Strategies that have worked for me
“Judy…pace yourself. Don’t over do it! Judith Ann…please take a break.” …
I hear those repeated requests from the people in my circle of care in any one day. I have learned the process of pacing and, truly, it isn’t a bad thing. My ABI forces me to take the slower road towards accomplishing goals and that is okay!
If I have a heavy week of appointments, projects, even a weekend trip away, then I know I have to make certain that the next week has a lighter requirement on my attention, thinking, and energy. It is something that I have to work on everyday.
You may find the following strategies helpful which have worked well for me:
- Use of timers to remind yourself when to take a break
- Schedule naps in the afternoon to recharge
- Plan your day and week to make sure that you are doing the activities you want to do and realizing "not everything has to be done today"
- Prioritize your activities
- Delegate and lean on your supports to help
- Change the task demands by switching between cognitive and physical activities
- Stepping away is a strategy, it is not a move to self isolation but giving yourself room to breathe
In my previous life, without brain injury, I was pretty much a sedentary person. Well, except when I went shopping or on holiday! But through this experience with ABI, I have come to learn about the importance of exercise in helping the body rejuvenate itself, to get those endorphins working, and just generally feel better.
It is important to consider the physical activities that you enjoyed. For me, it was and continues to be swimming. For you, it may be walking, riding a stationary bike, participating in team sports, swimming or aquatic fitness.
- Start slow; use a timer and incrementally increase the time that you engage in the activity
- Listen to music or watch television as you do it
- Participate with others to provide additional motivation
- Enjoy how it changes your mood in a positive direction
Mindfulness and Meditation
At the beginning of my rehabilitation journey multiple therapists worked with me on learning how to keep my thoughts from racing, stop my stuttering, and to slow down the impact of my anxiety by breathing. Mindfulness and meditation was the most pivotal moment of change as it eventually helped me to become grounded again and to live more in the moment.
- Learn and practice breathing techniques on a daily basis
- Look for a small meditative group to participate in
- Look on YouTube for meditation videos until you find the voice that speaks to you
- Consider Yoga or TaiChi
- Understand that the passage of time does help you to start seeing your world as it exists around you
I put mindfulness and meditation into daily practice by listening to the flowing words spoken by Sara Raymond of the Mindful Movement.
It starts with little steps, going shopping or seeing a movie during off hours with someone you are comfortable with and trust. Have lunch with a friend, or a couple of friends at home. Ask them to bring a casserole or salad so it reduces the time you would normally spend to prepare. Or why not have them pick you up and head to a small, local restaurant for a light meal. It’s not an all or nothing proposition, get creative. But also make certain that the arrangements are flexible. If exhaustion is waiting in the wings, it is better to take a time out, catch your breath, and ready yourself for the day’s next adventure.
Close your eyes and take yourself back to your childhood, what was it that made you feel you were in your element. What captured your imagination and made you feel you were doing it for “you” before your ABI. By identifying and adapting your passion, you can find your way back to a hobby or activity that will give you back a bit of yourself. For me, it was taking art classes. The other passion was returning to public speaking. Both of these creative endeavours have given back to me a hundred fold. It is not for any accolades, it is for the feeling of accomplishment and joy.
- Try a small workshop or take a private class in order to “get your feet wet” and see what sparks your creative interest.
- Once you know what activity or hobby you want to concentrate on look at your weekly calendar and set up a reasonable schedule, starting with an hour at a time.
- Remember, no one is judging you on how well you do. As long as you feel good doing it then it is a great creative outlet.
Your Physicians and Therapists do know what they are asking you to do, this is not their first walk with an ABI survivor. Yes, sometimes it is a trial and error process, as we are all unique individuals, but they want to work together with you to find the best treatments to help you on your way to recovery. It may prove difficult at times but you should be encouraged to advocate for yourself. “I know Me, I know when I am ready”. This journey is truly a collaborative endeavour.
- Finding the right medical doctors and specialists to support you is important
- Find the right fit with therapists that you feel will be exceptionally skilled and supportive to help you reach your goals
- Trust yourself in knowing when the right time is to add a therapist or professional on the road to your recovery
- Explore with your health team alternative treatments and tests that will support your health and wellness including sleep studies, medications, lifestyle, and nutrition changes
It is a responsibility placed on the Health Care Practitioners, your caregivers, family members, and most importantly yourself to foster that trust through communication. Communication, by definition, is a two way street for sharing information. It is an important collaborative activity.
We as ABI survivors have a responsibility to work on our speech and communication skills so that we don't feel that we are just floating out there and allowing others to make decisions for us; we need to be a key part of the decision making process.
- Be open to support
- Actively listen to what is being communicated to you but don't be afraid to express your feelings and advocate for your needs
- Be aware of body language; communication is both verbal and non-verbal. Learn how to read others' body language and help them to understand your body language when you're unable to verbalize your frustrations
- With increased frustrations, for example, stepping away and not saying anything at all may be an effective strategy instead of communicating further with someone and saying something thoughtlessly or that you will regret later
As time progresses, and as we the Survivor become more grounded and get to know our bodies and minds, we then become more helpful in fostering those lines of communication. We do want to participate in understanding what our limitations are and how to chip away at those barriers.
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