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Tips to monitor your Brain Injury Recovery

Brain injury recovery takes place over a period of time. From one day to the next, positive changes are not always noticeable. In my early days of recovery, my doctor was prompting me to evaluate my recovery in terms of weeks and months. I was rather impatient and I remember thinking surely not…but turns out he was right. Adjusting my expectations was initially somewhat heart-breaking, but also the right thing to do to keep my motivation levels up and my mental health in check.

Brain injury recovery is a marathon and not a sprint.

As we are about to turn the page on another year, you may find that it is time reflect on the year that’s been and evaluate how far you’ve come in terms of brain injury recovery. In this blog, I’ll try to capture a few tips to help you evaluate how far you’ve come and empower you to keep looking for ways to take your recovery to the next stage.

How to carry out an end of year review?

I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to conduct an end of year review. Make sure to add your own personal flavour as no two brain injuries are the same. The aim goal is to keep you motivated so I think it will speak most to you if you can bring your creative flair to it. You may wish to draw images, add pictures or videos, graphs, add sections where you add the input of someone who has been supportive of your recovery and so on. Sky is the limit and why not have a little bit of fun while doing it right.

Whatever format you settle on, I think that a review should include a mix of the following so you get the most from it.

1- Evaluate your strengths

Woman standing looking out to the sea while leaning on a dingy

A good way to evaluate our strengths is to track your accomplishments. People involved in your recovery may be able to help you with this one as you may have already established some goals. Take a moment to look at those goals and see if you’ve achieved them. You may not quite have met those goals yet, but by monitoring the progress made, you’ll be able to establish how valuable any progress has been for you. Achievements will differ from one individual to another, but they may include aspects such as:

  • Mobility and coordination

  • Fatigue levels

  • Cognition (processing time, attention, memory, concentration…)

  • Return to work

  • Ability to drive

  • Gain made when exercising

  • Socialising with family and friends

  • Getting involved in the community

  • Tolerance to sensory overload

  • Ability to manage your emotions

  • And so on…

Don’t be afraid to highlight your accomplishments and milestones as it’s something you should be proud of. If you can identify the positive impact that they’ve had on you, even better as this will become a building block for the upcoming year.

2- Areas for improvement

It’s important to be honest and critical when identifying areas for improvement but remember to be fair and kind to yourself. We are often our own worst critic so try to approach this section as if you were giving feedback to someone you love. Doing so may help you rephrase things in a way that will be empowering. Really see this section as an opportunity for learning.

An easy way to identify your weakness, is to have a think about what it is that you have struggled with. Once you have identified those, try to come up with a few ideas of how you could mitigate those struggles going forward.

3- Look to the future

This is the section where you can expand on what you’d like growth to look like for you in the year ahead. Try to use your strengths identified above and see how you can leverage them to work on the areas that can be improved. Where possible, try to be specific and describe how you plan to remain committed.

Depending on how thorough you want your end of year review to look like, you may wish to give some thought to establishing SMART goals which stand for:

Specific: What do you want to accomplish?

Measurable: How can I measure this?

Attainable: Is this goal realistic for me?

Relevant: Is this relevant to my recovery?

Time-bound: When you want this goal met?

If you prefer to keep things simple, having a read of the SMART goals questions mentioned above may help you describe how you plan to stay committed to your recovery without making this a laborious exercise.

One last thing…

You should be very proud of yourself for all the little milestones achieved throughout the year. As we know, brain injury recovery isn’t linear so it’s easy to get disheartened whenever we experience a set-back. That’s where an end of year review can be helpful as it can help clearly show that despite the ups and downs, the overall trajectory is aiming upwards.

I personally think that it is important to celebrate how far you have come. Think of a way to reward yourself for each milestone and don’t be afraid to share those milestones with others too. You’ve worked hard to get to where you are so keep the good work up and be excited to explore how you will grow further in terms of recovery and as an individual while navigating brain injury recovery.

In case no one’s told you yet, I’m proud of you! Congrats for all your hard work paying off!

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