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How To Get Out Of Your Own Way So Your Brain Can Recover From A Concussion: 12 Tips to Maximize Healing

How To Get Out Of Your Own Way So Your Brain Can Recover From A Concussion: 12 Tips to Maximize Healing

It happens so fast; One minute, you’re a competent, active person expertly juggling the demands of work and home life while squeezing in time for favorite activities and friends.Then life socks you in the head—literally. Maybe you got your concussion, or MTBI (mild traumatic brain injury) from a sport; Maybe from a car accident; Or you slipped on the ice or tripped over your child’s toy truck. There are a million ways to hit your head, and while some lucky folks heal quickly, for many others, the road to recovery is long.The symptoms are brutal–dizziness, nausea, extreme fatigue, headaches, noise and light sensitivity, lapses in cognitive function, anxiety to the point of paranoia, insomnia, and depression, among others. It feels as though your brain has suddenly walked off the job of thinking, sensory processing, and emotional regulation. Just helping your body with its basic functions is what your brain can handle right now–nothing more.

Unfortunately, as you may already have figured out, current treatment for concussion amounts to waiting it out while your brain heals itself–which it will do. New research in neuroplasticity has shown that adult brains are capable of regeneration, essentially building new neural pathways after injury or age-related damage. (Check out Norman Doidge’s excellent The Brain’s Way of Healing for more on the emerging good news on neuroplasticity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2c5aTlq3nYI)

Getting out of your brain’s way and not worrying about its ability to get better is the true challenge of the concussion survivor. Not providing it with the conditions it needs to heal can stall or even reverse the healing trajectory.Here are some of the empowering things I did for myself during my own concussion recovery. Please note that they are intended not as a substitute for medical advice, but as a complement to it:

  1. Cocoon Yourself

    Sensory overload via light and noise sensitivity is one of the hallmarks of the post-concussion period. Invest in a pair of dark glasses that block bright light from the front and sides, along with a pair of earplugs to tone down the noise. Doing this will allow you to engage with the world at a level your brain will be comfortable with, instead of not going out at all, an isolating move that can bring on depression. Don’t be afraid to look weird: I once attended a loud and brightly-lit YukYuk’s comedy show with dark glasses and earplugs—that dose of laughter was therapeutic and worth the modification.

  2. Find a Health Care Provider Who Will Make an ImPACT

    Many sports medicine doctors are now using a computerized brain function test called ImPACT which allows them to pinpoint the area of your brain affected by concussion. This will allow them to determine the best course of treatment for you; some of these health care professionals work in tandem with physiotherapists and OT’s with specialization in post-concussion treatments like vestibular rehabilitation. My own ImPACT test was not covered by my health plan, but at $100, I considered it well worth the cost and the connection with a concussion clinic where I received excellent personalized care and support in the nine months following my injury.

  3. Nurture Yourself

    Do something relaxing and/or nurturing for yourself every day. These don’t have to cost money. Some suggestions: I wrote down and taped positive words around my house that reflected the qualities I wanted in my life: “healing,” “perspective,” “rest,” and “calm.” If massage isn’t covered by your health plan, try to find a massage training program; the one in my city offered $20 student sessions. Or ask a loved one to rub your back or feet.

  4. Reach Out to Sources of Help

    Many friends and family members are concerned about you, but may not know what to do to help. Figuring out what we can manage and knowing when we are becoming overwhelmed is one of the valuable lessons of a concussion. If cooking and housework are taxing you right now, ask your friends for help, perhaps via a free online scheduling tool like Take Them A Meal (https://www.takethemameal.com) to make sure you’re getting fed. Child care and grocery shopping can also be triggers for the noise and light sensitive: set up a schedule of respite care for yourself and dedicate more quiet healing time to your hurting brain.

  5. Keep Track Of Symptoms Using A Spreadsheet

    A simple, cost-free move that allows you to be your own health coach, a daily five-minute routine of tallying up the number and type of symptoms you experienced that day will illustrate the trajectory of your healing, plotting it on a graph. If you’re not familiar with programs like Microsoft Excel, now’s the time to ask a tech-savvy friend or neighbour to set you up, or opt for an app like Symple that converts your phone into a health tracking device. However you choose to keep track of symptoms, it’s a good idea to note the sources of stress in your life that can precipitate bad moments— keep a journal of experiences in tandem with the symptom chart, giving a complete picture of your recovery. As you pursue your charting, you will notice that while the symptom trend is usually downward (yay!), there will be days and weeks when symptoms increase before declining again. Keeping an eye on the big picture is an affirming practice on days when you feel you’ve slipped backward.

