ABI: Mind, Body & Soul (Day 3)

ABI: Mind, Body & Soul (Day 3)

Hi and welcome to day 3 of ABI: Mind, Body & Soul. As today is Thursday, my usual day for uploading a post I have tried to keep the subject matter in keeping with the focus of my weekly post regarding Life after an Acquired Brain Injury. So this week focuses on how different methods of thinking, different activities and ways of keeping yourself healthy, can help to fight off depression, the current subject matter I am dealing with in my regular weekly posts. I hope you enjoy part 3.

Mind

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Positive Thinking & Self-Affirmation

The main issue I have raised in my blog over the last two Thursdays (Mental Health: What We’re Dealing With, Mental Health: What We’re Dealing With (Part 2)) has been on fighting depression, mental health issues and keeping out and fighting negative thought patterns. Last week I gave depression a more thorough examination, providing tips for carers and patients on how we can help ourselves fight depression in terms of both lifestyle and mindset. This week I am keeping in tone with my previous post, of things that help the mind, body and soul during ABI recovery. This week’s post will be focused around the technique of self-affirmation and positive thinking, how I approach it and how it can be used to make real improvements and progress in tackling depression in day-to-day life.

What is it?

Well, it is exactly what it says. It is taking a small amount of time a few times a day to move away from the hustle and bustle of the world to a quiet place and tell yourself positive things, think positive thoughts and master both yourself and your thoughts. You would be surprised as the calming, comforting effect that this process has.

How To Master The Process

This discipline is a fairly simple one to master. It is a case of remembering or writing down things that you perceive as victories or accomplishments and recalling those memories and thoughts to install confidence and a feeling of positivity and control. I personally found that it is much easier to master in a quiet place, away from people or stimulation (TV, Radio etc. although I have found that listening to Mindfulness music has had a very positive effect on me. I know that these can be purchased either on CD or on iTunes). I sit down in a quiet room or in my garden (if the weather is good) in the morning, with my Mindfulness music playing or with no noise at all (advisable when you are first starting to practice) and think thoughts that give me sense of calmness, comfort, happiness and positivity or a sense of control (all thoughts we often feel are lost after a traumatic experience like an ABI or TBI).

It is a process I go through once in the morning and once in the evening. If you can or feel the need to find time, maybe during a lunch break if you’re working or after lunch if you are at home, during the day then I encourage you to do it. Installing that positive mindset has helped me get through many difficult days and often helps me sleep at night and get started in the morning and last throughout the day.

Positive & Self-Affirming Thoughts For ABI/TBI Patients

It can be difficult to think of positive things in the early stages of recovery so here are a few examples of my own thought processes that help me to get by and install those positive and more optimistic thought processes.

  • (Being Thankful) Considering my situation, if I look at the world around me, I see people who are far worse off after an experience similar to mine. Instead of looking at what I don’t have any more, look at what I have retained.
  • (Sense of Control) That I control my situation as much as it is possible for me to do so. I control my actions, what I say and the manner in which I behave. Therefore, to a certain degree, if I do these things responsibly the repercussions are in my control. However, they are only in my control to a certain extent. I only control a certain amount. If someone misinterprets what I say and takes offence to that, it is not possible for me to control how he or she reacts. It is possible though for me to learn. I now know that certain similar acts, statements, questions and behaviors can be misinterpreted. However, there is nothing I can do about the ones that have already happened. I cannot control everything, so don’t try to.
  • (Well Being & Positivity) Everything I do each day is done to the best of my ability and with the best intentions. I know that and I can feel good about that.
  • (Giving Yourself Credit) Given everything I am dealing with, I am doing incredibly well. I do my best everyday to live with something I shouldn’t have to. Furthermore I am setting goals and achieving them. I accomplish things everyday and I am damned good!
  • (The Past & Regrets) The past is the past. It’s as simple as that. There is no point going over things I should or shouldn’t have done or said. Unless the consequences of the action/inaction or statement can be repaired or you made better, don’t dwell on it. There is nothing you can do.

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If we can move past the negative thoughts and be able to maintain this positive frame of mind then it is a useful technique to pick you up each day and keep you in that positive frame of mind. Being in this positive mindset should, as well as energise you, enable you to engage better with people, go into social situations in a more open and positive state of mind and see more of the positives that occur throughout the day for what they are; positives and successes.

Body

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Relax Tea

NB: To anyone new to loose leaf tea you do need a proper teapot and follow the instructions regarding serving methods to get the best results. Also I must advise you to check the ingredients on the packets for information regarding allergies or for ingredients that could aggravate or exacerbate a specific condition.  

