Maintain Healthy Habits

After a brain injury, you may experience a range of neuropsychological issues. Depending on the part of the brain affected and the severity of the injury, the results can vary greatly. Just as no two brains are alike, no two injuries are the same. Once the symptoms begin, the challenge of dealing with those symptoms while trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy consumes all physical and brain power. Healthy habits are the first to take a hit.

Every brain heals differently after a brain injury. How quickly you’ll recover is unpredictable. You may look fine on the outside, but are struggling on the inside. You may have good days and bad days. This can be hard for everyone involved. The important thing to remember is that you’ll get better. Staying active, spending time with friends and family, and trying to live as normal a life as possible is the best way to cope. Physical activity, healthy eating, good sleep, and managing stress will help sustain you during the healing journey.

It is important to note that individuals living with brain injury are at an increased risk for developing chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and hypertension, as compared to the non-injured population. So, keeping healthy habits will contribute to healing after brain injury. Some normal activities may become health hazards after brain injury, and must be reconsidered. Avoid activities that are physically demanding or require a lot of concentration, as they can make your symptoms worse and slow down your recovery.

Sleeping –

Good sleep hygiene after brain injury is a must. Longer than usual sleep after brain injury is common, and is needed to regenerate parts of the brain so that it can continue to function normally. Lack of sleep can cause some neurons in the brain to malfunction, so a working sleep pattern is necessary. If the neurons cannot function properly, it affects behavior and has an impact on performance. There are studies that suggest sleep may play an important role in clearing waste from the brain after brain injury – and if you don’t sleep very well, you might not clean your brain’s waste as efficiently.

Diet and hydration –

Maintaining a balanced diet and good hydration after brain injury helps balance both the mind and body and improves nearly every body system. As a result, you will quickly see the mental and physical benefits of eating healthy and maintaining good hydration in your recovery. Maintaining good hydration helps maintain the brain’s neuroplasticity, which refers to the brain’s ability to adapt its structure and function in response to changes in the brain. Also, a balanced and nutritious diet can also be a strong tool to help maintain your overall wellness, and help with recovery. Some studies have shown that a Mediterranean diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, olive oil, and fish may be beneficial after brain injury. So, staying well hydrated and keeping a balanced diet will help with healing and recovery, and will improve your mood.

Staying active –

Staying active is good for your muscles and bones, and will help your brain’s health, too. Physical activity can improve your cognitive health – helping you think, learn, problem-solve, and reach an emotional balance. It can improve memory and reduce anxiety or depression. The American Physical Therapy Association recommends that recovering brain injury patients engage in healthy physical activities. Regularly exercising for 20 to 40 minutes at least three times a week can significantly benefit one’s cognition and cardiovascular health. Staying active can be challenging after sustaining a brain injury, given all the physical and cognitive symptoms, but it is possible, from a simple walk in the park, to leisure swimming, or a bicycle ride, all can have a positive impact on recovery and the overall health.

Social activities –

After a brain injury, many people struggle to maintain a social life and social relationships. Socialization is incredibly important for a person’s overall health and well-being. A lack of socialization leads to feelings like loneliness and low self-esteem. Negative effects on mental health from lack of socialization can lead to more problems, such as paying less attention to physical health and rehabilitation. Socializing after a brain injury can be challenging, but it is not impossible. There are ways to interact with others that can create a rich and fulfilling social life, while still being mindful of changing abilities and needs. Start with spending time with family and friends, and join support groups. Your social calendar will eventually gain momentum.

Managing stress –

Feelings of sadness, frustration, and loss are common after brain injury. These feelings often appear during the early stages of recovery, after the individual has become more aware of long term implications. When you are frequently stressed, this stress will cause the inflammation in the brain to persist or increase, thus usually making symptoms even worse. People with brain injury can take steps to reduce stress. For example, they can use relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or muscle relaxation, schedule breaks, and practice mindfulness activities. A daily schedule of structured activities and gentle exercise can also help reduce distress. If these feelings of stress become overwhelming and start to interfere with recovery, then an appointment with your doctor or psychologist becomes necessary.