Living with brain injury is challenging. As you adjust to your new life, you will find that some things that used to seem so simple are now difficult or even impossible to do.
This can be frustrating, but don’t let yourself get discouraged!
Even though it may take you more time, there are many adaptations you can make to your lifestyle that will let you preserve as much independence as possible.
In today’s article, we’re going to show you 11 simple tricks that you can use right away to make living with brain injury easier.
Let’s get started!
Living with Brain Injury
Here are a few strategies you can use to help you and your family adapt to life with a TBI in an effective manner.
1. Don’t let family members do too much
This one is for family members. It’s important to make sure your loved one with a TBI stays involved with the chores in the house as much as possible. This keeps their brain active and preserves their independence.
Just keep the chores simple. Too many tasks or instructions at once can overwhelm their brain and make it hard for them to get anything done.
Give them one thing to do at a time, and make sure it is the same thing every day. And try not to redo what they have done unless you absolutely must. This can be discouraging for the person and prevent them from making progress.
2. Use labels to cope with memory problems
To help combat memory problems after TBI and make it easier for you to navigate your home, try using labels to identify key items.
For example, you could label bedroom drawers, kitchen cupboards, and bathroom cabinets with the items inside them so you can find what you need faster.
You can also label switches so you’ll remember what each one does.
Finally, if you have trouble remembering what you need when you leave the house, hang a note on the door with a list of all those items.
This will prevent you from becoming overwhelmed and frustrated with memory loss and will increase your independence.
3. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed
Try to create a quiet place for yourself when you feel like your senses are getting overloaded. Too much stimulation, especially after a brain injury, can make it hard to function, and lead to fatigue, anxiety and angry outbursts.
Fill this space with whatever relaxes you such as noise cancelling headphones, a TV, a comfy chair or some books.
If you’re not at home, it can be helpful to pack some of these things with you and come up with a safe word to let the person you are with know you need to be alone for a little while.
4. Use checklist apps to stay organized
If you find yourself forgetting important appointments, it might be helpful to have a whiteboard somewhere prominent where you can write down (or have someone else write down) everything you need to do that day.
Then check it off once you complete it. This will help you stay organized and on top of everything.
If you have a smartphone, you can also set reminders on it and have your phone alert you when you need to do something important, like take a pill.
5. Use pill sorters to remember what you already took
All the medications you have to take after brain injury can be hard to keep track of, but mixing them up can be harmful to your health.
That’s why it’s important to use a pill sorter. Most pill sorters are divided into morning and evening slots for each day of the week. This can prevent you from taking a medication at the wrong time of day.
6. Stay active to ward off anxiety
Keeping your mind and body active is crucial for boosting your recovery and warding off depression and anxiety.
Physical exercise, such as aerobic activity, is a great way to help your brain heal since it increases blood flow to the brain and activates neuroplasticity.
You should also consider finding a hobby or volunteer activity that you enjoy. Social isolation is a major problem after TBI and often leads to depression. Finding some activity that you enjoy will give you a healthy outlet and will help you stay connected to other people and prevent feelings of isolation and loneliness.
7. Manage stress for mental and physical health
Stress can impair your brain’s healing process and negatively impact your cognitive skills. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you are handling stress in a healthy manner.
Some ways to manage stress after brain injury are:
- Exercise regularly
- Eat a healthy brain injury diet
- Get enough sleep
- Take breaks when tired
- Use meditation and breathing exercises to relax
- Do activities you enjoy
8. Create a routine
After a brain injury, it can be hard to plan and organize your day, especially when there is no reliable routine.
That’s why it’s helpful to work with someone and plan out a daily, predictable routine. Get up at the same time every day, perform your morning tasks in the same order. Eat scheduled meals, etc.
This will help reduce anxiety and increase independence, especially in the early stages of recovery.
9. Write down (or talk about) your feelings
Journaling is a great way to reduce stress and process your emotions, which is crucial after a brain injury.
At the end of the day, try writing down what happened and how that made you feel. This will also help you improve your memory and recall.
Plus, by reading your previous entries, you’ll be able to identify common emotional triggers much easier and find effective ways to cope with them.
If you feel comfortable, you can share your notes with someone else such as your psychologist or a trusted friend and see if they have any insights that might help you.
Which leads to our next piece of advice.
10. Let loved ones support you
Don’t try to manage your emotional difficulties on your own, because it won’t work. Nobody can solve all their issues alone.
Instead, let your family, friends and even your coworkers (if you feel comfortable with them) know about the problems you are having and ask for their support in brainstorming ways to help you cope.
This will help prevent the feelings of isolation and depression that often accompany a TBI, and will give you a lot of constructive feedback on your behavior.
11. Stay positive even when things get tough
Finally, while living with a brain injury, it’s important to maintain a positive outlook.
This doesn’t mean you should feel happy all the time. We all know that’s impossible, even without a brain injury!
Instead, just don’t be too hard on yourself and mentally beat yourself up if you have a bad moment, because this will only exaggerate your negative feelings.
Remember, even though there will be some bad days, this does NOT mean you will never get better.
Brain injury recovery is not instant, and it’s almost never straightforward. There will be days where you are making a lot of progress, and days where might feel like you are going backwards.
This is completely normal. The important thing is to never quit trying to improve.
And that’s it! We hope these strategies help make living with brain injury go a little smoother for you and we wish you luck on the rest of your recovery.