22 tips for looking after your brain health The COVID-19 pandemic has been tough on everyone. And recent consumer research has revealed that the general public may be struggling with fatigue, brain fog and feeling flat as we emerge from the pandemic, and that includes those living with long covid or complications because of being hospitalised with COVID‐19. Survivors of encephalitis know all about challenges such as these as the result of living with an acquired brain injury: fatigue, cognitive problems, issues with memory, changes in one’s sense of self, challenges in returning to work and education. So, we asked our members what they would say to someone who was asking for advice about looking after their brain health. Thank you to everyone who shared their advice! 1/ For me, on reflection, one is patience. Life will improve but not as quickly as you might hope. And another is to readily accept the help and support of your family and those closest to you. At the time I was recovering from my illness, this was an enormous benefit. 2/ ‘That’s ok to feel upset about that. That’s ok to feel like that under the circumstances. It’s ok to give yourself permission to be sad. That’s ok if you can no longer do that. It’s ok to be happy too.’ 3/ Focus and Desire. My absolute desire was to ride my surfboard again with the ability I had prior to my illness! And Yes! I’m back out in the ocean every day! 4/ I have physical limitations from the ABI incurred during my battle with encephalitis. I have started finding ways to do things I enjoy by modifying them to fit my limitations. It keeps my brain busy and helps me focus. 5/ You are stronger than you know. Sleep when you need to and rest your body. Cry when you need to. Be kind to yourself. There will be good and bad days - don’t put too much pressure on yourself. If you can manage to do one thing each day, then that’s an achievement. 6/ One thing that I found very helpful when it came to improving my mental health was to write. Write about anything. The bad, the good, the ugly, the elated, just all of it. Looking down on paper of all the symptoms, and mostly how much you’ve gone through, can show you how strong you are. 7/ Try a new hobby or do that one thing you always thought about doing but never got the chance to actually do it. It may not cure your mental illness, but it’s a quick way to distract yourself from the darkness. 8/ Watch a comedy show! Laughter gets you smiling and the more you smile, the more it lifts your mood. 9/ Don't be afraid to ask for help and don't feel embarrassed for needing that help. I'm quite a stubborn person and I tried to do things by myself and I realised that my family are there to support me and help when I needed it. 10/ Find one thing to be grateful for everyday. 11/ Meditation. Start small, even if it’s just two minutes at the beginning. Stay consistent and gradually increase. 12/ Pace yourself to avoid a ‘boom and bust’ cycle. But don't be self-critical when it goes a bit wrong: concentrate on the things you've achieved, even if that's only getting out of bed!' 13/ Recovering from encephalitis made me realise just how important life away from work is! I don’t remember days at work as much as an amazing time with friends and family. Make time for them as much as possible. 14/ Make time for yourself away from work, plan something that you look forward to into your week as a little checkpoint, whether that’s exercise, reading a book, date night or going for a walk. Seems like a little win in the week! 15/ To do lists. I often felt bogged down and overwhelmed during my recovery. Giving myself a to do list and checking things off as I do them feel good and on top of things. 16/ Definitely try listening to music - it is one of the most effortless activities in the early stages of the brain’s recovery. Listening to favourite songs from the past stopped me from feeling depressed, as I’d pleasantly surprise myself by even remembering some of the lyrics. 17/ Take each day as a new day. Listen to your body and rest when it tells you to. Find something that brings you joy. I painted and it got me through some hard times. It was my way of expressing what I was going through. 18/ Take small steps moving forward, improvements will be small, I found looking back six months or a year to see how far I had come. Also, focus on the things you can do not the things you can't - be kind to yourself 19/ Work hard on your personal development daily, focus your daily environment with positive things, it took me years to stop asking myself why did encephalitis happen to me, I’m now in such a positive place emotionally because I control my thoughts 20/ Something that immediately comes to mind for me is my Herbalist of twenty years saying: ‘the most important thing you need now and will help you the most is patience and kindness’. This was something that I had to learn to for myself as well as hope to receive it from others. 21/ It’s okay to have a good cry! But try not to get stuck there for too long. Feel all the feels and make a plan on how you can best move forward 22/It’s not one thing but a combination of things that help me in tough times. It’s good to have lots to choose from as you can pick what feels right at the time. And yes, we forget, but if you have lots of tools in your toolbox, one of them is likely to resurface when you feel your mental health taking a turn.