Relax tea is the perfect tea blend to drink if you fancy a hot cup of something before bed. It does have fairly strong tastes and flavours in there. As a novice I am not sure if this is correct but perhaps this is due to it being an herbal blend of tea. When I first drank it, I did notice two of the stronger flavours of aniseed and liquorice root that are present in the mix, as well as a slightly citrus taste coming from the orange rind that is also in their. But there is a subtle sweetness and floral aftertaste that I particularly enjoyed while and after I was drinking it.

I really did like the fact that Relax tea did exactly as it promised. It provided me with a clear mind, I felt myself becoming more and more relaxed as I continued to drink the pot. I did also, after a long day at work, feel the weariness of both body and mind begin to catch up with me. It does say on the back of the container that it should help with restlessness and sleepless nights. Well it certainly did that for me.

Of the teas I have sampled so far I would have to say that this one has been my favourite to drink. As someone who knows the difficulties of sleeplessness, anxiety and the inability to relax, having a beverage at hand that helps me to do handle and manage those things as well as having a delicious taste has been something of a revelation to me. So thanks Chelsea, I will definitely be ordering more of the Relax tea blend.

If you are struggling with issues regarding restlessness at night or are having trouble sleeping, order some of the Relax tea blend here: www.drjackson.co.uk/tea_relax.html 

For more information regarding teas of varying flavors and different properties and ingredients head over to Chelsea’s blog http://www.tastethetea.co.uk.    

Foods & Diet

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Food and diet can become a big concern when battling with depression. Two of the big signs that someone is depressed in fact is that they are either significantly over-eating or under-eating. Comfort eating is something that I struggled with particularly during my days of severe depression. It made me feel better when I ate things I liked, it gave me something to do and it was something I had to do anyway so why not go for it? When looking at our diet and the impact it can have on our health, our appearance (whether under-eating or over-eating), and anlysing the reasons we make the food choices we make, it can play a big part in how we feel in terms of our state of mind due to the vitamins and nutrients that are (or aren’t in some cases) present in what we’re eating.

If we over-eat and gain weight our confidence goes down, if we don’t eat enough we lack energy and motivation, that lack of energy can even cause irritability and irrational behaviour if it is something like a lack of blood sugars. Low blood sugars and energy levels can also have an impact on the likelihood of seizures if you are a person like me that suffers from epilepsy.

Experts have concluded that diet DOES play a significant role in depression and how it affects us. However there are foods that are readily available in every supermarket that, due to the vitamins, nutrients, fats and sugars can help our bodies and our brains become better energized by better fuel sources. By small changes in our diets we can improve the way our mind feels and keep that depression monkey off our backs. Foods such as fish containing fatty acids (mackerel, tuna), wholegrain foods (wholegrain breads and cereals) and low fat dairy products as well as green teas can have a hugely beneficial impact on our state of mind. For more specific examples and explanations follow the links below (the first link is a simple version, the second a more thorough examination on the effects of diet on depression):

  1. http://www.everydayhealth.com/depression-pictures/8-foods-that-fight-depression.aspx#02
  2. http://www.webmd.boots.com/depression/guide/diet-depression

Soul

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Being Charitable

When fighting a condition like depression, a condition that can suck any good feeling to do with self worth, happiness with who you are, things you do and things you achieve. Depression is a horrible condition to suffer from and a terrifying state of mind to be in. It’s like there is a vacant void in your soul that you can’t seem to fill up no matter what you try to do. I tried lots of things that didn’t seem to make a difference. I tried keeping a journal, I tried creativity and I tried to get involved in social activities. None of those things seemed to work particularly well for me. It was only really when I started this blog that I started to really gain some enjoyment from life again and I believe that was down to the fact that I knew I was doing something for other people. That is what has helped to fill the void in me.

Knowing I am giving something back gives me huge satisfaction. I realize I am only small time in the grand scheme of the Internet and the blogs that help so many people but I feel if I can get through to or help just one person each time a post goes up, I am filled with a great sense of achievement. It gives me a sense of confidence and a belief in my own abilities again. The idea of using this life changing experience I have had to help people just seems to make sense to me and really helps me to get through the day because I know what I am doing is not just for me, it is (hopefully) helping other people to.

If the idea of writing and raising awareness in that way doesn’t seem like your type of thing (I fully acknowledge that for many it wont be), then there are countless charities you can contribute to in other ways. You could donate to a particular charity in terms of financial contributions, you could volunteer at a local charity shop, you could do something as simple as bring a bag of unwanted items to the shop for them to sell or you could take a box of any unwanted food items, the ones that have been in the cupboard since it was first filled, down to the various food banks in the UK.

These actions of good will can be extremely fulfilling and the knowledge that you have done something good, that you are doing your best to help people can be an extremely uplifting way of drawing back the curtains and letting the light back in to your heart, soul and mind, to cast light on happiness that has for so long been gathering dust.

 

 

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ABI: Mind, Body & Soul (Day 2)

ABI: Mind, Body & Soul (Day 2)

Welcome to day 2 of our mind, body and soul soul mini-series to help raise awareness for Action for BrainInjury Week. I hope today is helpful for you and will enable you to manage your days better post-ABI.

Mind

Since my brain injury, I have found that many issues I have that directly impact upon my mood or my state of mind on a particular day are issues regarding control, or more specifically, my lack of control. ABI’s & TBI’s are most often a result of a random occurrence, whether that is through a health issue such as a stroke or meningitis or an accident like a car crash or a trip or fall. The point is that the injury itself could be determined as random or arbitrary but we have to live with the consequences of the injury for the rest of our lives.

Control Issues: Where Do These Issues Come From?

The consequences of our injuries very often have a negative impact on the way that we live our lives and can prevent us or hamper us as we attempt to achieve certain goals. What I have found from my own experiences is that I would have a tendency to blame myself, become frustrated with my situation and become angry when things went wrong. This was a particularly common occurrence when I was in social situations or in the workplace. I would make a mistake while tackling a particular task, one that I had done many times before, or I would have an encounter with a customer who was perhaps displeased with the way I had engaged with them in my role as an employee. I also found that when incidents such as these happened my confidence would be dented and that would cause more mistakes, a sort of snowballing effect. By the end of the day I would be so frustrated, stressed and angry that it would often cause irrational behaviour while at home.

When I look back at that period it was because I wasn’t fully accepting the limitations my injury had put on me. By the end of each working day I was like a can of coke that had been shook up and nobody was there to pop the tab. I realized later than I should’ve done that much of the stress I was putting myself under was because of the way I was looking at things and the frame of mind in which I was approaching things.

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We Can Only Control So Much

What I realized was that that word “Control” was the big issue. I wanted everything to be back under my control, the way it was before I had my ABI (or at least as close as I could get to having everything under my control). What it took me a long time to realize is that as soon as something like an ABI or TBI happens many things are out of your control, things about yourself that you can’t completely control. Take me for example I’m epileptic. I can manage this condition with medications and lifestyle choices but I can’t control it one hundred per-cent of the time. Due to the way unexpected incidents affect me since my ABI, socializing is very difficult for me. I can offend someone without knowing it or be offended by something I have misinterpreted, or come across as aggressive or anti-social. When these types of incidents happen I can become very anxious and flustered, so much so that I don’t know whether I’m coming or going. When people who know me and are aware of my situation surround me they make allowances for my injury and its manifestations; the way I can sometimes act, react, perform or behave. So in places of familiarity, where the situation is predictable and I know what to expect, I am in a controlled environment and I expect those people to make those allowances for me. When they do not I can react badly, in an angry way or show that my feelings are hurt. This is not something we can expect in everyday life or the working world from people who don’t know us. Expanding on that point we cannot always be in a position of security and wrapped in a comfort blanket if we want to build a life for ourselves.

Coming To Terms With It

The point being I suppose is that since my ABI, I have learned that ninety-nine per-cent of people are unaware of the issues I’m dealing with. It is not deliberate; it’s not rudeness or malice, just a lack of knowledge or awareness. How did I expect a stranger to know my situation, to know about my injury and the way that the injury manifests itself? To even believe that was possible was incredibly naïve on my part. From their point of view, I am just a normal, fully-abled person doing their job (or not, for the sake of this example). Of course they were going to be upset if I got their order wrong or overcharged them or took a long time in doing whatever it was I was supposed to be doing.

I know that this seems an incredibly simple piece of advice but letting go of any resentment, anger, anxiety or panic towards the fact that we no-longer have that feeling of complete control has gone a long way to helping me become a more sociable person. It has helped me to react to social situations in a much better, well thought out way and understand that if I’m doing the best I can with the abilities I have, then I am happy with that. It’s important not to let anything you cannot control drag you down.

Body


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Moroccan Mint Tea

NB: To anyone new to loose leaf tea you do need a proper teapot and follow the instructions regarding serving methods to get the best results. Also I must advise you to check the ingredients on the packets for information regarding allergies or for ingredients that could aggravate or exacerbate a specific condition.  

I was sat out on my patio under the evening sun, when the temperature is perfect and the sun begins to set after a long hot day. I had worked extremely hard that day and I was really hoping that the Moroccan mint tea would be a relaxing remedy. It was certainly what I had hoped for. A clear taste of mint and menthol without it being at all overpowering, a tiny sprinkling of sugar made it the perfect blend for me. I was in a small bubble that was paradise; listening to mindfulness music at the end of a beautiful day and finding that what I was drinking was helping to de-stress and relax my tired mind after a long day of working.

After I had finished drinking I felt as though my mouth and my nasal passages were clear I could breath deeply, in through the nose out through the mouth (a good technique to oxygenate the blood and help with relaxation). With this rhythmic breathing came a sweet taste at the back of my tongue with each breath. I may have found my chosen relaxation brew! Order a pack of the same Moroccan Mint blend at the following link: http://www.thegildedteapot.com/shop-product/moroccan-mint/

For more information regarding teas of varying flavors and different properties and ingredients head over to Chelsea’s blog http://www.tastethetea.co.uk.    

Giving Up Stimulants & Addictions

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When our mind is clear and fresh it is going to work better. Let me add at this point when I say stimulants and addictions, I am talking the smaller stuff. I’m certainly not qualified to talk about any bigger addictions people have. I’m going to assume most people don’t have that kind of issue anyway. I’m focusing particularly on caffeine and nicotine. The peak and crash addictions as I like to call them.

When we become too reliant on certain substances such as caffeine or nicotine it has the potential to have a real effect on what we do day-to-day. The reason I referred to them as peak and crash addictions are because you need them in your body. You have to maintain their presence throughout the day or else you crash. You feed the addiction, you reach the peak, you start to descend and then you crash. The crash can result in increased fatigue, irritability/anger or irrational behavior so that you can get a fix (I know that last one too well, as an ex-smoker there are plenty of example I could give).

Consuming these chemicals post ABI/TBI is definitely not the brightest thing to do. The effects cigarettes can have we all know but here are some anyway; cancer, aging of the skin, thickening the walls of blood vessels, clots, tumors and so on. Caffeine can be dangerous post ABI/TBI especially for those with epilepsy. Too much caffeine can bring on seizures depending on your type of epilepsy. But also that kind of peak and crash lifestyle is no good for your body clock or sleep pattern, both essential to ABI/TBI patients.

Finally, if not to do it for your health, then do it for your pocket. I have an App for my phone that monitors progress of your health and finances while giving up smoking. In the five month and eight days I have given up, the amount of money I have saved that would have otherwise been spent on funding my habit (ten to fifteen cigarettes a day) and killing myself is currently at £774.20. That’s a lot of money to spend on killing yourself.

If you put that next to also buying one Flat White from Costa Coffee each day (so five or six days a week) day at a price of £2.50, you’re spending £17.50 a week. At one point I was having a coffee each day and buying four packs of twenty each week. With current cigarette prices, the minimum you pay is £6.00 for twenty cigarettes, combined with my coffee habit:

Coffee – 7 x £2.50 = £17.50,

Cigarettes – 4 x £6.00 = £24.00,

Overall – £17.50 + £24.00 = £41.50

That’s a lot of money to spend on things we know are not going to do us any good especially after a brain injury.

Soul

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Media & Technology Embargo

As we live day-to-day in the modern world, it seems as though we cannot evade technology, that it has an inescapable presence. We use our smart phones with the multitude of Apps; we play video game consoles (admittedly a hobby of mine), which appear on our high definition TV’s. We have our iPods and digital camera’s and so on and son. If you are not “with it” in terms of technology if you are a member of an older generation say or even if you are a younger person and not particularly tech savvy, it can sometimes seem as though the world outside is always trying to get in. Whether it is as simple as listening to the radio or engaging with social media, it is difficult to escape from and for those that use it a lot, even rely on it, it can feel as though it is taking over your life.

When we feel this way, I believe that it’s important to try and shut out the way technology continues to invade our lives. It’s always good to try and return to simpler things such as reading a book, not a Kindle, an actual paper book. Turn off your mobile phone and find some other way to stimulate and challenge your brain: crosswords, Su-Do-Ku or word searches. Better yet, leave the phone at home and go for a walk; oxygenate the blood, refresh and energize the brain to keep you going for the rest of the day.

The important thing to remember is that the brain is a muscle and if we don’t use them, they will go to waste. The difficulty is finding the right way of stimulating and energizing them without over doing it. Again, like a muscle if we, overuse it it can tiring and even cause an injury. So make sure you give yourself some time to enjoy simple and enjoyable stimulation.