Emotional changes and difficulties after a brain injury are common. As a survivor, just recognizing this aspect of rehabilitation as normal is a huge step towards healing. But sometimes it takes more than a shift in perspective to feel emotionally empowered. So, we curated some concrete strategies to help you maintain emotional well-being through your recovery journey.
Please note: The following options are not prescriptive. They are intended to broaden your awareness of the emotional support and management strategies available to you.
Personal Management Strategies
- Create a routine. In a time where there is a lot of uncertainty, the predictability of a set routine can be calming. Try crafting a daily routine that plays to your current strengths, as well as areas you want to improve upon. Incorporate things that make you feel purposeful.
- Timing is everything. Integrating challenging tasks into your day helps your brain reform neural pathways. One way to make sure hard things aren’t overwhelming? Be intentional with when you do them! Check in with yourself: is it easier to take on a challenging task first thing in the morning when you’re fresh? Or do you need some time to wake-up first?
- Take breaks. It is okay to feel overwhelmed, overstimulated, or downright emotional. In these moments, try to communicate to those around you how you’re feeling, and take a break. There is nothing wrong with honoring your limits and with taking time to reset.
- Expand your toolbox. In cases of sensory overload, try to start building an awareness around what types of stimuli feel especially triggering. Once you have an idea, you can start enacting preventative measures to help avoid overstimulation.
- Do good things for your body. Lifestyle is always something to be mindful of, but especially as your body heals from a traumatic event. Things as simple as the types of food you eat, amount of fresh air you get, and even how much you move your body can all have a significant impact on your emotional state.
- Create a support network. Brain injuries are pivotal life experiences. In these moments, it is crucial to have a village of social support. While this group could be made up of close friends, loved ones, even pets, it could also include your clinician, therapist, or other professionals you trust. The idea is to craft a community that you can lean on when you’re not feeling your best.
- Join a support group. There are many support groups that exist for all kinds of health conditions, with both in-person and virtual options. Rehabilitation can feel isolating, so it’s important to connect with others who can identify with your experience
- Explore counseling options. Most brain injury survivors would benefit from talk-therapy. Whether it’s individual counseling, or group therapy, speaking with a professional can help unburden emotional weight, as well as foster feelings of solidarity and resilience. If communication is difficult following your brain injury, team up with your speech-pathologist for tips on how to best communicate with your counselor. Worried some things may still get lost in translation? You can sign a release form that enables your SLP and counselor to collaborate directly on communication strategies for your sessions.
- Work with your provider to find the best treatment option. If you think depression or anxiety may be a clinical issue, speak to your provider. They will be able to create a treatment plan that takes into account your personal situation, needs, and preferences.
Ultimately, emotional changes after brain injury are normal.
A recovery journey is just that, a journey. Recovery doesn’t happen overnight, and it often is not linear. There will be ups and downs, triumphs and tribulations, an ebb and flow, especially with your emotional states. While this process isn’t always easy, it is natural. To help manage these emotional changes, enact whatever strategies feel right to you. And take solace in knowing that your body already holds an innate knowledge of how to heal.