Coping with chemo brain can be a frustrating and challenging part of cancer treatment. Maybe you can’t remember where you put your keys. Maybe you have trouble concentrating. You could feel like you're thinking a beat slower. Or maybe your mind just feels like it’s filled with fog.
It isn’t all in your head. Up to 75% of cancer patients experience some mental problems during cancer treatment. And 35% of people still have issues after treatment.
If you’re experiencing these symptoms, here's some tips for coping with chemo brain. These steps can help you get your life back on track.
How to Manage Chemo Brain
1. Keep a Notebook
Write everything down. List appointments, notes, your medication schedule, and to-dos. Record everything in a single notebook. This way, you'll have everything in one place. You won’t need to search for that scrap piece of paper or a stray sticky note.
2. Make It Routine
Give everything its place, then make sure to put it back where it belongs. Return keys, cell phone and mail to their designated spots. Pay your mortgage and bills on the same day each month (and note it in your calendar). Keep your grocery list in the same location. Make a checklist of all the things you need for leaving the house — close the windows, turn off the oven, grab your wallet — and keep it by the door.
When you create a routine, it makes it easier to keep track of key tasks. Use sticky notes to label where you put things around your home.
3. Do One Thing at a Time
Multitasking can overwhelm you, even if you don't have chemo brain. When you try to do more than one thing at a time, it’s easy to get distracted, lose focus, and forget something. Instead, stick with one task at a time. This can help you stay focused longer.
4. Exercise Your Muscles
Movement helps both body and mind. Plus, exercise can reduce stress. It also releases endorphins — your body’s feel-good chemicals that elevate your mood and relieve pain. Try a short walk outside.
5. Exercise Your Brain
Just like your muscles, your brain needs to work to stay strong. Flexing your mental muscles can keep your brain sharp. Try crossword puzzles, Sudoku, math games, or a jigsaw puzzle. There are even video games designed to exercise your brain. They’re both fun and mentally stimulating.
6. Get Some Sleep
When coping with chemo brain, get plenty of rest. Rest helps your body heal. It helps your brain function better, too. You'll feel more alert and able to remember more. Create a soothing bedtime routine. Go to sleep early. Take naps if you need to.
7. Rest and Relax
Stress can do a number on your memory. If you’re coping with chemo brain, keep your stress levels at bay. Meditation not only reduces stress, but can help with attention and focus as well. If meditation doesn’t work for you, try gentle yoga or a walking meditation.
8. Keep a Journal
Research shows that journaling and expressive writing can help improve working memory and brain function.
9. Ask for Help
Coping with chemo brain can be a lot to handle on your own. Tell your family and friends what you’re going through and ask for help. They can give you support and encouragement.
10. Keep Track of Your Symptoms
As you go through your day, take note of your symptoms. Write them down so you can share this information with your doctor at your next appointment.