Self-Care Tips for Brain Injury Survivors

By Jeni Gleason, RN

For those who have survived a brain injury or live with another neurologic condition, self-care becomes a major priority!  Brain tissue is highly metabolically active – in other words, it has a very high energy demand.  For those who have had a TBI, stroke, or other neurologic condition, their nervous system simply does not have as much reserve as someone with an optimally functioning nervous system.  Pushing through early warning signs of neurologic fatigue can often result in major setbacks in regard to one’s physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.  Here are some simple but important self-care tips that are sure to help you live your best life: 

Know your boundaries, and learn to say “NO”

Your body has a subtle but powerful way of communicating with you.  Learn what its messages are trying to tell you, honor them, and your body will better serve you.   Pay attention to cues like brain fog, body tension, emotional volatility, depression, fatigue, digestive issues, or increased intensity of baseline neurologic symptoms.  Your boundaries may vary from day to day but learn to stop going before you hit the wall.  You have likely paid the price for running into the wall, and it doesn’t serve anyone – especially you – when you cannot function well for days or weeks to come after pushing too hard.  Express your need to honor your limits with your loved ones.  Encourage them to get educated about the silent symptoms that you experience.  It’s OK to say no and to ask for help!   Remember you will accomplish more in the long term if you manage your energy stores in the present. 

Get plenty of sleep

Quality sleep is imperative for anyone who lives with a neurologic condition.  Sleep provides your body and mind the opportunity to rest and repair.  Chances are you are much more sensitive to the effects of sleep deprivation since the onset of your neurologic condition.   Try to go to bed around the same time every night.  Avoid caffeine and other stimulants, especially in the evening.  Avoid screen time for a couple of hours before bed is especially important as electronic devices will ramp up your brain activity.  Consider making deep breathing, meditation, or yoga nidra a part of your evening routine.  Eat a bedtime snack that contains fat or protein to sustain your blood sugars until the morning and prevent wakefulness in the middle of the night.  Some find natural products like CBD oil, diffused or topical lavender oil, or valerian root helpful.  Always consult with a trusted healthcare professional before introducing new medications or supplements into your regimen. 

Eat a nutritious diet and avoid processed foods

You are absolutely what you eat.  Our brains and nervous tissue are more sensitive to inflammation than any other tissue in our body.   Our brains also have a tremendous energy demand, so make sure to eat regularly throughout the day and always have healthy snacks with you.  Pay close attention to how certain foods make you feel.  A strong first step in cleaning up the fuel you are giving your brain is to completely eliminate processed foods and refined sugars.  Start reading labels and stick to the perimeter of the grocery store.   Consider eliminating common inflammatory foods like gluten and dairy and observe for shifts in how your feel.  Reintroduce foods one at a time and be alert to any negative symptoms.  If you are ready to take your health to the next level, it may be a good idea to consult with a clinical nutritionist who can help guide you through an elimination diet to reveal your individual hidden food sensitivities.   Clinical nutritionists can also recommend supplements that can support optimal health and brain function. 

Take frequent “brain breaks” throughout the day

In our busy world, taking breaks can often seem impossible.  But if you live with a neurologic disorder, chances are you know that waiting until you are beat to rest will often results in detrimental effects to your wellbeing.  If you have a busy workday, a physically demanding activity to undertake, or even a highly stimulating social gathering to attend, do not take for granted the immense benefit that taking small breaks can have on your neurologic health and stamina.  Remember, your brain is constantly processing an unbelievably immense amount of information through your five senses!  Giving it a 5-minute rest at regular intervals may give you the stamina you need to get through the day’s demands.  Try to minimize as much stimulus as possible to maximize the potency of the rest – close or cover your eyes, reduce noise or play soft calming music, sit or lie down, and reduce your mental activity by focusing on a deep breathing exercise. 

Minimize screen time

Electronic screens are highly stimulating and can be very aggravating for many who live with neurologic conditions.  In the modern world, is usually unrealistic to abandon technology, so we must learn to implement ways to engage with screens that are less detrimental to our health.  Take a break from your screen every 30 minutes to an hour.  Make sure that your laptop or cell phone is positioned at eye level and at least an arm’s length away, as angling our eyes inward and down is not healthy for our brains.  Be sure to turn the blue light filter on and adjust the screen brightness to an appropriate level for your comfort. 

Be grateful for your amazing brain and believe in its ability to heal and change!

Living with a brain injury or other neurologic condition is challenging.  It is easy to take having a healthy neurologic system for granted, until something isn’t working right… then the simplest of tasks can become challenging, exhausting, or even impossible.  It is normal to grieve the loss of your abilities, and to feel sad about your struggles.  Acknowledge those feelings but try not to let them become patterned in your psyche.  Develop a pattern of gratitude and it will become your attitude.  Your attitude will help you see yourself and your condition in a different light, and this shift alone can have a tremendous impact on your neurologic health and overall wellbeing.  Most importantly, give thanks to your amazing brain and acknowledge that it is able to overcome and adapt in miraculous ways.  We now know that neural tissue can continue to heal – slowly but surely – over time given the right fuel and stimulus.  Hold a vision of your healthiest and best you and don’t ever let anyone tell you that you “are as good as you are going to get!”  There are going to be good days and bad days, but over time you are sure to look back on your journey in awe at how far you have come.

Copyright © 2020 Colorado Integrative Neurology. All Rights Reserved. Jeni Gleason, RN is a neurotherapist at Colorado Integrative Neurology. To learn more about how we can help you with your health goals visit our website at or email us at A free initial consultation can be scheduled by calling our office at (720) 328-5076.