  6. Find Your Groove Again With NIA

    NIA (short for neuromuscular integrative action) is a magical hybrid of dance, contemplation, and martial arts. Borrowing from a broad cross-section of disciplines, from yoga to Aikido to Latin dance, NIA nourishes the body and mind with gentle, restorative movement at all stages of the life cycle. Recently, NIA has used as a therapeutic modality for Parkinson’s patients, who exhibit many of the same symptoms as concussion sufferers. (see http://journals.lww.com/neurologynow/Fulltext/2013/09020/This_Way_In__Nia_for_Parkinson_s_Disease.21.aspx) The aerobic component of NIA—the part that gets you to break a sweat—also helps curb anxiety and depression.

  7. Ban the Screen

    This is a tough one for inhabitants of a wired world, but dramatically reducing or eliminating all screen time during the acute phase of recovery is essential to recovery. In my own case, scrolling through emails brought on nausea and dizziness so severe I had to stop and lie down after 20 minutes, while watching TV shows and movies that featured quick action sequences, or any kind of violence was emotionally overwhelming. In the weeks and months following your injury, you can gradually reintroduce screen time, setting a limit of 15 or 20 minutes per day (use the timer function on your phone to keep yourself honest). Binging on the screen can set back your recovery. Tell friends that you’re not going to be messaging for a while; use your phone for real chatting rather than the virtual kind.

  8. Listen–Don’t Read

    The same text that gave you headaches on a screen may be doing the same thing to you on the printed page. Book lovers need not despair, though. Ask for audiobooks at your local library—I found the kind folks at the information desk were more than happy to make suggestions when I asked for something light and funny that would distract me from aggravating symptoms. If you’re not and about yet, try YouTube for your favorite books read aloud. Or put out a call on Facebook for your friends’ favorite podcasts. Let someone else do the reading for you—you’ll still be getting your word fix, just in a different format, for now.

  9. Lie Down

    Listen to your body when it asks for rest; it’s responding to the brain’s cues for what it needs. Be aware that it may do this many times a day. Even 10-15 minutes of lying down will help the feelings of extreme fatigue that come along with concussion recovery.

  10. Live in the Moment

    Leaves waving on the tree outside your window and the birds that visit; the sound of your child laughing; the smell of soup warming on the stove. Those with a meditation practice will be good at this. The power of living in the moment can be healing.

  11. Steal Your Kid’s Wii

    The Wii balance board accessory can be used as a therapy tool for those with vestibular issues. Playing some of Wii’s balance games as part of my treatment was a heck of a lot more fun than just walking a taped-on straight line week after week at the clinic. Focusing on the game actually can help your brain strengthen its vestibular function. You’ll likely feel tired afterward so be sure to allow time for rest.

  12. Stop Giving a F**k about Everything

    High-powered individuals, those multitasking wizards who are used to doing lots are often the ones with the longest recovery times, according to the wise physio who ran the concussion clinic I attended. We are the ones who seem unable to go easy on ourselves, even when we’re sick, and push ourselves to keep going. We’ve done this our whole lives, so it feels natural and part of who we are. Unfortunately, this pushing slows down our healing. Remember that concussion is unlike all other injuries; a hurt brain is not a head cold we’re going to work through in a few days. In this regard, Type A’s have something to learn from couch potatoes. We need to care less, allow more to slide by, and delegate more to others. My own concussion taught me that we deceive ourselves in thinking that our world won’t function without us. Learning to not give a f**k as part of one’s medical treatment can be amazingly liberating! For suggestions on how to get started, get someone to read you selections from Mark Manson’s excellent The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck. You’ll be glad you did.

Having a concussion can be a life-changing experience. The good news? Many of the changes you make to accommodate your brain in its recovery are also great life tools that once mastered, will improve your post-recovery in the long run. Giving yourself permission to heal may be the most powerful tool of all.

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Bio: Elizabeth Peirce writes books about how busy people can grow, prepare and preserve their own food. Exhausted parents get extra empathy at her blog, C.O.O.K. (https://creativeorganiconlinekitchen.com) along with recipes, how-to’s, and book links.

