College students have a unique situation as far as concussion recovery goes. Schedules are different. Demands on time and concentration are different. Recently, I’ve had a number of requests about college and concussion recovery. As a result, I’ve been thinking about it a lot. Here are some tips. Hope it helps!
Note (updated 8/15/17): You might also want to research “Return to Learn” on the web. There have been many advancements in the past few years and there may be some information that could be helpful.
Fatigue and Scheduling
Concussion fatigue is likely unlike anything else you’ve ever experienced. It can shut you down. You know what I mean. Here are some tips to accommodate that.
In your planning, think about the entire day. Think about travel time as well. You also have to allow time and enough energy to get home. You might need to allow for more time to get to classes, to attend them or some labs or other work, perhaps get in some work on assignments, and then travel all the way back home and back home. It’s not just about getting to class; it’s about getting through the day. Here are some tips for that.
- If you have a 9:00 class, for instance, plan to arrive on campus at 8:00. That allows you some time to rest before class or to be able to take the time you need for travel. If you rush to get there with only minutes to spare, chances are you’ll be very tired before you begin.
- Check your schedule. Don’t overload classes on one day, if possible. Pace yourself and listen to what your body tells you. If you need to slow down, do so. If you need to change your schedule around and are able to, then do so.
- Schedule your classes so you have at least an hour break between them. Give your brain a break and provide enough time to get to your next class.
- If you’re on a big campus, allow extra time to get from one building to another.
- If it’s a long walk and you get fatigued easily, stop along the way for a few minutes so you don’t get as tired. Or rest a bit before heading off to the next place, if possible.
- If you need to, think about using a walking stick. I used one for a while and it made an incredible difference. I wrote an entire post about it; take a look!
- I’m guessing, but I would imagine that buildings have to have some area where a person could rest for a bit. It would be worth checking into. If you could rest in a quiet space between classes, for instance, it might help a lot. Or maybe your fatigue would kick in at a certain point and a quick rest would help. Check with the buildings, or the health folks. Actually, it might help to let the medical clinic know about your situation and if they have any advice or suggestions.
- If driving or riding in cars exacerbates symptoms, take transit instead of driving.
- See if there are carpools or some kind of ride-sharing you could use.
Let’s face it. In college, there are parties. So you might be wondering if it’s a good idea to drink alcohol when you have a concussion. In my opinion, I don’t think it’s a good idea. Concussions are brain injuries. Luckily, there’s information that addresses this very situation. Instead of me listing all the information here, I’ll link to this post: The Effects of Substance Abuse and TBI.
Sensitivity to noise is a common symptom of concussion. Yet it doesn’t get as much coverage or discussion. It seems to me that it’s considered to be minor or of little importance. That’s a mistake, I think. Noise has been studied for decades and is known to impact concentration, produce headaches, and result in other symptoms common to concussion. Because of this, I think it’s a major factor that needs to be addressed.
The good news is that there are steps you can take to possibly reduce exposure to noise, and perhaps (hopefully) minimize or lessen the severity of your symptoms. There’s a video I’d like you to review for some specific information. There’s a link below. Here, though, are some points to consider.
- Avoid noisy places as much as possible. Decibel levels make a big difference! Noise interferes with concentration, causes headaches, increases fatigue – lots of things. Please review my two posts about noise. I think they’re very important. If there’s a quieter cafeteria, eat there. Or go at a time when it’s less busy, less noisy
- Maybe avoid athletic events for a bit. They’re very noisy! Decibel levels are extremely high. I know that it’s fun to go to football or basketball games, for instance. However, they are extremely noisy. If you go, just know that you’ll probably get more tired and perhaps “pay for it” over the next several days. You might have a setback, which might impact your ability to get work done on your assignments.
- Download a free decibel level app and see if there’s a level that bothers you. Make noise maps of your environment. Information about this is in my post: Concussions Post-Injury: Noise as a Cause of Symptoms. note 8/28/17: post currently not available
- Sit in the front row (or in the first few rows) of classes. There’s a great video about noise by sound expert Julian Treasure. Partway in, he talks about how just sitting up front makes a big difference. You hear better and don’t have to concentrate as much just to hear what’s being said. Take a look at that. The whole video is interesting (it’s not too long), but the education portion is what applies the most. Check it out. It’s Julian Treasure: Why Architects Need to Use Their Ears.
- Turn off all music, TVs, games and anything else while you’re studying. This will interfere with concentration and probably contribute to fatigue and headaches. Do the same a couple of hours before going to bed. Review the information in my noise post for more information on that.
- If you feel you must have music going, or perhaps if you’re in a noisy environment, download the Study app for your phone and listen to that instead. The app was developed by The Sound Agency. I love it. The app plays some nice background music, including birds chirping. It’s very relaxing and apparently might help with concentration.
- Look into using earplugs once in a while. Check with your doctor first, though.
Ask for help or accommodations!
You’re at a point in your life where you’re now in control of everything. That means that you have to advocate for yourself and speak up when necessary. Your mom or dad won’t be there to do these things, as it’s now your responsibility – and you’re of legal age to make decisions. That’s a big change in your life. Don’t be afraid to speak up on your own behalf.
I also think that folks in colleges are very interested in helping students succeed. It’s worth taking a chance and speaking up. I bet people would want to help. Here are some thoughts.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance! One of the hardest things for me was to have to ask for help. I’m very independent, so that was hard. But it was temporary. I couldn’t drive, so took the bus and had to ask for rides to doctor appointments and such.
- Talk to your professors and let them know your situation. Perhaps they can save a seat up front for you, for instance, to help with noise and concentration. If they offer the same class at different times or days, maybe you could sit in on the same class, essentially, but on another day or hour. Just let them know. You might be totally wiped out one day and not be able to do much at all. They might be able to help.
- If you’re in a dorm, let the housing folks know. That includes your floor representative. Maybe if you’re on a noisy floor, you could perhaps move to one that’s quieter. Or maybe even a different dorm. Ask. Let them know. They’ll probably want to assist in a situation like that – or at least know about it.
- If you’re dealing with depression or having trouble meeting class requirements, contact whatever assistance resources they have on campus. I’m sure there’s something. Perhaps there’s a student contact in your department. Again, ask – especially if this is a concern for you.
- If you’d like counseling help or to find others going through the same thing, check my big spreadsheet of support resources. It has links for support groups, online forums, and help lines. Look at that. Contact folks if it would help. Just don’t ever think you’re alone in dealing with your concussion!
That’s it for now. I’ll add more thoughts as I go. Do you have any tips to share? Just add them in the comments!