A gradual return to regular activities can help speed up recovery. Most individuals will not be completely symptom-free immediately when reinitiating activities and may experience some discomfort. If symptoms do not significantly worsen, then the patient is encouraged to increase the duration and/or intensity of that activity. If symptoms worsen significantly, it will be necessary to slow down the gradual return to activities.
Returning to Activities
Symptoms can interfere with one’s ability to complete their daily activities, job, or schooling. It is important to take good care of oneself and manage symptoms such as headache, dizziness, fatigue, and mood problems.
Following a concussion, it may be necessary to take a day or two off from work or school before returning. Sometimes, gradually returning to work or school may begin with half-days or part-time hours. Returning to school or work 100% symptom-free is not necessary, although it will be important to slowly increase the workload.
What can I do to help the adjustment back to activities, school, and/or work?
- Return to work and school gradually. If possible, cutting back initially on work and school duties will be helpful for symptom management. Slowly increase hours as tolerated.
- Allow for built-in breaks to manage fatigue which can interfere with concentration, mood, and stress. Use an alarm on a phone as a reminder to take a break before even beginning to experience symptoms.
- It is possible that there could be some mild changes in some thinking skills immediately following the concussion and it may take some extra time to complete work. Using strategies to help concentrate and remember can be beneficial.
- Use a calendar or notebook to write things down.
- Keep things like keys, wallet, glasses, and phone in the same place so you do not forget where you put them.
- Work in a distraction-free, quiet area.
- Do one thing at a time; do not try to multitask.
- Break down larger tasks into smaller, more manageable tasks.
- Use routines; when adding a new daily task, like a new medication you need to take, pair it with an existing routine, like brushing your teeth or making coffee.
- Keep stress levels low. Increased stress may worsen symptoms.
- Use simple relaxation tasks, such as stretching, yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, meditation, or deep breathing exercises.
- There are multiple smartphone apps that can be useful to help with stress reduction, including Breathe2Relax and Calm.
Ask for help
- Notify the school regarding the injury as soon as possible. Most schools have a policy or procedure in place to help students recovering from concussions succeed when they return to school.
- College or university students may have available services through the school to support students who have experienced concussions until their symptoms improve.
- Speak with the employer about returning to work. It is important to keep the employer informed if experiencing difficulty with the return to work. Some workplaces have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which can provide support and counseling services.