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  • Consult your doctor
    You may need treatment for anemia or depression, both of which can exacerbate or mirror the symptoms of chemo brain. Be sure to describe any abnormalities you are experiencing that could be in whole or in part due to other treatable conditions.

  • Drugs 
    Allow yourself to take medications that can help you, even if you are concerned with long term affects. Once the symptoms of chemo brain diminish over time you can slowly withdraw from the drugs. Possible medications to consider are: 

    • Anti-depressants, enhancing your mood will help you to better cope with the frustrations of the symptoms you are experiencing. 

    • Stimulants, which can help to improve mental focus, concentration and stamina 

  • Sleep
    The recovery process form surgery, radiation and chemotherapy can be legitimately exhausting. You may require extra sleep, which is a key ingredient for clarity of the mind. 

    • If you are not sleeping well at night, ask your doctor for something to help. 

    • If you cannot sleep, relax. 

    • Avoid caffeine and other stimulants in your diet 

    • If you feel the need to sleep in, try to allow yourself to do so when you can. 

    • Napping can really help, especially if you need to function at your best later in the day or evening.

  • Get organized 

    • Making to do lists can really help you stay focused, prioritize and keep track of what you have gotten done. 

    • I keep a small notebook with me at ALL times so I do not have to EVER rely on my memory. 

    • You may prefer to use a palm pilot that can help you with both of the above as well as make it easier for you to have all of your important contact numbers and your calendar with you at all times. 

    • Clean your desk, kitchen, and bedside table. wherever you pile on too much stuff. The condition of your physical space definitely affects your mental space. I clear off my desk at the beginning of my workday. This reminds me of what I need to address today and what I can safely put aside. 

    • Double check. At the beginning or end of the day re-read any logistical arrangements you have made to check for accuracy.

  • Simplify
    You may not think this is possible but I for one have had no choice but to do so. I have not been able to multi-task, or balance too many clients with complicated projects. 

    • Break up complex tasks into simpler manageable actions 

    • I have changed the nature of my business for the time being in several specific ways (see Working Chicks Tips). 

    • My husband and I created a detailed budget so we could determine the bare minimum I needed to contribute to stay solvent for this period of time. We consulted a financial advisor recommended by our clergy who helped us consolidate and make a financial plan based on our current situation 

    • Consider negotiating your hours at your job or possibly to work at home part or full time so you can work at the times that you are at your best. If this is impossible, at least cut yourself some slack. Stop over-achieving for a while and just do what you have to. 

    • Remove ALL extra curricular commitments that are not based in selfless relaxation or income producing. I had to eliminate my time consuming organizational responsibilities. Once I found the courage to let these things go I found great mental and physical relief.

  • Delegate
    Ask for help! From your co-workers, your friends, your family and your church. You know you have been there for others, now it is their turn! You will find that they all want to help you but don't know what to do. So, tell them. For example: 

    • While your neighbor is grocery shopping she could pick up a list for you. Maybe even the same list weekly for a while. 

    • Arrange play dates for your kids and explain that you may not be able to reciprocate for a while. Your friends can watch your child while they are watching their own without even blinking. 

    • Analyze what you do at home every day and delegate some new jobs to your spouse and your kids. 

    • If you haven't done so before, hire some weekly cleaning help, at least for a while. 

    • Let your clergy or support group know what you are going through. They can be an endless source of strength as well as practical solutions.

  • Remove Stress and create harmony
    A stress-free environment can help you feel more serene and stay focused. 

    • At work, if you cannot create silence try white noise, tapes of the ocean or birds really help me. Use earphones if you need to. 

    • At home try shutting the door to your room until you have accomplished the task at hand. 

    • Breathe deeply, breathing exercises will relax your body while the increased oxygen will stimulate your brain 

    • To relax, consider formal training in transcendental meditation or yoga. Or try a guided meditation with tapes that will keep your mind from straying.

  • Use it or lose it
    Keep challenging your brain. 

    • Do crossword puzzles and games, read, write in a journal or compose e-mails or letters to friends. 

    • Challenge yourself to a 30 day journaling and introspective program

  • Control what you can
    And let go of what you can't control. 

    • Learn to let go of the things that don't matter. If you delegate and things are not done as you would have done them, be glad that they are done. 

    • If you have a to do list that includes things that do not NEED to be done today, this week or this year, file it far away for future reference. Release yourself from the need to clean the garage or paint the gutters. for now.

  • Diet 

    • Eat sensibly and regularly. Keeping your energy level constant will help you stay even-tempered and evenly balanced. 

    • Chewing can be a stress release, try carrots, celery or gum 

    • Complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, nuts and legumes, can help to release the chemical serotonin, which is associated with stress reduction and has a calming effect on the brain. 

    • Avoid caffeine and nicotine, which are both anxiety inducing.

  • Exercise
    Stay as active as you can. 

    • Aerobic exercise improves your mental attitude and increase oxygen and blood flow to the brain, which can help with mental clarity 

    • An organized exercise class or tape can also help challenge your brain to stay focused while following the directions. I joined Curves, an easy and repetitive program that works me out, makes me focus and is up beat. 

Links for more information and useful resources:

  • Cancerlifecenter.com This is the site for Ortho Biotech. Click on Side effects of Chemotherapy and then click on all the side bar topics.

  • Cancer.org This is the American Cancer Society's home page. Scroll down and click on IN MY COMMUNITY. This will take you to the message board and you can type in chemo brain.

  • CancerSymptoms.org Click on symptoms, click on cognitive dysfunction.

  • Curvesinternational.com This site can direct you to an exercise program near you.

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