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How did I return to work? Planning& Tools - How I built this community with my concussion symptoms

Updated: Jan 10

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2021 was the year that I started with this community. My first real return to work after sustaining a concussion. I tried many times to go back to my old job (40-hour office job) in my first year but that wasn't working. This community iss a big change for me because I couldn’t do any work for almost 3 years due to my concussion symptoms. Starting this community was overwhelming, helpful, fun, stressful and fulfilling. All at the same time.

Concussion return to work

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I just started

I created a Facebook and Instagram account already in December 2020. It sounded so easy in my head to create a community for people with concussion symptoms and I just started without even thinking that it could be too much to handle. Talking to others helped me and gave me energy.

But besides the “fun” part there comes a part where you have to figure out all the stuff around it, the technical stuff. Almost every day I had to solve a new thing/problem and it was quite often too overwhelming for me.

For example, I had to figure out what platform I wanted to use for hosting all classes and courses because there are so many different ones! I had to build a website, I had to find hosts for all classes, I had to plan calls with all hosts before they did a class, I had to keep track of my finances, I had to make a timetable for each month, I had to create content for my Instagram and Facebook and way more! Sounds overwhelming, right?

When I look back on that period (the first 6 months of 2021), I didn’t listen to my body and I pushed myself to keep going. On one side I regret that, on the other side I am proud that I launched the platform in April 2021.

I felt so overwhelmed in May 2021

When all the pre-work was done, it felt like I could “escape” the control mode and change to the more relaxing mode. I booked a month away to Spain together with a friend. We stayed at such a lovely and quiet place in nature. But from the moment I began to rest, I felt I did too much and all my concussion symptoms were back.

I still needed/wanted to run the community but on the other side, I needed to slow down. With 1-2 hours a day, I was able to manage my symptoms and work at the same time. It wasn’t easy at all and my vacation didn’t feel like a vacation because I was barely able to go to the beach or do some other fun things.

At the end of that “vacation” month, I did feel a bit better but still not at the same level as I was before. I decided to take more rest when I was back home in Amsterdam.

Was I ready to Return to work while dealing with a concussion?

In January 2021 I felt ready to start working on this project and I was so excited. Idea after the idea popped into my mind and this felt a bit overwhelming but exciting at the same time. I needed to find the balance between these two and it wasn’t always easy. I had many setbacks because I didn’t take enough breaks. Sometimes I always said, “Only this thing, and then I will really stop”.

I almost never stopped on time, before my concussion symptoms got worse. I don’t know why but my drive to start this community was so big that I almost ignored all things around it, even the signs of my body.

Looking back at that period, yes I was ready to start BUT I had to listen more to my body.

What would I change when I could start over 2021?

In December 2020 I shared the launch day on social media, which was the 1st of April 2021. In my head, this sounded like I had more than enough time. But having to deal with setbacks was overwhelming and figuring out everything by myself was way more than I could imagine.

I think if I could change things I wouldn’t set a launch day because it gives a lot of pressure. I didn’t need to rush things the way I did because it caused a lot of setbacks and especially a huge one in May.

Along the way, I learned about how I could make better plannings, give myself more days off, and tools that were really helping me. (Scroll down to see the tools I am using for planning).

What concussion symptoms do I still have and how do I manage them?

At the moment my eyes are the biggest problem. It feels like they are causing most of my symptoms and screen time is still a big issue for me. The main symptoms I deal with are sensory overload, sound/light sensitivity, overwhelming anxiety, and neck pain/pressure on my head.

Working behind a screen isn’t maybe the best option but without my screen, I wouldn’t be able to run this community. So I need to manage my concussion symptoms in order to make that work.

What I do to manage it:

  • I take enough breaks. I close my eyes and lay down when I feel my symptoms are getting worse.

  • I make a planning and don’t work any longer than that, even if the task isn’t completed. Tomorrow is a new day! (This was really hard for me). This plan is an hour to hour planning. I even plan my breaks because otherwise, I forget to take them.

  • I use my noise-cancelling headphones when I am distracted by sounds.

  • I just invested in a new desk (where I can stand and sit), an extra screen, and a desk chair. I noticed my neck pain is way better now!

  • I wear blue light glasses which make my eyes less tired.

  • I only plan calls or interactions on the same day/time, so I can work around that. For now, this is every Tuesday and Thursday.

What tools do I use to manage my planning?

In the beginning, I wrote every task down using a pen and paper but soon this was too much to handle and a big mess because things were changing all the time.

I started to use the online tool Asana. This is a (free) task manager which is very easy to use. I put all my tasks in there and add a day to it, even the smallest of tasks. You can see the tasks per day and complete them when they are done or move them to another day if you aren’t able to do them on that day.

This is what it looks like (this is not my planning but just to give you an idea).

Working with a concussion

Besides Asana, I just started using Google Calendar last month. I started doing this because I really need to plan my breaks because otherwise I forget /end up not wanting to take them. This is how my regular weeks look like:

Planning and Concussion

Let me be clear, it’s not always like this. Sometimes I don’t feel good and I don’t plan anything that day, or I skip more things and do them on another day. It’s just working for me to block some breaks and activities so I can plan around it. In this way I make sure I start my day with meditation and affirmations and I get enough breaks in between.

How do I feel after a year of work?

To be honest, when I started working again, which means having to work with deadlines, planning, and more screen time, my symptoms became worse. I wasn’t used to this at all and I almost gave up because of that.

But I didn’t. I just took more rest and breaks and started to notice a difference in what I was able to handle over time. When I look back at my planning in the beginning of the year I can handle so much more! In the beginning, I could even stress about a single call and now I can do more of them in 1 day. I slowly got used to working again.

My only advice is to build it up slowly (I would do the same if I could start over), listen to your body when it says it’s enough because there will always come a new day to start again with that task.

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