By Dr. Shane Steadman, DC, DACNB, DCBCN, CNS
Recovery after a brain injury can be a long journey. Working hard and hoping to get back to baseline often can be frustrating, and for some, unattainable. With the many doctor visits, exercises, rehab appointments, medications, and supplements, goals can become lost. However, amid recovering from a brain injury, one needs to consider resilience, the ability to recover from difficulties. Bouncing back or having resiliency from a brain injury can be extremely difficult.
There are many ways to look at resiliency or ways to make oneself more resistant to stressors. Most individuals with brain injuries find their threshold to do simple tasks very low. This includes reading, engaging with others, cleaning the house, or driving. Others find they cannot be around chemicals or even eat certain foods. Being resilient can look different for many with different approaches. Let’s discuss a few examples and their approaches.
Many find exercise a difficult activity. People will even avoid engaging in any type of exercise due to their injury. With this scenario, starting any type of exercise is very important – even if the exercise starts slow for five minutes, using low resistance exercise bands or doing isometrics or simple stretches. The goal for increasing resiliency is to start low and build up over time. Being able to build up endurance, strength, and stamina over time allows for resiliency of activities of daily living. This might allow someone to engage more with friends and family. Important for recovery, slowly increasing activities over time aids brain function and builds more endurance for brain activities such as rehab.
Immune resilience improves resiliency to one’s environment, and can be as simple as replacing toxic chemicals in the home to more natural safe products. Replacing products such as detergence, deodorant, soap, toothpaste, and cleaning supplies can be an easy step to reducing agents causing inflammation in the body. When a person constantly needs to deal with toxins, mold, allergens, and chemicals, it creates consistent immune activation causing global inflammation.
Recovering from a brain injury grows more difficult when the body, more importantly the brain, deals with external stressors resulting in inflammation. Inflammation in the body can lead to inflammation in the brain. Resiliency can begin slowly with evaluating one’s environment and identifying what can be changed. In addition to one’s environment, making healthy food choices can be a challenging area, but a necessary adaptation. Consuming neurotoxic or allergenic products creates immune reactions making us less resilient with time.
Psychological resilience is probably the most difficult for people to overcome. A traumatic brain injury impacts so many facets of our lives. It is very hard to understand what others go through daily. With an invisible brain injury, it is tough to see the emotional and psychological impact on mental health. Many experts and research articles discuss the importance of a positive attitude and the role it plays on physical and mental health. The chemical changes in the body are well researched with how negative and positive emotions play a role.
It makes sense that this might be the most difficult area to improve, but when it comes to becoming more resilient, it could be the most important. Like exercise, a person can start with working on small moments throughout the day or week. For others, working with a professional counselor might be the best option to make these small changes. Building resilience in this scenario means being able to handle the daily stress of life as well as life’s challenges.
Finally, there are two ways to look at resiliency. The first is to become proactive and make the changes needed to keep the body strong both physically and mentally. Such changes include exercising, self-care, removing toxins, and eating healthy. The major goal of being proactive, a person can bounce back from major events such as an injury or infection by adopting these practices.
The second way to look at resiliency is how well a person comes back from an injury, stressful event, or infection. Recovery looks different for each person. When a person goes through the recovery process, areas of their daily life can be improved. Some situations we cannot control, but some areas of life we can, such as allergens, toxins, and our thoughts. Starting with the little things and increasing them over time builds resiliency. Some days will be easier than others, but when someone is able to do a little more, then they become more resilient. It can be a tough journey but doing a little over time can have a big impact.
Dr. Shane Steadman, DC, DACNB, DCBCN, CNS, is the owner and clinic director of Integrated Brain Centers. To learn more about how they can help with concussions, stroke, and TBIs, please visit www.integratedbraincenters.com. For a free consultation, please call 303-781-5617.