Featured photo credit: Eflon via imcreator.com

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How To Get Out Of Your Own Way So Your Brain Can Recover From A Concussion: 12 Tips to Maximize Healing

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Last Updated on July 11, 2019

10 Best Brain Power Supplements That Will Supercharge Your Mind

10 Best Brain Power Supplements That Will Supercharge Your Mind

If you have watched movies like Limitless[1] (both the movie and television series) and Lucy,[2] then you have likely come across smart drugs or nootropics. In the movie Limitless, you are introduced to NZT-48 (known as MDT-48 in the book The Dark Fields), which grants heightened intellectual abilities allowing one to pattern-match at lighting speed.

In the movie Lucy, you are introduced to the drug CPH4, which is actually based on a molecule that a pregnant woman produces after six weeks of pregnancy. The director of Lucy, Luc Besson, remarked,[3]

“But it’s totally real, and it’s true that the power of this product for a baby is the power of an atomic bomb. It’s real. It’s totally real. So its not a drug in fact, it’s a natural molecule that pregnant women produce.”

NZT-48 is fictional and CPH4 is a fictional drug based on a real substance. So, are there any real life smart drugs or brain boosters similar to either fictional drug? The answer is no. But powerful cognitive enhancing drugs do exist. And they are Nootropics.

Nootropics

Nootropics was coined by Romanian psychologist Corneliu E. Giurgea in 1972. The etymology of the word is nous or mind and trepein or to bend.[4] According to Smart Drug Smarts, nootropics is an umbrella term for a class of chemicals, some naturally-occurring and some man-made, that give cognitive benefits to the human brain. To be a nootropic, Giurgea found that the substance must meet five specific criteria:[5]

  1. Enhance memory and ability to learn.
  2. Help the brain function under disruptive conditions.
  3. Protect the brain from chemical and physical assaults.
  4. Increase the efficacy of neuronal firing control mechanisms.
  5. Possess few or no side effects and be virtually non-toxic.

Let’s now examine the 10 best brain power supplements that will supercharge your mind and 4 bonus tips (in no particular order – meaning #1 is not better than #2 nor #10). Very few of the brain boosters listed can be purchased in a local brick and mortar store.

For most, you will have to place an order online. However, be extremely cautious and diligently research each prior to ordering.

For a more detailed breakdown of each brain booster in the form of a wiki, I recommend visiting the website BrainTropic[6]. I will provide a summary for each smart drug below. Summaries will be from BrainTropic unless otherwise stated. In addition, visit my website (you can find the link in my bio) as I regularly write and provide advice on nootropics.

*Some of the supplements listed require a prescription and could be harmful. Consult with your doctor before consumption.

1. Qualia Mind

Qualia Mind is an extremely powerful smart drug created by Neurohacker packed with a variety of nootropics. It is a multi-nootropic leading to potential neurochemical and physiological enhancements.

Qualia Mind is specifically designed to lift brain fog, amplify willpower, upgrade energy, heighten creativity, and promote mental clarity. No prescription is required.

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Side effects: headaches, sleep disturbance, muscle tightness, and upset stomach.

Summary
  • Type: Multi-Nootropic (crucial ingredients include: Acetyl-L-Carnitine, DL-Phenylalanine, N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine, Taurine, L-Theanine, Alpha GPC, Citicoline, Anhydrous Caffeine, Huperzine A, and more)
  • Good for: Energy, Focus, Learning, Memory, Motivation, and Physical Performance
  • Typical Dose: 7 capsules per day (maximum of 12)
  • Half-life: 4-6 hours

You can learn more about Qualia Mind in Neurohacker.

2. Modafinil

Modafinil is a stimulant to treat narcolepsy and has been shown to enhance our cognitive functions. Sold under the names Vigil, Nuvigil or Provigil, has became one of the most popular cognitive enhancing drugs on the market.

Bio-hacker and founder of Bulletproof Coffee, Dave Asprey, is just one of many advocating the drug. Some think Modafinil inspired the movie Limitless. For more on this discussion, read I Spent a Week on Nuvigil, the Drug From ‘Limitless’ and Modafinil: My Experience with the Real Life Limitless Pill by Joen Rude Falsner. Falsner remarked about Modafinil, it’s “Sort of like a real life pop-up blocker…”

In the US, Modafinil is classified as Schedule IV Controlled Substance and a prescription is required for it. Potential side effects: headache, dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, nervousness, and trouble sleeping.

