So after we’ve done all of the things I have mentioned in my previous posts; work, health & fitness and domestic duties, we have to find ways to spend the remaining hours in the day. But how can we do that in a way that can be both fun and beneficial to us and our medical situation? Below is a list of things that I believe can be beneficial to the brain post-brain injury, both in the physical and mental sense.
Beneficial Activities To Spend Time Doing
- Sports & Exercise – I’ve mentioned in an earlier post the benefits that exercise and sport can have on your physical and mental health. However, we can often see exercise as an obligation rather than an opportunity. What I’ve found (despite having dreaded the process of actually starting) is that a healthy, manageable exercise regime and playing sport is not only beneficial to mental and physical health but also extremely enjoyable. So why not look around for new sports to try? New things that play to your strengths that you enjoy. All of a sudden, like me, you may have found a new hobby without meaning to.
- Reading – Reading can be very challenging post-ABI/TBI. I had a lot of trouble in the years that followed re-learning this particular skill. I never really considered the complex nature of reading until I suffered my injury; the process of recognising the letters and words, attributing meaning to them and defining the, before composing an imagined picture in your head, I also underestimated the demand this process placed on the brain. It could be a case of starting again from scratch, learning the basic essentials for reading, or it could be a case of strengthening certain parts of the process (as was the case with me). To do this we have to be willing to work hard and try new ways of achieving the target. The way that I did this was to start to read comics, where the words are limited but the medium itself provides the image. This medium seemed to strengthen the connection between the already composed image and the words that are layered on top of it. This seemed to give the words clearer meaning and definition, consequently, this clearer definition has improved my ability to create my own images when reading AND writing.
- Video Games – This may seem a controversial one and I must urge anyone who suffers from epilepsy (particularly photosensitive epilepsy) or seizures to consult with the doctor who manages their case file before engaging in this particular activity. However, early research trials taking place in Australia and the USA suggests that playing video games, particularly first-person shooters, can improve Neuroplasticity/Neurogenesis in areas of the brain that perform tasks relating to memory, strategy, problem-solving and fine motor skills of the hands and fingers. So for people with an ABI or TBI, gaming may not be a complete waste of time when done in a safe environment and for controlled periods of time.
- Socialising – As I’ve said in past posts, the world of a brain injury patient can be a very lonely place. I think the older you get the truer that statement is. It can be difficult to meet people with similar interests, in a similar age group and it can be hard to meet people who understand you and the way your condition manifests itself. Don’t despair though! There are many organisations, not just Headway, that have local classes and events that you can attend to help you reintegrate into society and acclimatise yourself to social situations again. These events are held in a calm and relaxed atmosphere that will help you to meet like-minded people, learn new skills, make friends and have fun!
- Experiment with the creative arts. It is very easy to be dismissive of this idea, we can often see creative works as something we are not good at, or even a waste of time. However, creative works can often express things that we cannot necessarily find words for in everyday life or they give us the opportunity to express our feelings in a way that wouldn’t necessarily present itself in normal day-to-day situations. It’s easy to not try it because of past experiences at school or other bad experiences where we have been told we aren’t good at things. However, the best way to approach this is not to see it as a question of quality but to ask what the task accomplishes for you and what it gives you. We all have feelings that need to be expressed. Why not go out there and try and express them in some kind of creative way?
- It can be hard to recognise in ourselves when something suits us and when it doesn’t. We can enjoy something but find it very difficult to manage. We can manage something but not particularly enjoy it. So a good way to inform any future decisions is to keep a journal. Having comparative experiences written down can be a good way to judge how suitable a certain upcoming activity is for you at your level of recovery. Or even if you want to just keep a record of your experience of brain injury it can be a very cathartic tool to record your emotions, hopes and fears. Sometimes, finding a suitable, personal way of just getting emotions out can be a key part of maintaining our mental wellbeing.
Finally, with all of these posts, whether they are leisure related, work related, health and fitness, domestic or whatever, do what you can manage and what suits you as an individual. Think what applies to your talents and strengths; think what you can manage and HOW to manage these tasks and make them personal to you. In the same way that no brain injury is the same, the same is true of recoveries. No two are the same. Make it individual to you, use what works for you. If my blogs have helped then great but if not think about yourself and who you are because you are the person who will shape and define your recovery and consequently the person you will become and what you will achieve in the future.