The incidence of Obstructive Sleep Apnea in survivors is much higher than in the general population. An interruption in sleep can lead to daytime fatigue. Talk with your doctor if you think this may be an issue.

Watch your mood

As with movement and fatigue, mood and fatigue also have a similar relationship. Depression can lead to fatigue, but fatigue can also lead to depression. If you’re able to talk with your doctor or a mental health professional, do it. If you don’t have access, at least talk to a friend to let someone know how you’re feeling.

Medication side effects

Do any of your medications have insomnia, fatigue, drowsiness, or sleepiness listed as side effects? If so, talk with your doctor. Advocate for yourself. Ask what they can do.

Use mindfulness

At its core, mindfulness is just the practice of non-judgmental awareness of the present moment. It can be used as a healthy coping strategy to deal with stress and anxiety. We know that stress and anxiety lead to increased fatigue, so using mindfulness to cope may reduce fatigue.

Watch your nutrition

You may not immediately think of food when you think of fatigue, but what we put in our bodies absolutely affects fatigue levels. Especially foods with a high glycemic index like white bread, white rice, fried foods, cakes, cookies, chips, and dried fruits. These foods cause our blood sugar to rise quickly and then crash shortly thereafter. Avoid these foods and opt for something high in fiber, protein, and healthy fats.

Reduce decision fatigue

Decision fatigue happens when we have to make too many decisions in a short amount of time. And I specifically mean day-to-day decisions like what to wear, eat, etc. Solving some of these decisions ahead of time can give your brain space to breathe.