No products in the cart.

No products in the cart.

25 Stroke Recovery Tips for Healing, Habits, and Happiness

29 stroke recovery tips

At Flint Rehab, we believe that stroke recovery tips should address both your physical health and your lifestyle, as both impact recovery.

In this article, we gathered 25 helpful stroke recovery tips and organized them into the following sections:

Click any of the links to jump straight to that section.

Physical Healing Stroke Recovery Tips

First up, we’ll share some tips on the technical side of stroke recovery. These tips will address the physical side of recovery: overcoming the secondary effects and regaining independence.

Let’s start at the beginning:

1. Understand How the Brain Heals

Did you know that the brain is capable of healing itself after an injury like a stroke? This is because of neuroplasticity: the mechanism that your brain uses to rewire itself and create new neural pathways.

Neuroplasticity is arguably the most important concept in stroke recovery. And it can be boiled down to this popular phrase: “neurons that fire together, wire together.” The skills that you practice on a regular basis cause synapses to “fire” and therefore your brain improves by increasing the number of connections between different neurons.

To learn more about neuroplasticity, check out the book The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge. It’s one of our top recommended stroke recovery books.

Our next tip describes how to activate neuroplasticity:

2. Focus on “Massed Practice” to Regain Lost Skills

Neuroplasticity is guided by experience. The more you practice something (and gain experience with it) the more your brain will attempt to get better at that skill. Increased practice is referred to clinically as massed practice.

This is why riding a bike helps you get better at riding a bike. As you continue to practice and gain experience, your brain is busy rewiring itself to create and strengthen neural pathways that control your balance, steering, pedaling, and other relevant skills.

Similarly, this is also why consistent rehabilitation exercise is an essential ingredient for stroke recovery. You need to gain experience with movement in order to improve at moving your body. The more you practice leg exercises, for example, the more your leg mobility will improve as a result of that experience.

3. Focus on Good Nutrition

As your brain and body recover from the secondary effects of a stroke, you can boost recovery by focusing on proper nutrition. Some of the best foods for stroke recovery are whole foods like vegetables, nuts, and whole grains. It may also help to limit saturated fat and sugar intake, as these foods limit “neuronal and behavioral plasticity.”

Also, be sure that your diet is rich in vitamins for stroke recovery. If you don’t get enough vitamins through your diet, consult with your doctor before taking any new vitamins or supplements.

4. Don’t Get Discouraged If Progress Slows

The stroke recovery plateau often occurs around the three month mark. At this point, recovery tends to slow down — but it will not stop as long as you don’t stop participating in rehabilitation.

Studies have shown that some stroke survivors are at the same level of improvement 5 years post-stroke as they were 2 months post-stroke. One possible reason for this long-term plateau could be a lack of consistent rehabilitation at home. This doesn’t have to happen to you.

The brain needs consistent stimulation in order to rewire itself. To avoid getting stuck in a plateau, it’s imperative to find an appropriate home therapy regimen and stick with it

Want 25 pages of stroke recovery exercises in a PDF? Click here to download our free Stroke Rehab Exercise ebook now (link opens a pop up for uninterrupted reading)

5. Avoid “Learned Nonuse”

During stroke recovery, the phrase “use it or lose it” is commonly used to describe the condition of learned nonuse. This occurs when you completely stop using your affected limb(s), and after a while your brain forgets how to use it.

The brain likes to be efficient, so when you stop using your affected arm or leg, the brain thinks that arm or leg is not as important. Then, to become as efficient as possible, it deprioritizes arm or leg movement on that side. And if the neglect continues, it leads to learned nonuse.

For this reason, all movement is beneficial during recovery. If you struggle with post-stroke paralysis, even passive movement (where you assist your limbs through a movement) helps stimulate the brain and prevent learned nonuse.

6. Think About Spasticity Differently

If you are new to the world of stroke recovery, it’s important to educate yourself about all the various physical effects that can result from a stroke. Spasticity can develop after a stroke.

Spasticity involves stiff, tight muscles that result from miscommunication from the brain. When the brain has been impacted by injury, like a stroke, it does not always send the right signals to your muscles. As a result, your muscles tighten up from being over-active, because your brain is unable to tell them to relax when they should.

