Kara Swanson's Brain Injury Blog

July 11, 2016

Getting Back To The Basics

Filed under: Uncategorized — karaswanson @ 9:01 pm

I’ve realized that, even twenty years into this brain injury, some of the things I first recognized as helpful still apply.  None more so, maybe, than creating a good routine.

I always thought routine was boring.  I thought it made a person kind of nerdy or some old curmudgeon stuck in their ways.  We all know of or have heard tell of those who have to do things a certain way each time.  They have to go to certain places on certain days and they have to eat this or that.

That might be bordering on an issue best left for another blog.  LOL.

Routine, for those of us who are brain injured, often ends up a dear friend.  A loyal, consistent ally.

A dependable good.

I have long relied on routine to reign in the more troublesome of my challenges.  Here and there, the failure to filter, the distractibility, the getting stuck on one thing…

When routine is thoughtfully crafted, it provides us a great sense of peace and confidence.  Even when our memories fail us, we can often feel sure that our routines kept the ship sailing in the right direction.

For many of us with TBI, summer creates a huge change in our routines.  Those of us with kids have to deal with a change in morning schedules.  Those of us taking vacation have to handle packing and travel plans and booking hotels and rental cars.

It can really throw us off our game.

I know that, for me, just the fact that the 4th of July holiday ended up on a Monday really sent me sideways.  Monday felt like Sunday.  Monday also felt like the 1st of the month so some bills didn’t get paid.  Tuesday was Monday.  I took off Thursday so Friday was Monday, too.

My co-workers were amused to see me show up for work with my clothes on backwards…


Stressed out and frustrated partners and caregivers write to me all the time about how their TBI survivor does nothing all day.  They often find them where they left them and nothing seems to have changed after nine hours of the day.

That doesn’t surprise me.

Many of us have a hard time figuring out what the heck to do first or next.  Some of us have a problem with initiating and some with a problem of having to pick from the thousands of options of what we could possibly do.

An established routine based on, mostly, when we are at our cognitive best each day helps everyone on both sides of the coin.  Everyone can ease down and feel a little more relaxed when we all have an idea of what to expect next.

Routine doesn’t have to be a prison sentence.  It is not some anchor we should be forced to lug around.  It is a tool and a good one.  It’s a way to help us be efficient and productive during the best parts of our days.

As summer passes the midway point and soon kids will take the turn toward heading back to school, many parents will begin to re-establish routines to ease their kids back into school mode.  Maybe they’ll start to get them out of bed earlier and into bed sooner.  Maybe they’ll begin to get them thinking again during the day and engaging their brains so they can start off the year on a good note.

Because we are a funny lot, we often stop our diets when we lose a few pounds or quit our antibiotics after a few days because we start feeling better.  But it doesn’t matter how long we have been injured, it never hurts to get back to the basics when we feel things spinning a little out of control.

We don’t have to quit what works.  It doesn’t make us “still worse”.  And we don’t have to feel badly about returning to our tried and true help when we find ourselves bumped somewhere off the beaten path.

Routine is a good thing.  It’s a nice tool in the box.  It helps us to feel accomplished and peaceful that will always be the goal of any good day.

Happy Summer, everyone!!!!




  1. Hi Kara,
    Just read your blog and found it very helpful. My son sustained a TBI fifteen years ago. I have learned a lot about the importance of routines and how fragile they can be. I’m especially interested in routines around eating, especially when hunger triggers no longer work. I’d be interested in whether you have routines for eating and if they make a difference. My son and I have written a cookbook to try and help with eating routines. If you’re interested you can find it on iBooks it’s called “Short takes: making cooking simple” by Jenny McClure

    Jenny McClure – mcclure@shorttakes.org

    Comment by Jenny McClure — August 28, 2016 @ 4:45 am | Reply

    • Hi, Jenny! Thanks for writing! That’s very cool that you and your son have written a cookbook to address eating routines. I hope you will enjoy some added customer traffic once this posts. 🙂 In my own situation, I tend to get stuck on one thing. Part of it, I suspect, is my poor planning. I am happy enough to make a big batch of whatever on a Friday and eat it for every meal all weekend. I have so little cognitive energy available to me after a long day of work that my food choices are often dictated by ease and efficiency more than, admittedly, good nutrition and health. I think you have targeted a great niche for us and I salute you and your son. Thanks so much for writing and best wishes to both of you and all who love you. Kara

      Comment by karaswanson — August 28, 2016 @ 9:52 am | Reply

      • Thanks so much for your encouragement Kara, I liked your term “cognitive energy”. I became aware early on that my son’s cognitive energy would go into what we would call “melt down” and that when meltdown happened then small amounts of food could make a huge difference. It reminded me of the sort of situation you can get when a diabetic runs out of glucose except it happened with cognitive functioning. I wonder if keeping cognitive energy levels steady is an issue for people who have experienced a TBI. I’m keeping my eye on the issue.
        You’re doing great work.

        Comment by Jenny McClure — August 29, 2016 @ 2:34 am

  2. Thank you, Kara, for encouraging routine!
    Oh my goodness, reading your blog posts has given me so much hope, as a TBI survivor!.
    Your posts are great! 🙂

    Comment by Charlotte Crownell — July 11, 2017 @ 11:35 am | Reply

    • Hey, Charlotte, welcome!!! Thanks so much for the kind words. Made my day. Best wishes to you. :)) Kara

      Comment by karaswanson — July 12, 2017 @ 6:41 am | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: