Stress and Anxiety after brain injury

Stress and Anxiety after brain injury

Taryn Stejskal, Ph.D.

After a TBI brain injury, many adults face overwhelming and intense emotions, especially stress and anxiety. This tip card helps families, caregivers, clinicians and counselors understand and recognize the signs of anxiety and stress. It explains techniques for managing stress and anxiety to prevent them from ruling your life.

Read an interview with  Taryn Marie Stejskal.

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Full Description

Stress can feel like an overwhelming feeling of pressure that a person feels ill-equipped to face. Anxiety is often considered a more severe form of stress causing apprehension, avoidance, and fear. A checklist of symptoms helps user identify common signs and symptoms of stress and anxiety.

This tip card helps survivors of brain injury and family members identify the sources of stress and take steps to reduce or eliminate it. Tools for managing stress and anxiety are described including deep breathing, meditation, visualization, thought stopping, ending negative self-talk and dealing with irrational thoughts.
Pages 8 pages
Year 2011


Taryn Marie Stejskal, Ph.D., LMFT

Dr. Stejskal is a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) in the state of Indiana and the founder and president of Wellness Strategies, P.C.; a private practice specifically developed to meet the unique needs of individuals, couples, and families after one person has sustained a neurological injury. Dr. Stejskal received both her master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy (MFT) and her doctoral degree in Family Science, with a focus on health and relationships, from the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP).

She was awarded an Advanced Rehabilitation Research Training (ARRT) fellowship, funded by the National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) to complete intensive pre- and postdoctoral fellowships in neuropsychology at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond, VA. As an ARRT fellow, Dr. Stejskal helped to implement and empirically validate the Brain Injury Family Intervention (BIFI), a program designed to promote emotional and relational healing for brain injury survivors and their spouses and family members.

Specifically, her interests rest in family and couple relationships after brain injury and in applying a systems perspective to recovery from trauma and significant illness. She has written numerous peer-reviewed manuscripts, book chapters, and newsletter articles about the impact of brain injury on couple and family relationships. Dr. Stejskal is in private practice in Indianapolis, a research consultant for Purdue University’s Military Family Research Institute (MFRI), and is a frequent presenter at regional, national, and international conferences.


Understanding Stress and Anxiety

Signs of Stress and Anxiety

How Can I Better Manage Stress?

Identify stress

Tips for identifying stress…


Reduce or eliminate stress

Tips for reducing stress…



Exchange stress and anxiety for thinking positive

Tips for thinking positive…


More Tools for Managing Stress and Anxiety

Deep breathing






Thought stopping


Ending negative self-talk


Irrational thoughts


Planning for stress and anxiety



Do not let stress and anxiety rule your life


Sample excerpt. Preview only – please do not copy

Signs of Stress and Anxiety

Stress and tension are typically defined as an overwhelming feeling of pressure that a person feels ill-equipped to face. Anxiety is often considered a more severe form of stress causing apprehension, avoidance, and fear. The first step toward addressing the symptoms of stress and anxiety is to take a personal inventory of your mind and body. For example, notice how you have been feeling lately. Below are common signs and symptoms that may indicate you and/or your family members could use some help. Note the items that apply.

  • Difficulty making decisions, even small decisions such as what clothing to wear

  • A short fuse, especially over issues that may have previously seemed minor

  • Decreased energy and motivation, especially for people or activities previously enjoyable

  • Trouble relaxing, racing thoughts, getting to or staying asleep

  • Awareness of your body temperature rising, heart beating fast, or changes in appetite, etc.

  • Physical ailments such as indigestion, shakiness, jaw and shoulder tension, headaches, fatigue, etc.

  • Feeling alone, hopeless, unproductive, impatient, and irritable

How Can I Better Manage Stress?

Identify stress

Begin by working on your awareness of stressful or anxiety-provoking issues you presently face in your life. These issues may be related to the brain injury, or they may be separate concerns. They may have existed before the injury or cropped up afterwards. Issues that cause anxiety and stress can be highly personal.