Useful tools or symptom inducers? On using smartphones when you have a brain injury

BY: BLUE HELMET GIRL

I had my accident in July 2015, right in the middle of the smartphone era. About a month after my TBI, I was in the hospital and I got my phone back for the first time. I tried to reply to a text. It didn’t work. My brain tried to tell my fingers to type, but nothing happened. The connection was lost.

Four years later, the connection is back. And now, I rely on my smartphone more than ever for certain things. There are so many pros with smartphones when dealing with a brain injury, but there are also cons.

smart phone with image of devil horns "OR" and angel halo

Pros:

  • Calendar: Having a calendar app on my phone is what I rely on the most. My app can set reminders for events. I have inconsistent appointments, so I set the event to remind me the day before. Also, having your schedule with you is helpful for planning stuff on the go.
    • App I use: iCal
  • Reminders: If I remember I need to pay a bill but I’m away from home, right away I put it in my reminders app. If I don’t do this, I will forget it by the time I get home. I set reminders at a specific time that I know I will be available to do this task.
    • App I use: Reminders (iPhone)
  • Medication Reminders: Sometimes I’m in a rush and forget to take my meds. Every day, I’ll get a reminder at the same time. If I forget to take it, I can use one of the extras I carry with me when I’m out.
    • App I use: Pill Reminder
  • Headache Tracker: I find tracking headache symptoms on the go helpful, rather than trying to remember how I felt the next day. It’s not ideal to be looking at a screen with a headache, but it can pay off to notice patterns with symptoms.
    • App I use: Headache Diary Pro
  • Step counter: Monitoring my steps throughout the day is helpful for my energy levels. When I reach 10,000 steps, I know it’s time to rest or I will burn out.
    • App I use: Health (iPhone)

Cons:

  • Blue light: That nasty blue light on your phone is the worst for your eyes and can be a nightmare when you have a headache. For me, I find it drains my energy if I look at it too long.
  • Social media (energy): I can get into a deep Internet hole with social media accessible at any time. I set myself daily limits and when I reach them certain apps will lock.
  • Social media (emotional): Seeing friends living their best lives while I’m at home on the couch sucks. This can be detrimental for a person’s mental health, especially if their injury prevents them from doing certain activities.

In conclusion, there are a lot more pros than cons to my smartphone usage. There aren’t many cons, but those that exist can be significant.  All one has to do is find strategies to deal with the cons so that the pros can be enjoyed. In a way, we are lucky to have smartphones to help us deal with our injuries, and make life a bit easier.


The Blue Helmet Girl is a woman in her mid-twenties who acquired a TBI 4 years ago, and after 3 open head surgeries, has recovered remarkably. With a high level of organization skills and self-awareness, she hopes to help others by sharing her unique story and strategies. In her spare time, you can find her hanging out with her dog, taking pictures or writing in her journal.

Follow her on Twitter @theBHjourney, on Instagram @bluehelmetjourney or www.thebluehelmetjourney.com

 

 

 

 

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10 things you need to know about traveling with a brain injury

BY: BLUE HELMET GIRL

My first big trip after my TBI was three years post accident, and I was terrified. Traveling is exhausting for a person without a brain injury, so it’s ten times more exhausting for someone with one. Dealing with symptoms of a brain injury is all about finding what strategies work for you.

Last spring, I traveled to Portugal and Spain for a total of 14 days and it was one of the best trips I’ve ever been on. It was my first time in Europe and I learned a lot traveling to there with a brain injury. Here are the ten biggest things I learned from this trip.

Author looking at ocean view on rocks

1. Plan

Planning your itinerary before the trip is the number one advice I have. Spacing out activities is helpful so you have time to rest. Maybe plan nothing for the day you get in and something easy for the next day. Take it easy at the start so you can adjust to jet lag. No matter where you are, your vacation does not need to be fast paced.

2. Spend on comfort – you’re worth it:

  • Buy the extra legroom on the plane. Long flights suck for anyone, the extra few bucks for that comfort for seven, eight or even 12 hours is the one thing I wouldn’t go without.
  • Stay in a hotel. Having a quiet room is a must have for rests when traveling.
  • Buy first class train tickets. Trains in Europe are extremely bumpy and horrible for someone with motion sickness. Spend the extra 20 euros and get a seat in a first class car. Your ride will be so smooth you won’t even know you’re on a train.
  • Public transportation drains a lot of energy for me. Cabs in Europe are inexpensive, easily accessible and they’re everywhere on city streets. So avoid the mental drain of subways, streetcars and busses by opting for a cab instead.

3. Tours:

Private tours are a good option for someone traveling with a brain injury. It’s more intimate and the less people around the better. Half-day tours are also an option.

4. Flying:

My best advice is a good pair of noise canceling headphones and an eye mask. Also avoid alcohol on the plane.

5. Breaks:

Jet lag is the worst! Having never traveled to a time difference of longer than two hours, the six-hour difference will affect anyone. As mentioned in tip #1, plan breaks into your trip. Every day I had two or three breaks and some included a nap.

6. Alcohol:

Depending on where you travel, alcohol will be different than what you’re used to, if you drink. For example, wine is a lot stronger in Europe. In Portugal, the minimum alcohol percentage in wine is 23 per cent. I’m not a big drinker, but on vacation it’s hard to say no to Portuguese or Spanish wine. For some reason I was never hungover after a glass of wine with dinner. If I have a glass of 12 per cent wine in North America, I’m hungover for a few days. In Europe, I woke up feeling fine. But everyone is different, so if you choose to drink, pace yourself and know your limits!

7. Coffee:

The coffee is Europe is also a lot stronger than North America. Instead of a mug of coffee, they’ll give you an espresso shot by default, which packs a massive punch. My first cup had me shaking for half a day. Start slow with it if you’re not used to espresso.

8. Walking:

Having never been to Europe, the last thing I was thinking about was the cobble stone sidewalks. I didn’t realized how slippery they would be, and as a result, I was constantly looking down and focusing on not slipping. What helped was a good pair of running shoes and not rushing around. You can’t change the way the sidewalks are built, so just take your time.

9. Communicate with your travel companion:

Make sure to travel with someone you trust and who knows your situation. You need to communicate with them when you need a rest.

10. Water, water & lots of water!

Seriously, I can’t stress this enough: drink lots of water.

Traveling with a brain injury doesn’t need to be a scary thing. If you plan for it, take your time and rest you’ll be able to relax and enjoy the full experience. I never thought I’d be able to travel and now I’m already planning my next vacation!


The Blue Helmet Girl is a woman in her mid-twenties who acquired a TBI three years ago, and after three open head surgeries, has recovered remarkably. With a high level of organization skills and self-awareness, she hopes to help others by sharing her unique story and strategies. In her spare time, you can find her hanging out with her dog, taking pictures or writing in her journal.
Follow her on Twitter @theBHjourney, on Instagram @bluehelmetjourney or www.thebluehelmetjourney.com