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Finding Happiness

Finding happiness after a brain injury can seem impossible, but it can happen. Some strategies can help. I've researched a few and listed them below.

Remember that this is not instantaneous, and it's ok to ask for help. Be patient with yourself. (I'm the first to admit that it can be tricky.) 

"I always find beauty in things that are odd and imperfect - they are much more interesting."

Marc Jacobs

Acceptance: Acknowledging and accepting the changes to your life that have occurred due to the TBI doesn't mean giving up; instead, it means understanding your new life and focusing on what you do have the ability to control and work on improving

Set realistic expectations: I've already discussed this in other areas, but setting realistic goals is important physically and mentally. Small victories enable you to reach your bigger goals. I'm still working on doing up a zipper; I can pretty much hold both sides of my jacket. The next stage is getting the zip together, eventually pulling the zip up and then being able to undo it and take the jacket off.

Focus on strengths: Work out your strengths and abilities and find ways to use them in your new daily life. Celebrate achieving targets, no matter how small they may seem or even if they are not necessarily goals you set. Be proud of yourself for how strong you can be in such a tough time.

Seek support: Try to develop a supportive group of family, friends, doctors, and other TBI survivors. Talking about your experiences and challenges with people who understand you and what you're going through can provide a crucial emotional lifeline.

Engage in meaningful activities: Try activities that make you happy and feel you've achieved something. It can be anything from spending time with friends to participating in sports, arts and crafts or a hobby you enjoy. Even if you have to do it in an adapted way to before your TBI, you are still utilising physical and cognitive skills and, therefore, working on your rehab.

Practice self-care: Looking after yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally is a significant part of recovery. Rest and a balanced diet play an essential part. Engage in regular exercise as far as you can manage, and try to learn relaxation techniques such as meditation, Pilates, and yoga to manage stress. The latter two can be beneficial physically.

  

Give yourself things to look forward to: Find something special daily and celebrate what makes you smile. Enjoy these moments and focus on the happy parts, whether enjoying a favourite meal, spending time in nature, or listening to music.

Stay connected: Stay connected with others, even if speaking or socialising is challenging. If holding a conversation is difficult, try using technology, writing, or other nonverbal means to communicate with loved ones and combat feelings of isolation. I had a trach for six months and had to communicate via a whiteboard. I had to write and try to mime things as my handwriting was pretty poor, but it was better than nothing.

Practice mindfulness: Try to use mindfulness techniques in your daily routine to keep your mind in the present moment and focus on a greater sense of peace and acceptance. It has been proven to help reduce stress, anxiety, and dwelling on the past or worries about the future. Mindfulness isn't necessarily focusing purely on breathwork. It can be appreciating and focusing on a sunny day, a walk in the countryside, doing something you love, and turning your train of thought into something positive.

 Seek professional help if needed: It can be common to struggle with depression, anxiety, or other mental health concerns; it's vital to seek help from a therapist, counsellor, or psychiatrist. Many treatments and support are available to help with these challenges and improve your state of mind and overall well-being. A recent study by Kings College London published in the "Lancet Regional Health – Europe (March 2024) showed that 60% of stroke survivors can experience depression within the first five years. This is much higher than other previous studies. If you're interested in reading the study, please click here.

Things Can
Be Funny

Everything will seem overwhelming and maybe a tad stressful. It's not easy, but try and find something to make you smile. Finding the smallest positive can help!

"Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring."

Marilyn Monroe

A piece of advice to trach patients: once you start learning to use the speaking valve, remember that people can hear you! Having only spoken to myself for six months, I had a couple of speech sessions where I came up with some strange conversation stoppers! Part of learning to talk again after a tracheostomy is singing. I have never been able to sing, and I did warn the therapy team about this. They only believed me when it suddenly sounded like a car alarm started going off!

Having worn glasses my entire life, I'm pretty lazy at switching between my sunglasses and regular glasses if I'm only indoors for a few minutes. Now that I have my white stick, my laziness led to an awkward situation on holiday recently. While I went indoors to use the loo at a restaurant, a lovely girl opened the door to the disabled cubicle for me (I thought she was being polite). When I went to wash my hands, another lady took me by the hand, led me to the sink, showed me where the taps and soap were, and then handed me a paper towel. I was appreciative, if not slightly confused. It took me a few minutes to realise that my lack of effort in changing glasses combined with my white stick (which I use for my limited vision) meant she'd assumed I was completely blind.

If you choose to use a microphone with your computer, it should make your speech therapist happy! But you do have to work hard on your pronunciation. My microphone comes out with some very odd phrases! It seems to like "Sarah P" instead of "therapy", "pluck a particular chicken" instead of "pick a particular activity", and the weirdest is "Frank's fingers". I'm not entirely sure where it got that one from!

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