Bonus Tip: Top Modafinil researchers have found that Modafinil combined with coffee can create a powerful combination.[7]

Summary
  • Type: Stimulant
  • Good for: Energy, Focus, Learning, Memory, Motivation, and Physical Performance
  • Typical Dose: 50-200mg
  • Half-life: 15 hours

3. Adrafinil

Adrafinil is a stimulant that can increase energy and prevent fatigue. It is metabolized and converted into Modafinil. In fact, the effects are similar to Modafinil; however, it is not as strong. No prescription is required for Adrafinil in the US, Canada, or the UK.

Potential side effects: headache, dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, nervousness, and trouble sleeping.

Summary
  • Type: Stimulant
  • Good for: Energy, Focus, Learning, Memory, Motivation, and Physical Performance
  • Typical Dose: 150-600mg
  • Half-life: 1 hour

4. Noopept

According to braintropic.com, Noopept is a powerful synthetic nootropic with cognitive enhancement and neuroprotective properties. It was developed in Russia in the mid-1990s and is used as a prescription treatment for cognitive impairments. Researchers found that, in animal studies, Noopept has been shown to stimulate the expression of two chemicals: Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).[8]

Potential side effects: headaches, restlessness, dizziness, and irritability.

Summary
  • Type: Peptide
  • Good for: Anxiety, Energy, Focus, Learning and Memory
  • Typical Dose: 10-20 mg
  • Half-life: 30-60 minutes

5. Adderall

Adderall is a stimulant used to treat those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Adderall primarily increases the release to two specific neurotransmitters involved with ADHD: dopamine and norepinephrine.

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For an interesting read on what Adderall does to the brain – to include a good discussion of the benefits and side effects of the drug – read What adderall does to your brain by Daniela Hernandez. Similar to Modafinil, some think the movie Limitless was inspired by Adderall.

For more on this discussion, read Limitless: The Brain-Doping Movie We All Know Was Inspired by Adderall and The Drug From Limitless Is Available for Purchase on Your College Campus.

Adderall is considered a Schedule II Controlled Substance and a prescription is required for it. This means anyone caught in possession of it without a prescription could face criminal charges. Potential side effects: irregular heartbeat, paranoia, headaches, restlessness, dizziness, lack of appetite, high risk of dependency, and irritability.

Summary[9]
  • Type: Stimulant
  • Good for: Energy, Focus, Learning, Memory, Motivation, and Physical Performance
  • Typical Dose: 5-40 mg (Adderall XR is 5-60 mg)
  • Half-life: 4-6 hours (Adderall XR is 6-8 hours)

6. Oxiracetam

Oxiracetam was developed in the 1970s and is a synthetic derivative of the original nootropic – Piracetam. However, according to braintropic.com, Oxiracetam is more potent than Piracetam. Oxiracetam has been studied for treatment with those suffering from Alzheimer’s or memory.[10] No prescription is required for Oxiracetam.

Potential side effects: no serious side effects – the most commonly reported side effect is headache.

Summary
  • Type: Ampakine and Racetam
  • Good for: Energy, Focus, Learning and Memory
  • Typical Dose: 400-2400 mg
  • Half-life: 8 hours

7. Bulletproof Coffee

Dave Asprey (also an advocate for Modafinil) is the creator of Bulletproof Coffee. Asprey contends that Bulletproof Coffee is clean and tested for toxins.

However, when you first read about Bulletproof Coffee, you hear about the combination of Butter – Oil – Coffee. That can’t be a good combination, right?

Wrong. It is.

Bulletproof Coffee has been found to help with weight loss, boost cognitive functioning, maintain mental clarity, and decrease brain fog. For more on Bulletproof Coffee, read What It’s Like To Drink Bulletproof Coffee Every Morning For Two Weeks by Chris Gayomali. Potential side effects: restlessness, anxiety, insomnia, and rapid heart rate.

Summary[11]
  • Type: Stimulant
  • Good for: Mental Clarity, Decrease Brain Fog, and Weight Loss
  • Typical Dose: Varies by type of coffee (e.g. Coffee Pods or Brew)
  • Half-life: Varies

8. Cellucor C4 Ultimate

Cellucor C4 Ultimate is a powerful pre workout supplement. It provides an instant cognitive boost so that you can not only get the most out of your exercise training sessions, but also maximize your ability to learn (even during exercise).

C4 Ultimate should be consumed 20-30 minutes prior to training. No prescription is required for C4 Ultimate.