It can help to realize that the problem is not with your muscles; spasticity originates from the brain. You can help reduce spasticity and restore muscle mobility by engaging neuroplasticity through movement.

As you exercise your affected muscles, you encourage the brain to rewire itself and, as a result, spasticity becomes less severe. This is only possible through consistent movement because the brain needs a good amount of stimulation to rewire itself.

7. Experiment with Different Rehabilitation Methods

There are many techniques for stroke rehabilitation, such as gait training, mirror therapy, and electrical stimulation.

Since every stroke is different, every survivor will benefit from different rehabilitation techniques. What works for one person might not work for you, and vice versa.

Therefore, it can be helpful to experiment with various techniques and explore them with guidance from your therapist. Continue to experiment until you find what works for you, and then do that consistently so that you are giving your brain lots of inputs.

8. Sleep When Your Body Asks for It

Another stroke recovery tip is sleep. Jill Bolte Taylor’s top recommendation for stroke survivors is sleep. (And if you haven’t heard of Jill before, she’s a stroke survivor and brain scientist who gave one of the most-watched TedTalks of all time about her stroke, called “My Stroke of Insight.”)

A recovering brain needs sleep for various reasons. One particularly motivating fact is that sleep helps improve movement recovery after stroke. If you want to improve mobility, then be sure to give yourself plenty of rest along with your daily rehabilitation exercise.

Want 20 pages of stroke recovery tips in an illustrated PDF? Download our free ebook by clicking here (link opens a pop up for uninterrupted reading)

9. Take Steps for Stroke Prevention

Stroke survivors are at higher risk of experiencing an additional stroke, which means that stroke prevention is key. Some great places to start are understanding your stroke risk factors, taking the medications prescribed by your doctor, and staying active.

10. Focus on Foot Drop

If you suffer from foot drop, ankle foot orthotics (AFOs) can help improve your safety and make walking easier. Your Physical Therapist can determine if an AFO is appropriate for you. It’s important to realize that an AFO is a compensatory strategy in stroke recovery, not a rehabilitative device. This means that while the AFO protects your safety, it does not address the root cause of the foot drop.

To reduce foot drop and wean off the need for an AFO, you need to exercise your foot regularly. A consistent foot drop exercise routine can help rewire the brain and improve strength in your ankle.

Mindset and Habit Stroke Recovery Tips

Now let’s move onto our mindset and habit tips for stroke recovery. Mindset leads to habit formation which is the foundation to physical healing.

11. Set Clear, Measurable Goals

Setting goals during stroke recovery can serve as a powerful form of motivation, especially if your goals are specific, measurable, realistic, and challenging enough. For instance, you could set a goal to move from a walker to a quad cane within the next 6 months — if that’s something realistic and challenging for you. Your therapist is the most informed person to guide you in goal-setting because they know your capacity well and have your priorities in mind.

12. Use the 1% Motivation Method

Too often, people try to achieve too much and overdo exercises, which can lead to burnout. This is particularly problematic during stroke recovery when muscles are weak, and joints can become irritated easily. There probably is a lot you want to achieve, but pace yourself. If you feel overwhelmed, take a step back and breathe. You don’t need to win the war today. You only need to win the battle.

Instead of trying to get as much done as possible, just focus on “1% improvement” each day. This will help prevent burnout and lasting results will accumulate over time.

13. Avoid the Nocebo Effect

The nocebo effect happens when you experience a negative effect simply by believing that something negative would happen. For instance, if someone told you that a specific pill would give you the flu, and you experienced the flu even though it was just a sugar pill, then you experienced the nocebo effect.

One of our favorite stroke recovery tips here at Flint Rehab is to always keep an eye out for the nocebo effect. For instance, if a doctor told you that you’ll never be able to walk again, be leery of that potential nocebo effect. Just because a doctor said your recovery will be limited doesn’t mean progress isn’t possible.

Many stroke survivor stories involve people pushing their limits and achieving milestones that were once considered impossible. If these survivors allowed the nocebo effect to stop them from pursuing recovery, they wouldn’t be where they are today.

To achieve your highest recovery, constantly remain curious about your potential.

14. Believe in a Full Recovery

There’s a famous saying that says, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” What if we turned that into a stroke recovery tip?

