Are You Ready To Change?

Art by Emma Powell, Colorado

Art by Emma Powell, Colorado

Recovery from a brain injury is a road with many unforeseen twists and turns. You can often feel like you are experiencing so many things new again. One day you feel like you are making progress and the next frustrated by stagnation. Twists and turns. Starts and stops. Happiness and disappointment. But there is hope when you stick with the hard work of improving and celebrate your small successes.

The secret is how you handle each twist and turn. There are times when you feel like you don’t want to work on an area that needs improvement because you are tired, overwhelmed, or feel like you are doing just fine. Other people may tell you that an area needs improvement but you don’t see it the same way. How urgent you see the need to improve drives your commitment to seeking help.

The first step is to ask yourself “To what extent is an area of my behavior, health or life getting in the way of me feeling fulfilled and happy?” This question paints a picture about how urgent you feel the need to change. If you believe that the investment you make in changing will be worth it in the end, then you are ready to discuss with others how to get the help you need.

But it isn’t always that simple. Some people know that something needs to change but hesitate to commit because it appears so overwhelming to do so. They may also hesitate because they don’t think it is as big a problem as other people are telling them. If you are in this situation, you owe it to yourself to have one meeting with one person who can help you improve in that area. You are not committing to anything other than just one meeting to discuss the process of changing something important in your life. Sometimes the solution is not as overwhelming as we once thought. You also obtain a better understanding about the work required to change.

In short, take one small step to learn how you can improve one aspect of your life. Then, decide if you want to tackle the problem or wait. Many people don’t like taking even a small, initial step because they believe that they are being asked to make a bigger commitment, but they are not. You are committing to learning only what it takes to improve before you decide to act. 

Posted on July 21, 2016 .

Put Your Apron On: Using Meal Subscriptions After a Brain Injury

Painting by Ilya Zomb

Painting by Ilya Zomb

Michael Cerreto, MS, CPCRT, CSC, LDR, Edu-K

Sarah always took pride in her cooking. She loved to challenge herself with new recipes and come up with her own creations. Her family and friends raved about her meals and she frequently described herself as a “foodie.” Cooking was a major part of her identity and life.

Then one summer she had a stroke and subsequent brain injury. Hospitals, friends, and family did all of the cooking for her. Her rehabilitation was slow physically and mentally. She couldn’t imagine cooking again or doing most things she once enjoyed. She was focused on her fragile health and recovery.

One Saturday afternoon, Sarah woke up from a nap on her couch. She heard her husband Tom on the deck and smelled steaks cooking. She walked outside to chat and watch him grill steaks, asparagus, corn, and onions and peppers. She enjoyed watching the rhythm of his movements grilling but had no interest in lending a hand because she felt so fatigued. She knew, however, that she was going to get back in the kitchen the next day and whip-up a tasty meal for her family. The grill’s smoke, smells, and heat sparked her desire to cook again.

Fantasy and reality collided the next day like the fists of a hungry crowd of senior citizens pounding against a dinning hall door that is one minute late opening for dinner. Sarah struggled finding her recipes. She got distracted easily. She forgot where she stored pots, seasonings, and utensils. She missed steps in the recipe and had to frequently back track. She found herself mumbling, “I don’t remember it being this hard. I’m so stupid.”  

She flopped herself onto a kitchen chair, put her face in her hands, and cried. She retreated to the couch and fell asleep from exhaustion, leaving the kitchen as messy as a teenager’s bedroom floor.

When Sarah lamented to Tom that night about the possibility of never being able to cook again, Tom suggested Blue Apron. It is a meal subscription program that delivers to your home the exact ingredients and instructions (comes with beautiful recipe cards) for you to cook a meal without measuring or shopping. Everything is fresh and makes cooking minimalistic, which is so helpful for brain injury survivors.

After one week of cooking Blue Apron meals, Sarah came to her next session with me and said that she got part of her life back. She said that “This is a perfect service for brain injury survivors because it makes cooking easier and it also requires you to follow directions, remember the step you are on, and use your hands.” 

Learn More About Meal Subscription Services

Graphic from LifeHacker

Graphic from LifeHacker

In addition to Blue Apron, there are other meal subscription programs such as Plated and Hello Fresh. While they have similarities, there are some differences in quantity of meals and pricing. You can read a comparison of the three services HERE.

Services like Blue Apron, Plated, and Hello Fresh can provide brain injury survivors with conveniently delivered meals. It requires you to use cognitive skills that are important to daily living. When preparing the meals, you use the following skills:

  • Sequencing
  • Following directions
  • Organizing
  • Motor
  • Impulse control
  • Paying attention

Most of all, you feel a sense of accomplishment and mastery over your world. You also get to gather your family around the dinner table and enjoy a meal you prepared for them. It helps you expand your world after a brain injury.

 

Discloser: Michael Cerreto and A Talented Mind Clinic have no relationship with Blue Apron, Plated or Hello Fresh and derive no financial benefit from these companies.

Posted on June 20, 2016 and filed under Brain Injury.

Brain Injury Stress Solutions: Three Ways To Manage Stress After a Brain Injury

By Michael Cerreto, MS, CPCRT, CSC, LDR, Edu-K

You may be in the process of redefining your identity after a brain injury, which is important to recovery.  We all search for the meaning of who we are throughout life. Our introspective journeys never end; they start and stop, ebb and flow, based on how life impacts us and our own maturity.

Your life is bigger, broader, and more diverse than just being someone with a brain injury. Your brain injury doesn’t completely define who you are, even if it feels like it does at times. 

