Colleen Butler, author of "Concussion Recovery: Rebuilding the Injured Brain," is offering practical advice to help with the recovery from brain injury.

We hope you find this Q&A helpful, and we look forward to hearing from you. If you have a question or comment, we want to hear from you at

I have slipped a bit in my humble estimation and I would like to know how to help maintain progress and achieve. — John

Dear John,

A problem for recovering ABIs and TBIs is that we are often in denial of how poorly we are functioning. I knew instinctively something was wrong, I was not functioning well, yet I never accepted how bad I was until I reached a new level in my recovery.

John, when you come to the realization that you have slipped, perhaps you have not slipped at all, but are ready for the next step. From personal experience and talking with other ABI people, we do make incremental progress, in which increasing levels of clarity return to us, getting us out of “the fog” yet not fully participating in life.

Our progress often presents itself as steps with plateaus, where at times it feels like we are making minimal progress, then one day we take a giant step forward and remain on a plateau, until we are ready to remove another layer of “the fog.”

In short, what I am saying is you most likely have not slipped at all but are ready for the next level of rebuilding. Congratulate yourself on having another level of awareness. Each time you get stressed, you put obstacles in the reconnection of the neurons, your message centers — slowing the rebuilding of your brain.

To help you, keep a daily record of the things you are most proud of and celebrate the positive. Try listing three things that you would like to achieve within three months or any time frame you select, place it in a sealed envelope, date it and put it away. You may be surprised when you open it later to find where you have come from and where you are now. Progress will be slow if you keep stress in your life, your sleep is poor and your supplements and nutrition have not been kept up.

Be kind and be gentle to yourself, the healing of an injury has a journey of its own. Enjoy the journey, and you will get better

The Brain Navigator

When I was really exhausted, I didn't understand it was brain fatigue and how hard my brain was working to process everything. I underestimated the value of a good night's sleep, naps and nutrition. Can you explain to others so they can get on the train of recovery too? — Past student Barb


Thanks for sharing your insight.

The more stress we put on ourselves, the less we can progress. Stress puts us into a constant state of fight and flight, producing too much cortisol, which is unhealthy for our bodies, affecting our ability to reason or solve issues well. Everyone has a different stress level and stress triggers. What causes stress to me may not cause stress in others. Stress is an internal illusion/emotion, and it is critical to learn how to deal with your own stress.

Sleep for recovery is essential. Scientists believe our brains are actually more active at night than during the day so it is always important to go to sleep with good thoughts so we can help rebuild our brains with healthy thoughts and wake up refreshed and happy. We do know that the repair of the brain is done in the fourth REM state. In the July issue, we had some advice on sleep you may want to review.

With an injury to the brain, the brain has become scrambled and is looking for new pathways to communicate and connect with other parts of the body. In addition to finding new pathways and rerouting we also produce different chemicals or hormones in the body which are often jumbled as well.

We have our own chemical factory right in the center of our brain and only about the size of a large bean. We produce many different chemicals known as hormones. The serotonin is our happy hormone, which affects our production of melatonin, the hormone which helps us sleep as well as affects our digestive system. This is why, as we rebuild our brain, we must focus on being stress-free as much as possible, and on getting good sleep and proper nutrition so the brain has the right ingredients to rebuild.

When a brain has been injured, it must work hard at the simplest of tasks that were learned since birth. Connections have been disrupted and now must find a new route. Imagine traffic congestion: You can both sit and wait for the traffic to clear, or you can take a detour. Each day you try something new, your brain takes a detour and figures out new pathways.

Having to make long detours can be exhausting, and getting tired is your brain’s way of saying “Hey! I’ve worked enough — I need a break.” Take a nap and see how much better you feel and how much easier the tasks become.

If we put the wrong fuel in our motor vehicles, the vehicle will not run. Our brains are the motherboards of our body and tell us how we feel and function. If our brains have been stressed and are making new connections, we need to ensure they have the right fuel to work on. Lots of minerals, vitamins and digestive enzymes are essential to rebuild.

If we fail in providing the right nutrients, the brain will take what it needs from other parts of the body, i.e. our teeth and bones. It may take five years to manifest but expect the bills to start rolling in for cracked teeth, digestive, joint and bone issues. I am not aware of any studies done in this field, but a number of survivors have said this is a common side effect for ABI/TBI that has gone undetected.

As you are healing your brain remember:

  • More stress, less progress
  • Sleep deep, try a dark room
  • If it's white, don’t bite
  • Naps are good to rest the brain

The Brain Navigator

Did you know?

  • Our brain is more powerful than a computer
  • Human brain can generate thousands of new brain cells daily
  • The number of brain cells in a brain is 167 times the number of people on the planet
  • Our brain has100,000 miles of blood vessels tucked under our skulls
  • Messages within the brain fire at 260 mph
  • We have over 100 billion nerve cells with 100 trillion connections in our brain

Our next issue: How do I improve my diet for optimum healing?