Focused & Distracting Activities

Following a brain injury, difficulties with sustained attention and focus are very common. Sustained attention refers to the ability to maintain concentration, without distraction, on a particular task in order to carry it out. Some examples include completing a project, reading a complete chapter of a book, following a lengthy conversation, etc. Attention must be maintained for the period of time required to complete the task at hand or, if distraction is unavoidable, the same degree of attention will then be required to refocus the attention back on that task.

On the other hand, some distracting activities are beneficial to brain injury survivors. One of the things that you can do to limit the amount of time you spend worrying or stressed is to use distracting activities. Distraction means leaving the brain injury issues in the background, and shifting or moving your attention onto something simple, repetitive, and fun. By playing simple word games, number games, video games, or using breathing techniques, you can help steer the brain away from negative emotions, reduce stress, and allow the brain to heal.

It is important to note that brain injury can result in aggression and rage, and brain injury survivors may explore other more powerful activities and distractions in order to quiet the mind. This includes drug use, excessive alcohol, recklessness and other dangerous activities. Also, some brain damage in childhood and early adulthood may increase the likelihood of criminal behavior. This damage typically lowers inhibitions or emotional control, affecting the way we respond to triggers in the environment.

Focus and attention training –

After a brain injury, it is important to retrain your brain for focus and attention. You can begin practicing attention skills on simple, yet practical activities, like reading a short story or balancing your checkbook, in a quiet room. Take breaks when you get tired. Gradually make those tasks harder, like reading a full chapter of a book, creating a personal budget, cooking a full meal, and working in a less quiet environment.

Distracting and repetitive activities –

Distracting and repetitive activities can help you feel safe in the moment, reduce anxiety, and allow you to cope with difficult feelings and emotions in the long run. These activities include pattern drawing, knitting, paper crafts, card games, video games, etc. While on the face of it these activities may seem like simple distractions, they have several added benefits to be explored. This includes engaging several parts of the brain at once, triggering old and new ways of thinking, and improving fine motor skills, all of which may help promote neuroplasticity.

Unhealthy and reckless behavior –

Increased irritability, anger, and rage after brain injury is common. People with a brain injury are often impatient, intolerant of others’ mistakes, and easily irritated by interruptions, such as noise from children or machinery, which disrupt their concentration. Brain injury survivors and their support need to work together to prevent unhealthy and desperate behavior, which occurs in response to those strong feelings and emotions. In those cases, it is imperative to work with brain injury survivors in a proactive way to help find alternate activities and steer them away from drug and alcohol abuse, deliberate self-harm, reckless and criminal behavior, etc.