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Seven tips for dealing with chemo brain

If you or someone you know has been treated for cancer, you've probably heard of the term "chemo brain." It refers to problems with memory, concentration and "brain fog" that plague some people after cancer treatment.

In most cases, these problems are short-lived, but there are some things you can do to lessen the effects on your day-to-day life.

  • Develop realistic expectations. Trying to hide, rise above or ignore the cognitive challenges you face increases stress and fatigue. This, in turn, can lead to more cognitive challenges. You will manage these challenges more effectively if you have realistic expectations, pace tasks throughout the day and week, and allow time for stress reduction and rest.
  • Pick the best time of day for hardest tasks. Try to structure your day so that you can focus on the hardest and most consequential tasks at the time of day when you typically feel the best.
  • Establish habits and routines for everyday tasks. Keep things like keys, cell phone and wallet or purse in the same place. Try to go to bed and get up in the morning at about the same time every day. Set aside certain days of the week for chores you need to accomplish weekly.
  • Decrease the demands on your memory. Use a calendar, make lists, take notes and set up reminders.
  • Minimize multi-tasking. If a task is difficult for you, eliminate all distractions: find a place to work where you won't be interrupted, and turn off the radio and TV. If multi-tasking is unavoidable, make sure you get plenty of rest ahead of time and pick your best time of day to complete the work.
  • Consider using technology to help you stay on track. Calendars and alerts on smartphones can help with time management and memory. Smart pens can help you capture written notes on your digital devices, and some can synchronize with recorded audio to support note-taking during classes or work meetings.
  • Try mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness practices can help you stay focused and cope with stress.    
  • Don't underestimate the value of self-care. Good nutrition, restorative sleep and moderate exercise are critical for your recovery, both physically and cognitively.   


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