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Potential side effects: insomnia, diarrhea, dehydration, headaches, high blood pressure, and tingly or prickly sensations. To counter these side effects, read Pre-Workout Supplements: 6 Side Effects and How To Avoid Them by Matt Weik.

Summary[12]
  • Type: Pre Workout (crucial ingredients include: Vitamin C, Vitamins B6 and B12, Niacin, Citrulline Malate, Caffeine Anhydrous, Taurine, Beta-Alanine, Creatine Nitrate, and N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine)
  • Good for: Energy, Pumps, Endurance, and Physical Performance
  • Typical Dose: 1 scoop with water
  • Half-life: Varies

You can get Cellucor C4 Ultimate at Cellucor.

9. Piracetam

Piracetam is the first synthetic smart drug developed and is the compound that inspired the term nootropic. It was invented by the same individual who coined the term nootropic – Dr. Giurgea.

According to Brain Tropic, Piracetam works by improving blood flow in the brain, boosts the production of crucial brain chemicals, and increases synaptic plasticity.[13] It requires a prescription in the UK and Australia and cannot be legally marketed in the US as a dietary supplement.

Potential side effects: no serious side effects – the most commonly reported side effect is headache.

Summary
  • Type: Ampakine and Racetam
  • Good for: Learning and Memory
  • Typical Dose: 1600-4800 mg
  • Half-life: 4-5 hours

10. Qualia Focus

Qualia Focus is another product offered by Neurohacker. It too is a multi-nootropic with powerful cognitive enhancements. While it is not as strong as Qualia Mind, it still upgrades your energy, heightens creativity, and promotes mental clarity at a lower cost than Qualia Mind. No prescription is required.

Side effects: headaches, sleep disturbance, muscle tightness, and upset stomach.

Summary
  • Type: Multi-Nootropic (crucial ingredients include: Acetyl-L-Carnitine, DL-Phenylalanine, N-Acetyl L-Tyrosine, Taurine, L-Theanine, Alpha GPC, Citicoline, Coffeeberry Energy, Ginko Biloba Leaf Extract, Huperzine A, and more)
  • Good for: Focus and Concentration, Memory, and Energy
  • Typical Dose: 5 capsules per day (maximum of 9)
  • Half-life: 4-6 hours

You can learn more about Qualia Focus in Neurohacker.

While the brain boosters listed above are not the smart drugs in Limitless or Lucy, they still provide you phenomenal results. To find out which of the 10 are the best for you, I suggest you do the following:

  1. Research each one diligently
  2. Test them out for yourself
  3. Try the following Bonus Tips along with your brain booster. In doing so, you will discover a pop-up blocker for your brain!

Bonus Tips

1. Take antacids to increase potency

To increase the potency of a brain booster, ingest alkaline substances like antacids such as Tums or Alka-Seltzer. Read A Brief Guide to Non-medical Psychostimulant Use for more information.

You should consult with your doctor as there could be serious side effects.

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2. Take on an empty stomach

You should take your brain booster on an empty stomach as this will further potentiate both the duration and effect of the drug. The exceptions are Qualia Mind and Focus. I recommend taking both with food as this will cause an upset stomach.

However, you should consult with your doctor prior to taking any of the brain boosters listed and to identify the proper way to take each.

3. Adderall alarm clock

There is an interesting definition in the crowd-sourced online dictionary Urban Dictionary:[14]

The Adderall Alarm Clock is defined as setting an alarm for an hour before you have to get up; upon waking, roll over and take your prescription stimulant of choice and go back to sleep. In about an hour, you wake up naturally with a smile on your face and a spring in your step.

This actually works. Choose one of your brain boosters and try this out.

However, you should consult with your doctor prior to attempting this as there could be serious side effects.

4. Exercise sparks neurogenesis

Exercise alone will provide similar benefits and could be substituted for any of the brain boosters listed. Exercise plus brain boosters provide even more cognitive enhancing benefits.

One of the most powerful benefits exercise provides is that it sparks the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) which brings about neurogenesis. Neurogenesis is the process by which new neurons are formed in the brain.[15]

Dr. John Ratey discusses both neurogenesis and BDNF at length in his book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. Ratey dubbed BDNF the master molecule and refers to it as “Miracle-Gro for the brain”. Linda Gabriel writes about BDNF in BDNF – Miracle-Gro for the Brain, “BDNF binds to receptors in the synapses between neurons, increasing voltage (yes your brain is electric!), and improving signal strength.”

Featured photo credit: Josh Riemer via unsplash.com

Reference

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