So now that you know you aren’t going crazy, what to do?
Give yourself grace-understand that the old you is not the new you.
You will not be able to overcome these very real changes by sheer force of will. No matter how talented or together you used to be, it’s unlikely you can operate on that high plane right now. If you try, you will only exhaust the resources you have left.
So slow down and make room for how grief has impacted your mind.
There are some basic self-care techniques that bear fruit in every area, not only mental acuity:
- Eat balanced meals or snacks-It doesn’t matter if you WANT to eat. Consider that you are fueling your body so that it can feed your mind. Find a protein bar you like or eat easy-to-make salads or sandwiches. When blood sugar levels are stable, your mind works better.
- Get as much quality sleep/rest as possible-This is very hard, I know, when the setting sun brings memories and thoughts that make sleep almost impossible. But research “sleep hygiene” and apply the techniques that might work for you. Herbal supplements and teas can help as well as prescription medications.
- Drink enough water-hydration is so very important and easy to ignore.
- Limit alcohol and/or other stimulants/depressants -any of which can interfere with your ability to think and remember. (Do NOT stop medication unless you do so in concert with your doctor)
- Exercise-There’s no need to run a 5K. Just a walk around the block or even around your house can get your blood pumping and providing more oxygen to your brain.
- Get a physical exam to rule out hypothyrodism, diabetes, heart disease, or any other physical cause for your symptoms. If prescribed treatment, follow the protocol.
Develop work arounds:
- I simply admit to people I’m meeting for the first time that I will not remember their name unless and until I use it multiple times, and even then I might forget. It takes the pressure off so I don’t have to pretend when I see them again.
- I write down EVERYTHING. If I put something “someplace safe” I jot down the location in my calendar. If I make an appointment or need to make a phone call, I write it where I can see it. If I commit to bring something to a potluck meal, I put down what I promised and when it needs to be there.
- I ask for help. Like I said before, if I make lunch plans with friends, I ask that they text me the day before to remind me. If I need extra time to fill out a form, I speak out-I’ve never had anyone refuse. If I can’t remember something important, I admit it and look it up. I have given my family permission to tell me when I’m repeating myself.
- I maintain routines and habits. Keys-same place,always. I have a carabiner on my purse to attach them when I leave my truck. Glasses-same place, always. Medicines in those little seven-day sorted containers.
- I use the Internet, mail and telephone calls to expedite things and minimize stressful interactions with people. If I am going out to a restaurant, I look up the menu online so I’m not forced to make a decision on the spot. I look up and print directions even though my phone can navigate on the fly. I call ahead to learn how long a repair will take, if items are available and if my prescriptions are actually ready. I send letters and cards instead of visiting when I’m feeling overwhelmed.
- I aim for balance: Harder tasks with easier ones; stressful outings with quiet moments; reading with sewing; outside and inside; work and play. Switching up seems to help keep me sharper somehow.
- I don’t overcommit. When someone asks me to do something, unless it is truly an emergency requiring an immediate answer, I consult my calendar. If I already have a couple commitments for a week, I beg off or reschedule for another time. I realize that those working outside the home have far less control over these things but perhaps you might ask your boss for some leeway.
- I group similar tasks and do one thing at a time. I find that doing things that require the same skillset on a single day increases my ability to do them well. Shopping, writing notes, cleaning house are things I schedule for one day at a time. I am absolutely NO GOOD at multitasking anymore.
- I’m realistic about what I can and can’t do. It is humbling to admit that I’m no longer tolerant of small children and large crowds. I used to be able to handle both. But I just can’t do it, so I limit my exposure. I won’t serve in the nursery at church and I don’t attend concerts. That’s just the way it is now.
- I plan for laughter. If it doesn’t happen organically, I seek something uplifting and funny to tickle me into laughing out loud at least once a day. Laughter helps me cope and releases all kinds of feel-good hormones. With the world of memes at your fingertips, this is an easy thing to do.
- I refuse to apologize. Yes, I might say, “I’m sorry” when I forget someone’s name, but I don’t make it a habit to make excuses for my inability to live up to others’ expectations. I learned early on that anyone who has not walked this Valley can’t really understand anyway. It frustrates me, adds to stress and does no good. So I let my “yes” be “yes” and my “no” be “no”. I’m beyond being embarrassed.
I do the best I can as long as I can.
And when I reach my limit, I admit it without being shamed.