How Can I Diminish A Mountain of Anxiety after TBI?
Bringing that mountain of TBI anxiety down to size
Written By Bill Herrin
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Making a mountain out of a molehill is one thing…how about making a molehill out of a mountain? The mountain known as TBI anxiety has many varied paths. The route down from it is different for every survivor. Knowing this is the first step toward progress and retreating from daily frustrations. Stress can be a daunting task because there is no road map or GPS for this journey.
Anxiety over your fears about recovery, a loss of self, obvious changes in your energy, other physical changes, loneliness – the list could go on and on. All of these contribute to a TBI survivor’s anxiety levels.
Today we’ll look at some solid ways to focus on things that can help you progress. Some will seem obvious. Some will seem difficult. Some may even seem useless. But all will add up to helping you safely trek down off that mountain that is TBI. Thinking in a positive direction from the start is a big part of making it all happen! Once your physical health is stabilized after a TBI, then – and only then will you have the wherewithal to work on their cognition and mental health. For some, mental advances will be extremely difficult. For others they will be easier. They will not be easy for anyone, however, as every brain injury is unique to itself and its effects.
Everyone can use a good cheerleader…and some good tips, too.
Anxiety is a gnawing and tiring feeling that is hard to shake off. Only through deliberate effort by a survivor, but plenty of cheerleading and assistance from a caregiver (or caregivers such as family, friends, etc.) or treatment by clinicians can it improve. When stress and anxiety are full tilt, a TBI Survivor may feel the following symptoms (these are from an article by TBI author Marilyn Lash):
1) Have a hard time making decisions, even small ones
2) Short temper or fuse
3) Less energy and motivation
4) Difficulty relaxing
5) Changes in appetite
6) Racing thoughts
7) Difficulty sleeping
8) Higher body temperature or increased heart rate
9) Physical complaints such as indigestion, shakiness, jaw and shoulder tension, headaches, fatigue, etc.
10) Impatience and irritability
10) Feeling of being alone, hopeless, and unproductive
Positively helpful things to try for TBI anxiety
When you recognize any (or some, or all) of these symptoms – here are 6 techniques for lowering your anxieties:
1) Think positive about your physical health and try to do fun and stress reducing activities that you did before the brain injury occurred.
2) Deep breathing can help calm you when you begin to feel stressed or anxious.
3) Meditation helps you calm your mind and focus on productive thoughts.
4) Visualization helps you picture what you would like to happen.
5) Thought stopping helps you control your thought patterns.
6) Ending negative “self talk” helps you think more positively.
Sleep is important to TBI anxiety
A huge aspect of having anxiety that was mentioned above, is having difficulty sleeping. Not only is sleep important for you physically and mentally, it’s especially important following a traumatic brain injury. Because sleep patterns can drastically change after TBI, and can be even worse with PTSD, sleep disorders affect quality of life in a huge way. Lack of sleep hinders cognitive advancement, as well as overall behavior, emotions, and relationships with others. In a nutshell, it’s one of the paths that will help you get off the mountain!
A few tips for having more restful sleep (and more of it) are:
1) Avoid taking a sleep aid in the middle of the night. It will make you groggy the next day
2) Avoid alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and sugar after 4pm – or up until 5 hours before bed
3) Don’t take frequent naps – a nap can “jumpstart” your day, but can also interfere with your rest when you go to bed later!
4) Don’t exercise too close to bedtime (at least 2 hours prior)
5) Try to do something to relax yourself before bed – like reading, a hot bath, meditation, etc. – but avoid watching TV!
Keeping a Journal…and more.
Journaling about your journey off the mountain of TBI is another great way to reduce anxiety. If you start writing a little every day, not only will you show your challenges for that day, but you’ll build a composite story of your life after TBI. One of the things to keep in mind is that you don’t have to be a great writer – the journal is for you, and nobody else – if you choose to share it with someone, that’s your decision. Just write short installments when you feel like it – as often as every day, or as little as once a month. If you find it relaxing and useful, the journaling that you do will bring its own rewards – you’ll have a chronological story that traces your journey of making a mountain of challenges into a molehill!
Other great ways to share your story with others are through scrapbooking, looking through books you’ve read, looking at photos that you love, etc. If you write short paragraphs into a journal every day (or as regularly as you can), it will really give a clear picture of your entire year – make sure to date every post that you write in it for reference, and don’t always post only about how you feel, but use “memory triggers” about things that happened that day, people that you saw, what you ate, the weather that day, or something funny that may have happened…it’s all a part of your story, and looking back on both the good and the bad is a peek into your life….both for you, and for anyone that you share it with. Most of all, try to enjoy your journey, and don’t let anxiety be a backseat driver (so to speak)! Be encouraged – you are a unique person, and your story will play out day by day…make it as good a story as you can by getting rest (as best you can) and finding your path down off the mountain!
Lash and Associates’ award winning blog site (on our website) offers hundreds of absolutely free blog articles by TBI experts and clinicians, TBI survivors, and family members that share insights as well. A well-rounded offering of insights from every possible angle – including more on the subject of today’s bulletin – loss of self. Lash & Associates is also a leading publisher of books, cognitive software, and more – all for the brain injury community. Just click the two award icons, or CLICK HERE to see our entire blog article collection!