Practical Tips for Overcoming Chemobrain: Part 2
In Practical Tips for Overcoming Chemobrain: Part 1, Dusty talks about harnessing brainpower to improving memory and manage chemobrain.
“When we talk about improving memory, we’re talking about prospective memory,” says Dr. Pollard. “If you’ve ever written a grocery list and went to the store and realized your grocery list is on the refrigerator, you forgot to remember to remember. Hansel and Gretel were going through the forest and didn’t want to get lost, so they left themselves some breadcrumbs. Your brain is a giant forest of neurons. If you want to get better at remembering things, leave yourself breadcrumbs to follow to be able to retrieve that information later.”
Focus on strengths and acknowledge weaknesses
Dr. Pollard suggests we focus on our strengths and acknowledge our weaknesses.
“We all have innate strengths and weaknesses -- even through chemobrain,” she says. “If we can identify our strengths, we can work with our brains a little differently so that we become a little more efficient and a little less stressed.
“When I ask the question, ‘Who is bad at remembering names?’ Inevitably almost every hand in the room goes up. If almost everyone feels that they are bad at remembering names, do you think that we’re all bad at it...or maybe that’s just normal. Your brain was not designed to remember names. Your brain was designed to remember information that has meaning to you. Names, by themselves, are just a collection of sounds. They don’t have meaning until you assign meaning to them, because that person is important to you in some way.”
Try repeating what you want to remember out loud
The fact that we forget names is normal -- not bad. Yet, if we want to get better at remembering names, we must apply ourselves and work at it. One way to apply yourself to remember a new name is when you meet someone for the first time say their name out loud, repeatedly.
“For example, when you are first introduced, greet the person, state their name, then ask a short question, repeating their name. When they answer, mention something such as, ‘It was nice meeting you,’ again, tagging their name to the sentence. Like this:
“Hi, Hanna, it’s nice to meet you. What kind of work do you do, Hanna?”
“I work for a lung cancer organization,” Hanna says.
“That’s wonderful! It was very good to meet you, Hanna.”
Set realistic goals for yourself
Another suggestion to improve name memory is to make it a priority, Dr. Pollard says. Make realistic goals. Don’t expect to walk into a crowded room and remember everyone’s name.
“Maybe you can learn one person’s name. Then build on that. You can get better if you try. Just make a conscious effort.”
Improving executive functioning and time management
Do you want to procrastinate less? Do you want to cross more things off your To-Do list? First consider, why you want to do this and how that is going to improve your life. For some, being efficient and productive relieves stress and makes for a better quality of life.
To improve time management, we first must realistically understand how we currently are spending our time. One way to do that is to keep a journal of our time and activities.
Read the continuation in Practical Tips for Overcoming Chemobrain: Part 3.
Do you find that staying zen through your lung cancer diagnosis has helped you in your journey?