What would happen if you got curious about your potential to reach a full recovery? Hopefully it might motivate you to take action, which naturally leads to results. It might not lead to a full recovery for everyone, but it will get you much farther than believing otherwise.

15. Read Motivational Quotes

Motivational quotes are like mini life lessons boiled down into a sentence or two, making them powerful sources of motivation. Whenever you’re feeling down, read some inspirational quotes for stroke survivorsPinterest is a great resource for these nuggets of inspiration.

16. Do What Elite Athletes Do: Visualize

Visualization is a powerful neuroscience technique that can help rewire your brain and improve performance. Michael Phelps, 18-time Olympic gold medalist, used visualization to prepare for his swim meets. You can apply the same technique to stroke recovery.

Researchers have demonstrated that imagery of motor tasks can help improve your execution of those tasks. Visualization/imagery can help rewire the brain after a stroke by triggering neuroplasticity in a similar way that physical practice does. While visualization cannot substitute for physical therapy, combining the two can lead to better results.

17. Grow Your Brain with Meditation

Meditation is an underrated stroke recovery technique. It might seem too simple to make any real difference, but the science has proven otherwise!

Regular meditation has been shown to help grow your brain, regulate emotion, and reduce fatigue. All of these benefits are valuable for stroke survivors. If you need help getting started, try using the Calm app (one of our top recommended apps for stroke patients) as it contains guided meditations.

Stroke Recovery Tips on Happiness

In this final section, you’ll discover some stroke recovery tips that help enhance happiness. Hopefully, by improving your mindset, it can help motivate you to take more action and, as a result, encourage recovery.

18. Reverse Negativity

Our brain naturally has a negative bias which means we remember negative events more vividly than positive events. Luckily gratitude can help counteract this mechanism. To cultivate an attitude of gratitude, spend some time every day – even if it’s just for 2 minutes – writing down things you’re grateful for in a journal. Once this habit is developed, it will train your brain to notice more and more things to be grateful for. This is an example of how neuroplasticity can boost your mindset.

19. Improve Your Posture to Boost Motivation

Do you struggle with getting motivated to do your rehab exercises at home? Well, this stroke recovery tip provides an unassuming way to get motivated: using your posture to influence your hormones.

Try this: Lift your arms up into a V (using one arm works just as well) and puff your chest up. How do you feel?

You probably feel more presence, confidence, and comfort in your body. At least, that’s what psychologist Amy Cuddy discovered during her research on body language.

She calls it “power posing” — which includes expanding your body to make yourself feel big. This practice helps boost testosterone (the dominance hormone) and reduces cortisol (the stress hormone). This winning combination makes us feel positive and powerful when we’re in that posture.

So, the next time you’re feeling unmotivated to do your stroke recovery exercises at home, strike a power pose and see if that helps.

20. Happy Gut, Happy Brain

This stroke recovery tip can be yummy! Your gut health is closely tied to your brain health through the gut-brain axis. Many studies have linked an unhealthy microbiome (the ecosystem of 100 trillion little bacteria in your gut) with anxiety and depression. A great way to improve the health of your microbiome is to make sure you’re getting probiotics in your diet, which can be found in cultured foods like yogurt and kefir, or can be taken as a supplement after checking with your doctor. Prebiotics also help prepare your gut to host those good types of bacteria.  Prebiotic foods are fibrous foods like almonds, bananas, whole grains, and cabbage.

21. Create and Enforce Boundaries

If you’re a caregiver, it’s important to respect the boundaries of your loved one and try not to do too much for them; otherwise, your loved one won’t have the experience necessary for recovery. Similarly, if you’re a survivor, it’s also important to protect your boundaries. If a caregiver is doing too much for you, kindly ask them to stop.

On the other hand, if you find yourself unable to get through your day without growing exhausted or frustrated, that could indicate that you need more help to be productive and improve. Try to have open, ongoing conversations with your caregivers and loved ones about how much you need help and how much you want to do on your own.

22. Develop Your Self-Confidence

After a stroke, it’s common for self-confidence to decrease. If this feeling persists, it could be a sign that you are in need of some good psychological care.

It might be time to explore the world of psychotherapy so that you can talk to someone about your experiences. Surviving a stroke and enduring the life-changes that follow are no small feat. Having a therapist to express your frustrations can improve self-confidence and self-esteem.

