I have learnt over the years that New Years Eve and the start of the year tends to be one of the biggest let downs of all time. It always seems to fail in meeting my expectations and many people I talk to agree with me on that point. I have often wondered why that is. I’ve come to believe that we, as people, seem to associate a new year with new beginnings and change which sounds brilliant. While on paper this is a good attitude to have, we often fail to really understand the nature of “changes” and “new beginnings”. What we forget is that we have to start that process ourselves. One day in a year ticking over into a new one doesn’t start change; we do. We sometimes forget that and it can often bring us down in the first month of a new year. But when the clock strikes midnight on New Years Eve, if we are aware of that, then we can truly make the year our own. Brain injury or not. So here are my tips to solving the problem of the “January Blues”.
My Tips To Make The Year Your Own
Adopt A “Seize The Day” Attitude: How does the saying go? something like: “You don’t regret the things you do, but the things you don’t” or word to that effect. Now, I’m fully aware that due to the way brain injuries manifest themselves, issues like fatigue and motivation can be difficult to overcome. These issues are emphasised by the amount of caution we have to take in terms of what we do, what our limits are and what we find difficult. However, I have learnt over the years that sometimes we have to throw caution to the wind, take a risk and just do it. This is how we find out our strengths and weaknesses as well as possibly finding something new in our lives that may provide purpose, friendship, passion and engagement (or if we are lucky, even all of the above).
Set A Target For The Year: It’s very easy to just say “Seize The Day”, use it as a slogan. The issue that we, as brain injury patients, have is that those manifestations I mentioned in the last point (fatigue & motivation) can often set us back in pursuing the things we want to achieve. My solution to this is to set myself a goal for the coming year, something that I really want to achieve, something to incentivise me. Such a goal doesn’t have to be grand or hugely ambitious, it can be small but something you know you want to or need to achieve. Even if it’s a simple issue to make progress in terms of taking on responsibility and more control over aspects of your recovery, or something that takes a lot of hard work and more ambitious like learning a new skill or relearning old ones. Goals focus the mind and give us something to aim for; the potential rewards act as the incentive to overcome our issues.
Adopt A Daily Habit, Beneficial To You: This is a particularly good thing to adopt. There are so many things out there that can help aid us in our recovery. Adopting healthy disciplines (which could also contribute to your target for the year, maybe?) is a key part of moving towards a more independent lifestyle, whether you are hoping to become completely independent or just more self-reliant. If your target is to lose weight, adopt an exercise program, if you want to get back into the world of work, take on a list of chores each day or maybe volunteer some of your time to local charities, or just do a mind exercise each day (depending on the stage of your recovery) there are so many types of problem solving exercises with different levels of difficulty (Spot The Difference, Word Search, Su-Do-Ku, Crosswords). Try to exercise your brain and install such disciplines to help yourself move forward.
Kick The Booze: This is something I’ve mentioned in previous posts and is something I am a strong believer in, particularly for brain injury patients. Alcohol is a depressant and as such will negatively affect the way you are feeling. Also, the rate at which I recovered from the effects of drinking just a few points (sometimes 2/3 days)proved to me that drinking was just not worth it. Trust me when I say that you will feel so much better after a period of time sober.
Try New Things: How about making a list? I always like list making. It gives me a sense of direction, a sense of where my priorities are and allows me to see what I want to achieve. So Why not try writing down a list of new things that you want to achieve before the year’s end, new things that you haven’t tried before. Sometimes, during the early stages of my recovery, some of the things I found most beneficial came from things I that stuck to the wall after I’d thrown all manner of things at it.
Try To Get Out There: For me, this has been a big issue. I have really struggled to get out there after my brain injury and form long-lasting, positive relationships. I think I’m afraid of putting myself out there and finding myself excluded. The life of a brain injured person can be a lonely one. Often, we can make this harder on ourselves due to that fear of exclusion or prejudice from other people which can cause us to disengage and withdraw from society. We fear that our experiences will set us apart and that we will have no common ground. To make this step easier, there are many opportunities to access groups and meetings with other people with similar experiences (often led by charities such as Headway). So why not try and dip your toes in the water of socialisation again? You may find the water warmer than you think.
Finally, Be Positive: Finally, what I said at the start regarding the anticipation and let down of the turn of the Year that leads to “The January Blues” is only the case if you make it so. If you use your own ideas, some of the advice provided by Headway and your doctor’s and you approach things with a positive attitude and with good intentions then 2017 could be the year where you make that crucial breakthrough in whatever aspect of recovery it is that you’re focussing on. Be positive and enjoy 2017 from day one!
About the author
My life was changed for ever on the 30th of August 2009 when an attack on a night out left me with sever brain injuries. I was left in an induced coma after suffering fractures to the skull, bleeds on the brain, as well as severe bruising to the frontal lobes. Since the injury I have found it hard to find and keep work, to maintain relationships, and generally stay positive. I have decided to share all of my journey with you, in the hope we can bring brain injury awareness to the level it should be at. Please, follow my own WordPress blog Life After Brain Injury to keep up to date with my brain injury journey! Follow me on Twitter: @ABIBlogger
Tom Massey, ABI Blogger