Your uncertainty and self-reflection after a brain injury may cause you to experience elevated stress that puts you in a highly vigilant state of worry, fear, and concern. Consequently, you may have trouble with sleep, eating, irritability, and self-doubt.

Art by Lola Dupre, Glasgow, Scotland

Art by Lola Dupre, Glasgow, Scotland

Women Effected Differently By Stress

Did you know that there is a difference between how women and men are effected by stress? Weizmann Institute of Science researchers found that women may have a more intense stress response under some circumstances than men, which can result in suppressed hunger and other symptoms. 

Furthermore, because women are more aware of how they relate to others socially, they may become highly critical of themselves after a brain injury, which compounds their stress.

Art by Brad Kunkle, Brooklyn, NY

Art by Brad Kunkle, Brooklyn, NY

Three Ways To Better Manage Stress After a Brain Injury

While there are many effective ways to manage stress after a brain injury, the following are three methods that have helped survivors:

Look Forward

To better manage the stress you experience with a brain injury, you need to stop asking “Why did this happen to me?” and start asking “What do I want to create for myself now?” Many positive aspects of your life before your brain injury still remain and can continue adding to your life. Always look forward to what is possible.

Accept Your Feelings As Normal

Are you uncomfortable with the conflicted feelings you have about having a brain injury? You need to accept your feelings as being normal for anyone who experienced a brain injury. Your feelings are not abnormal unless they are destructive to you and others. If you view your myriad of feelings as being normal for your situation, you may be more open to talking about them with others instead of hiding them.

Take Care of Your Body

You need to take care of your body to help calm your stressful mind. Our bodies hold a lot of tension, more than you think. You should take concrete steps to care for your body with movement, exercise, diet, and sleep. Calming your body’s tension can calm your stressful mind.

 

Start Today

Start today to take care of the stress in your life, and your reaction to it. You should take a closer look at how your thinking and behavior each day intensifies or reduces stress. Does your thinking and behavior calm and relax you or make you feel moody and unmotivated? The solutions to a low stress life after a brain injury are in your hands.

 

Share Your Thoughts

What are effective ways you have managed your day-to-day stress that you believe can help others?

Posted on June 10, 2016 .

TBI Loneliness: Break Free From Loneliness After a Brain Injury

By Michael Cerreto, MS, CPCRT, CSC, LDR, Edu-K

Painting by Nigel Cox

Painting by Nigel Cox

Over the years, you wake up each morning with the certainty that your life would remain relatively stable. Then one day, you have a bad car accident. When you wakeup after the accident, you are surrounded by nurses, tubes, beeping monitors, and the shock that something serious occurred but you can’t remember what. You find it hard to speak, remember, move. You are staring down a future of doctors, rehabilitation, and uncertainty.

But time and resilience march on. After being diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury, you receive wonderful support and treatment and get a little better each month. You are encouraged by your progress but still think about the job you can no longer do and the friends who stopped calling. You feel guilty about how your family has been effected, and powerless to care for them as before.

 

You Want More Out Of Life

With each small success, you begin to want more out of life but feel constrained by your inability to follow conversations, remember, and do physical activities that once were so easy. You feel lonely but reluctant to journey out of the house. So you withdraw into your own world of TV, reading, eating, and doctor’s appointments. Greater isolation and loneliness set in.

As humans, we try hard to avoid isolation and loneliness by creating expansive lives through school, friendships, sports, arts, religion, and family. After a brain injury, your world shrinks and you can quickly withdraw into isolation and loneliness, which are shackles that constrain recovery.

Painting by Jim Zwaldo

Painting by Jim Zwaldo

 

You Can Break Free From Loneliness

You can break free from loneliness and expand your world again. Having a life of meaning and achievement can help you feel worthwhile and productive after a brain injury. You can have a renewed sense of mastery and control over your life, which are important to recovery.

The first step is to work with a friend or family member to answer the Breaking Free From Loneliness questions below to determine how you want to expand your world. I discuss these questions with my patients and the discussion helps them determine how to escape from loneliness. So, find someone you trust and discuss these questions for yourself. 

Make Everything a Routine: Whatever you choose to do outside the home to rebuild your life, make sure the activities are scheduled routines each week. For instance, every Monday you are at the gym exercising from 11:00am to 1:00pm; Tuesday you are taking a painting class from 4:00pm to 5:00pm, and so on. By making your activities set routines each week, you are more likely to follow through and be consistent.


Join Special Online Community For Support and Sharing

Be one of the first to join the new Comeback Project community for brain injury survivors and their families. A Talented Mind Clinic provides you with a free, private online community to share information and get support as you comeback from a brain injury. Start getting the support you need today. You can register to join this supportive community at REQUEST AN INVITE.

You can access the community any place and time on your computer or through a free, mobile phone app.


Breaking Free From Loneliness Discussion Questions

Step 1: Before your brain injury, what did you enjoy doing in the following areas:

Family activities:

Hobbies:

Socializing with friends:

Spiritually:

Volunteering:

Work:

Exercise:

Sports and recreation:

Arts:

Step 2: What other activities or interests do you have now that you did not have before your brain injury?

Step 3: Based on the lists above, select the top three activities that you want to consistently do with others outside the home at this time.

Step 4: How can you get involved with those activities outside the home each week on a regular, consistent basis?

Step 5: List the steps you need to take to get started (such as calling, emailing, or signup).

 

Posted on May 18, 2016 .