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Tips to Tackle Depression After Brain Injury

When it comes to depression, no hard and fast rules apply. Although depression does not discriminate, some individual may become more prone to developing mental health issues over the courses of their lives. Brain injury survivors unfortunately fall under this category. Mental health issues can be triggered by damage sustained to the brain or as a secondary effect due to all the life changes may have taken place following the injury.

A whopping 75.2% of individuals who suffered a brain injury are diagnosed with psychiatric disorder within the first 5 years of their brain event. Of that percentage,56.5% of those individuals would have never experienced that type of disorder before [1].

Tackling the downward spiral

When we feel low mood, we can have a tendency to do things that will keep us stuck in the mud. So when trying to tackle our low mood, the focus doesn't need to be on making perfect decisions, but simply attempting to make good decisions. Aim on doing things 1% better than you would otherwise so you start creating a pattern of moving in the right direction. It will also give you a feeling of accomplishment on which you can build on.

Like in many things in life, consistency is key. Try to be consistent in implementing small positive changes. Being consistent helps lay the foundation for creating new habits, and gradually, those small changes can start feeling like second nature.

Focus on sustainable changes. As mentioned earlier, the trick is to aim to do 1% better so the changes don’t feel overwhelming. As you incorporate them into your daily routine, you can then focus on doing another things 1% better.

Don’t be hard on yourself if you feel low. Low mood tends to make us our own worst critic. The reality is that when we are stuck in a low mood, we are most likely trying harder than ever not to feel the way we are...which can be pretty crap right. Words matter so talk to yourself in the same way that you would when supporting someone you love. Make sure that the words you use for you inner talk are encouraging, compassionate and kind. It can be easier said than done at the start, but with a bit of practice, choosing kind words becomes less effortful.

Woman sitting on a fence looking out to the ocean

When we find ourselves stuck in a low mood, we can focus on what we don’t want to think or feel. Spending time identifying how we’d like to think and feel can help us be more solution focused. Chances are, you may have experienced similar low mood in the past and found a way out. Spending time thinking about how you tackled previous low moods or thinking about how you think and feel when you are in a good place, may help guide your next course of actions. Asking ourselves the right and tough questions isn't always an easy exercise, but by figuring out where you want to go and by keeping your focus on simple steps to get there, doing 1% better becomes less daunting.

Another trick that works well is to start a gratitude journal. Try writing 3 things each day for which you are grateful. Again, they don't have to be big things, the objective is to get your mind to shift towards positive thoughts and outlook. If you are not familiar with gratitude practice, read my blog "Practicing Gratitude during Brain Injury Recovery" and check out my free 7 Days of gratitude journal which contains a few prompts to help get you started.

It is not always an easy or quick exercise to bounce back from the rock bottom. We often tend to isolate ourselves further when we find ourselves in a dark place, but talking to a friend, a counselor or perhaps someone within the brain injury community that gets your own challenge can be really helpful in initiating your way out of a downward spiral.

In summary

Let's remind you of a few tips to help you tackle the mental health downward spiral:

  • Aim on doing something 1% better each day

  • Be consistent

  • Focus on sustainable changes

  • Talk to yourself kindly

  • Focus on how you feel when you are at your best

  • Write down 3 things you are grateful for daily.

  • Talk to someone

I'd love to hear about any other tips that work for you. Please leave a comment so others can benefit from your personal experience in looking after your mental health.

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