If you’re more of a do-it-yourself type of person, try exploring stroke recovery books that address the emotional side of recovery, such as our book Healing and Happiness After Stroke.

23. Give Yourself Permission to Grieve

Everyone who goes through loss must deal with grief. And stroke recovery is no exception. Since strokes vary, some people may experience more loss than others. The loss of independence, loss of beloved hobbies, or even loss of identity are only some of the more common types of losses after a stroke.

It’s normal to go through the 5 stages of grief after your life was significantly impacted by a stroke. The stages of grief include denial, bargaining, anger, depression, and acceptance. Most people do not pass through these stages linearly. Sometimes people move between anger and depression many times before getting to acceptance.

But one thing is clear: the only way out is through. Instead of trying to avoid these uncomfortable emotions, it can be helpful to embrace them and give yourself permission to grieve.

24. Make Peace with Slow

We live in a society that idolizes busyness and productivity. As you can imagine, this can create distress when we can’t do things as fast as we once could.

However, overcoming the secondary effects of a stroke often means relearning how to do some things as if for the first time; such as walking, talking, or getting dressed. These daily tasks may take longer than they once did (and you may need a nap after doing them). Try your best to make peace with the slow pace of daily living.

Even though it can be frustrating some days, remember that doing activities on your own helps provide the stimulation and experience that your brain needs for neuroplasticity and healing. Recalibrating how much you accomplish in a single day is a great stroke recovery tip.

25. Use Positive Psychology

You’re almost to the end, and hopefully you’re starting to see how happiness can help accelerate recovery from stroke.

A great place to continue learning about the emotional side of stroke recovery is our book called Healing & Happiness After Stroke. It will show you exactly how to boost self-esteem, happiness, and recovery by using positive psychology tactics. Check it out on Amazon.

We hope these stroke recovery tips bring healing and motivation on your road to recovery.

Keep It Going: Download Our Stroke Recovery Ebook for Free

stroke recovery tips ebooks with fanned pages (1)

Get our free stroke recovery ebook by signing up below! It contains 15 tips every stroke survivor and caregiver must know. You’ll also receive our weekly Monday newsletter that contains 5 articles on stroke recovery. We will never sell your email address, and we never spam. That we promise.

Discover Award-Winning Neurorehab Tools

ebook with the title "full body exercises for stroke patients"

Do you have these 25 pages of rehab exercises?

Get a free copy of our ebook Full Body Exercises for Stroke Patients. Click here to get instant access.

You're on a Roll: Read More Popular Recovery Articles

You’re Really on a Roll! See how Jerry is regaining movement with FitMi home therapy

My husband is getting better and better!

“My name is Monica Davis but the person who is using the FitMi is my husband, Jerry. I first came across FitMi on Facebook. I pondered it for nearly a year. In that time, he had PT, OT and Speech therapy, as well as vision therapy.

I got a little more serious about ordering the FitMi when that all ended 7 months after his stroke. I wish I hadn’t waited to order it. He enjoys it and it is quite a workout!

He loves it when he levels up and gets WOO HOOs! It is a wonderful product! His stroke has affected his left side. Quick medical attention, therapy and FitMi have helped him tremendously!”

Monica & Jerry’s FitMi review

What are these “WOO HOOs” about?

FitMi is like your own personal therapist encouraging you to accomplish the high repetition of exercise needed to improve.

When you beat your high score or unlock a new exercise, FitMi provides a little “woo hoo!” as auditory feedback. It’s oddly satisfying and helps motivate you to keep up the great work.

In Jerry’s photo below, you can see him with the FitMi pucks below his feet for one of the leg exercises:

FitMi is beloved by survivors and used in America’s top rehab clinics

Many therapists recommend using FitMi at home between outpatient therapy visits and they are amazed by how much faster patients improve when using it.

It’s no surprise why over 14,000 OTs voted for FitMi as “Best of Show” at the annual AOTA conference; and why the #1 rehabilitation hospital in America, Shirley Ryan Ability Lab, uses FitMi with their patients.

This award-winning home therapy device is the perfect way to continue recovery from home. Read more stories and reviews by clicking the button below: