In my first neuropsychology therapy session on handling neuro-fatigue, I learned a tool to Stop-Think-Plan and as my therapist was explaining it to me, my brain was totally fixated on STP being Stone Temple Pilots. I was a 90s kid, that is what STP means to me…unless I see it on a vanity license plate I suppose, then I would think STOP.
The concept makes perfect sense. In order to be proactive about my neuro-fatigue, more conscious self-monitoring can help me figure out when I’m doing things inefficiently and I can learn to auto-correct. My problem is that my human factors brain wants things to be simple and user-friendly from the get go and if I don’t perceive them to be, I go into redesign mode immediately and have a hard time paying attention to the content of the discussion. I have the feeling that I might be an unintentional pain in the ass patient as we move forward. First, it drove me a little crazy that the STP handout was in almost all italics so they weren’t used for emphasis. Second, I found the stop sign concept to be too jarring for my brain for a mental tool that I want to become an automatic helpful tool. I’ve been thinking of another picture that could be the visual representation of this tool. Perhaps the STP sticker or maybe I’ll just put pictures of Scott Weiland around my apartment as my reminder. It’s not like he’s hard to look at anyway. From now on when I see a picture of Scott Weiland, it will be my mental trigger to take a break and ask myself:
-What am I doing?
-What was my original goal?
-Could something else work better?
I just realized I can have auditory representations of the tool as well. I will add some STP songs to my playlists so that they can also be mental triggers. Dual coding my STP triggers into multiple sensory systems. Go brain!
For the last five years, I have been actively observing how my brain is working, especially when it makes errors. This is a special skill I acquired after my brain surgery left me with my sensory and information processing deficits. I’ve been thinking about how most people don’t have this ability because their brains work and everything “just happens” naturally. I have written about this multiple times over the years. We’ve learned so much about the brain from people like Phineas Gage whose brain injuries allowed for others to study how things work. I get to do this every day on myself. There is no word in the dictionary for watching your own brain work. The closest concept I can think of is mindfulness, which focuses on observing your thoughts and feelings without judgment. I actually observe not just WHAT my brain is doing, but HOW. I have come up with the term COGNATE to describe what I am doing. I observe. I assess. I often laugh. I find validations of concepts I learned in my cognitive psychology courses and books.
I recently started therapy at a brain injury facility and am learning tips and tricks for being even more aware of what my brain is doing and then actively training it to do things I want it to be doing. I have learned about the concept of neuro-fatigue, which is intellectually new to me but very familiar to me in real life. This is SO MUCH FUN for me. It very much falls in line with my natural cognating.
In a previous post I was questioning whether I identified as a human factors engineer anymore since I was no longer practicing. I would like to say that it became very clear to me immediately that my human factors brain is still there and that is very much who I am. I naturally and automatically assessed the usability of each handout I was given in my welcome packet and during my sessions as well as all the signage and displays that are intended for the user groups of brain damaged people and their caregivers. It seems likely that my application of human factors knowledge will become an integral part of my therapy moving forward and that I may be able to help them as much as they are helping me. Coincidentally, I have always had an interest in designing for special populations and even wrote my graduate school essays on that topic. Then I went in a different direction once in graduate school. Perhaps some things were really meant to be after all…
I suspect I’ll be writing a bit more frequently in the coming months as I continue on this journey.