I love it when I am in a reflective place where I am appreciating how my life has improved during the year.
I was thinking about that improvement this morning. I was heading out for my walk and I was cued by seeing my sun block so that I could use it BEFORE I started my walk. I have consciously looked for, and found, a place to put my sun block so that I see it on my way out the door. When I see it, I am reminded to put it on. The “cue” — seeing my sun block on my way out the door — means that I can get the sequence right (put sun block on before walk). The cue frees me up so that I am more likely to get sun block on either because I remember to do so (sometimes) or because I am cued to remember it. Either way, my life is better with the sun block on for my walk, and because I am training my brain about the sequence.
As I was putting on the sunblock this morning, I remembered what the pattern was like on my almost-daily walk in Arlington, Virginia before we moved to Austin, Texas. I would often have already passed by several houses when I realized I did not have sun block on, if I realized it at all. So I noticed that and tried to improve upon that. And over the years, I have. In Texas, wearing sun block is much more important than in Virginia because the sun is so much more intense here. And I have made alot of progress on getting it on.
Like I have said, small things make big differences in my world.
I realized the other day after I posted on reflecting about my “rehab” accomplishments, that I had a lot more to say about the improvements that I have had this year in the continued “re-training” my brain department.
Why do I need to re-train my brain still? Because I have persistent symptoms from my concussion/mild traumatic brain injury that I am still working a way on and, in working on them, I am improving my quality of life and functionality. The kinds of persistent symptoms that I am working on are mostly in the executive functioning category. What is executive functioning? My non-technical definition of executive functioning is the more advanced brain functions like getting a process in sequence, getting things done in a certain time, determining what activity has priority over the others and accomplishing it, getting more than one thing to happen by a certain time and taking in new information into the process. I will have to look up the more technical definition in a future post, but that is the working definition that I remember from my formal rehabilitation.
What I have learned is that the more often I can combine rewiring activities with another activity that I am already doing during my day, the better. That way, I don’t have to find separate, extra time in my day to do the rewiring work. Since I have to do the activity anyway, if I can work on rewiring at the same time, then the rewiring work will be done on a regular basis. And the more I practice, the more I train my brain with the new habit.
The trick is that I often have to be conscious that I am doing a training activity — and that means doing it more purposefully to imprint it on my brain. Doing an activity more purposely, sometimes can mean doing it slower. I remind myself that I am training my brain the way I want it to work in the future and that slower will make it better in the long run. (No multi-tasking allowed!)
Raising my son is the best example of a daily life activity that has also pushed me along in my rewiring. As a mom, I have to think ahead — so that exercises my planning skills. I have to think ahead about how to direct him and focus him on what he needs to know about and learn. And I have to look for effective ways to encourage behaviors in him that are good for him and away from behaviors that are unsafe or are not age appropriate or that I don’t want to encourage.
My doctors have been very encouraging that I am at the point in my recovery where taking care of a child is beneficial to me. There definitely was a long period where I couldn’t even take care of myself, much less another. I have had a lot of help on learning about child raising and have been taught how to build a support system around doing it. But my point in this blog post is that raising my child is rewiring that is mostly fun to do and that I am able to take advantage of during my day.
My son is 5 years old and thriving in his preschool class. He’s doing well, loves school and loves his friends and family. His progress is amazing. And when I reflect on my accomplishments this year in my rewiring, I can count the progress in his growth and development as rewiring work and progress for me also.
If you would like to read ahead about motherhood and my injury: