Have a traumatic brain injury is always devastating. More often than not, they lead to major life changes for both those who’ve experienced them and their loved ones. It’s not surprising then that nearly half of all brain injury survivors find themselves dealing with serious depression during the first year that follows their accidents. Depression can also rear its head later on, as people become more cognizant of the severity and impact of their conditions.
If you’ve been the victim of a traumatic brain injury, reflecting on the changes that you’ve experienced, and on the changes that are likely to come can be overwhelming. Fortunately, there are several things that you can do to shake off persistent feelings of hopelessness and despair.
Join a Support Group
No one understands the emotional effects of traumatic brain injuries like someone who’s survived one. While talking with family members and old friends can be both uplifting and a necessary part of protecting your mental health, it’s also important to connect with people who have an innate ability to empathize with you. Joining a support group is a great way to gain a much-needed sense of camaraderie, and a new perspective on your future.
These groups are also great places to engage in discussions about the legal and financial issues that you may be facing. Given that everyone in your support group will likely be at different stages of the recovery and adjustment process, you’ll be able to benefit from the experiences of others. For instance, accepting the insurance company’s settlement offer- Yes or No? Questions like this are bound to be greeted with a lot of seasoned and incredibly helpful advice.
People living with traumatic brain injuries should avoid long periods of self-isolation. Like everyone else, you may feel as though you need time alone to process your thoughts, deal with your emotions, and plan for your future. Too much time spent alone, however, is ultimately unhealthy.
This is especially true if you ever find yourself separating from others as the result of feeling burdensome or unworthy of company. If being in big crowds is overwhelming, consider scheduling brief meetings with family members or friends in a quiet, comfortable setting.
Give Yourself Room To Grieve
The idea of having to view the proverbial cup as only being either half-full or half-empty is a dangerous one. If your brain injury gets you down, this doesn’t mean that you’re a pessimist who’s guaranteed to always see the negative side of things. After your injury, you’re going to have both good days and bad days. It is okay to feel unhappy sometimes.
Recognize that you have a right to grieve the functions, activities and overall well-being that you’ve lost. If you have yet to properly grieve your losses, taking time to do so might alleviate your depression. Once the grieving is done, you can put these losses behind you, and determine the best way and the best mindset for moving forward.
Establish a Routine Exercise Program
Work with your doctor, caregiver, physical therapist, or family members to establish a manageable yet sufficiently challenging exercise program. The right workout can be beneficial to your mind and body in a vast number of ways. From improving blood flow and promoting better oxygen delivery to strengthening and building your muscles, physical fitness can make you feel better all-around. With exercise, you can:
- Increase your flexibility
- Improve your balance
- Achieve and maintain a balanced body weight
- Avoid weight-related health effects
- Boost your cardiovascular and respiratory health
Emotionally, many forms of exercise can give you a quick mood-boost by causing your body to release “feel-good” chemicals called endorphins. There are also psychological benefits in working out. For example setting goals and accomplishing them can improve your self-esteem. One of the primary causes of depression after a traumatic brain injury is a significant dip in self-confidence.
Keep in mind that your workout doesn’t have to be lengthy or intense. A short walk, several minutes spent stretching, or several activities that are performed with hand weights are all good places to start. With the guidance of your medical team, you can make sure that your workout is both challenging and safe.
As a survivor of traumatic brain injury, you don’t owe it to anyone to be happy all the time. Grieving your losses is perfectly fine to do. You’ll likely find that there are days when depression is virtually impossible to shake off. However, with the tips above, you can prevent chronic depression from further diminishing your life quality.