SPEAK OUT! Guest Blogger: Ken Collins
(Host on the Brain Injury Radio Network)
38 Tips for Living With a Brain Injury
On December 31st, I will have lived with a traumatic brain injury for 38 years. I have used several strategies for co-existing with and minimizing the effects of my TBI. I know now that the brain-injury recovery process is ongoing and that there are four major areas to work on during recovery: (1) Getting Organized, (2) Being Responsible, (3) Following Through, and (4) Moving On. I learned a lot over the years, and I want to share my experiences. I have listed 38 tips (one for each year) that could be helpful to you.
1. Regain trust in yourself and in others.
2. Try not to be critical of mistakes you make. In the early years of your recovery, there will be too many of them to count. Learn from these mistakes and move on.
3. Find purpose and meaning in your life again. This will make it easier to get out of bed in the morning. Having a sense of purpose and meaning will give you something to live for and will help you feel worthwhile, help motivate you, and improve your recovery process. You will start feeling better about yourself.
4. Keep stress and anxiety to a minimum every day. Reducing stress and anxiety will increase your self-esteem and make life easier. Stress and anxiety trigger the fight-or-flight response in the mid-brain. You don’t have any control over this response because it is part of the Emotional Nervous System. When the fight-or-flight response is activated, it increases confusion and makes it harder to process information.
5. Regain your self-confidence and self-respect.
7. Stay focused, calm, and relaxed as much as possible. This will make it easier to think, and you become less dependent on others to remind you. Becoming more responsible for yourself will build good habits on your part and will improve your self-esteem and self-confidence in the long run.
8. Get a large calendar. Put it up on your wall and use it. Make sure it’s in a location where you will always see it. An iPad (or clone), a smart phone, or a note pad with a calendar and alarm does the same thing. A calendar will also relieve stress and anxiety by helping you stay on task and not forget.
9. Get a key-holder and put it by your door to put your keys on when you come home. Do this every night so you won’t have to look for your keys in the morning. Starting your day off on the right foot will make your day easier and help to relieve stress and anxiety.
10. Make a “To Do” list to help you stay organized. iPads, iPhones or other smart phones, and note pads work wonders with this. The list will help you and make you feel good about yourself.
11. Making a list before you go shopping will save you money by cutting down on impulse-buying. It will also help you become more responsible and less dependent on others. Being less dependent on others improves your self-esteem.
12. Get lots of rest, and slow down. Many times we try to do too many things at once, and nothing gets done. Sleeping on an issue or concern can be the best way to help you figure it out. Getting enough rest will give you valuable energy to think better and solve difficult situations. Sufficient rest will also relieve stress and anxiety.
13. Set up a routine and stick to it. A routine will make it easier for you to follow through with what you have planned for the day. By doing the same thing every day, you will start building trust in your capabilities again.
14. Eat healthy foods, and get lots of exercise. Doing these things will help you get the blood with its oxygen circulating to your brain.
15. Get a dog and take it for walks. In my case, I have nine dogs, and they take me for a walk every morning and night! They also give me the unconditional love and companionship I need to feel good about myself and be happy.
16. Find ways to relax that aren’t counterproductive to your well-being. Abusing alcohol and drugs to “relax” is counterproductive. Long walks, yoga, and Tai Chi are much better for you and will make processing and problem-solving much easier. Stress and anxiety will be reduced.
17. Be patient.
18. Pay attention and become an active listener. Actively “hearing” what people have to say is more important than passively “listening” to what they say. Watch their body language. When I get distracted, sometimes it is harder to understand what a person is saying. Stay relaxed and focus. Take deep breaths – nothing works better than getting oxygen-filled blood to your brain.
19. Be around positive people and people who care about you. Nothing is more depressing than listening to someone who’s always complaining about his or her life or about what is going wrong in the world. Become active. Don’t just sit around hoping things will get better. Quit talking about a problem, and do something about it instead.
20. Don’t take criticism personally. When people don’t understand things, they criticize them. Constructive criticism can make you a better person in the long run.
21. Keep an open mind. Remember that your family and friends want to help, but sometimes they don’t know how. Many people don’t understand what you are going through, so don’t hold them responsible for this.
22. Stay calm; stay relaxed; take deep breaths; and move on!
23. Be careful of those you hang out with because they will set the stage for how you act. Friends who judge others and criticize you aren’t “friends.”
24. Grudges will only hold you back. They will be like anchors and keep you from being able to move on.
25. Lighten up on yourself, your family, and friends who want to help you.
26. Worry less and smile more.
27. Be content with what you have. Others have it much worse than you.
28. Find ways to stay active and be less isolated. Get out of your head and into the outside world.
29. Don’t give up – embrace adversity. Have adversity give you the resolve it will take to get better and improve your life. This will be up to you and no one else. People will be there to help you, but all of the work will be up to you. Use it or lose it!
30. Take ownership of your recovery. Remove the word “can’t” from your vocabulary.
31. Life is hard for most people. Life after a brain injury will definitely be hard, but not impossible. It will get easier over time – be patient! Make the best of every day and move on.
32. Thinking too much about a problem or issue can cause depression. This will trigger the fight-or-flight response, and you will be like a dog chasing its tail.
33. Be good to yourself.
34. Don’t take life too seriously.
35. Don’t let the little things get you down. When you think about them too long, they seem bigger than they really are.
36. Don’t beat yourself up over things you can’t control. This will only increase your stress and anxiety and trigger the fight-or-flight response.
37. Be happy with yourself and don’t try to live up to others’ expectations.
38. Most importantly – don’t set unrealistic expectations for yourself. Be strong. Find hope – because with hope, anything is possible!
Stop by the Brain Injury Radio Network to hear Ken. His show airs every 1st Thursday of each month from 5:00p to 6:30p Pacific Time.
Thank you, Ken Collins.
Any views and opinions of the Guest Blogger are purely his/her own.
(Clip Art compliments of Bing.)