Positive Thought Processes (Pt.1) – Self Affirmation

Positive Thought Processes (Pt.1) – Self Affirmation

Throughout this brief section I have been focusing on the idea of Holism or Holistic Health and Medicine as it is more commonly known – the treating of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the symptoms of a disease – in essence Brain Injury in the context of mind, body and soul. I have focused on body over the last few weeks (Holistic HealthDiet & Nutrition, Exercise: Body vs. The Mind) , taking a look at both exercise and diet and how these two important factors can have a very positive impact on our state of mind.

This week however I will be starting my focus on mental disciplines and thought process that can help us feel more positive in the way we think; basically moving from the healthy body to the healthy mind. I will show you ways we can find a more optimistic outlook and explore different positive thought processes that can really help ABI and TBI patients during their recovery. I’ve found that by disciplining my mind I have been able to look ahead and see the bigger picture while forgetting about the slights and little issues that I cannot control. This in turn means I can move on quickly from frustrations and the minor irritations that life so often presents. This week will be introducing the basic principles of Positive Affirmation.

What Is Positive Affirmation?

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In essence, Positive Affirmation is the ability to recognize and believe in the positive aspects of the self; the good within us, our abilities, our victories and attribute positivity and value to those things within our own minds. Much of this though process centers around the idea of control; more accurately what we can control and what we cannot. The basic principle of positive affirmation is accepting what we can’t control and focusing on the positive things we can accomplish and have accomplished ourselves, giving ourselves credit for the things we have achieved while ignoring the opinions, actions and words of others. The effect of this discipline is that it creates confidence in us while also making our skin a little bit thicker. I know from personal experience that negative things and words aimed at us in any environment can be hurtful, causing us to cast aspersions on our own abilities, our personality, our intelligence or even all of those things. However, if we master the discipline of positive affirmation it is possible to create a mindset where the opinions of other people about who you are, your abilities and what they think of you will matter very little. Now this sounds like a wonderful mindset to be in but where do we begin? How do we learn this mindset? Well, I believe there are two key aspects to learning this discipline as well as on important consideration/variable that must be understood.

Consider Society: Codes, Conventions & The Status Quo

Lets get this out of the way first, shall we? The variable is the unpredictable nature of people and society as a whole and has to be considered. This is an ever-changing thing, never predictable and never static. We do have societal rules that are present, some are written into law and some have been established over many thousands of years and still play a part in upholding modern methods of communication and interaction.

The rules of society along with the codes & conventions of social interaction presents itself as being based on the idea of freedom of speech and action based on an accepted moral compass that has been set by centuries of cock ups and mistakes, learning from them and adjusting our opinion on certain sets of behavior. In essence, People have a right to express themselves and their opinions in the public space without fear of punishment or retribution.

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This premise is basically true from the ground up in society. Each individual has his or her own set of moral, ethical and personal principles. At the low levels of general society, people can have a conversation in a pub and have a disagreement over race, religion or on something as mundane as the performance of the international football team. The people participating in a dialogue have a right to say whatever they want to say, regardless of whether you agree with them or not. If we look at the top levels of society, governments are based on the same concept; political parties represent a select proportion of the population and introduce or promote policies, which they believe represent the views, values and best interests of the vast majority of their supporters. They are putting the point of view of their party across.

The reason I make that point regarding hierarchies and structures is because we have to adhere to those structures to be able to integrate into society. To keep a job you have to follow the rules, if you want friends you have to engage with people in a friendly, polite and civil way as well as being sympathetic and empathetic, if you want to stay be free you have to follow the laws of our country and so forth. The point I am trying to make here is that we can only control our own actions and our own statements, there is very little else that we can control.

Aspect One – Know The Parameters of YOUR Control

I think it is also worth looking at the definition of that key word, control:

Control – the power to influence or direct people’s behavior or the course of events.

Now if you will notice, the definition of “Control” refers only to tangible events; actions we see, hear, touch or feel. In social situations, control is generally not something most people can direct. The reason behind this is the fact that people can say and do what they like really. The decision is made in their brain and that cannot be controlled. We can try to control the consequences of an action once it has happened or the way a conversation is going once something has been said but we cannot control the decision making processes that implements the action. 

There are many common idioms in the English language. Common sayings that have almost become clichés but still hold true today and there are two that are particularly relevant.

‘Know your limits.’

‘You can only do so much.’

I however have decided to take these two idioms and by combining them, molding them and adding a few extra words, I have turned these two clichéd phrases into one super idiom, which accurately portrays the first step in learning positive affirmation, and it reads as follows:

Know the limits of what you can do.’

So we have established that everyone has the right to their own point of view and the right to express that point of view through actions and words. That being said, we in turn also have every right to disagree with or object to a statement, point of view or opinion. Now, here’s what causes the problem, as I see it, for ABI & TBI patients in current society. In places where we spend a lot of our time, there are generally structures and hierarchies. When at work we are normally subject to the orders of a superior, the rules they set as well as being subject to the demands of customers and co-workers and the rules of the system within which we work. If we are at home we are normally following the rules of the head of the household. 

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The problem as I see it is that, due to these codes and conventions, rules and hierarchies, it can give people and unprecedented amount of power in social situations (an example being that the customer is always right; a staff member cannot retort to a comment by a customer as they are the people who bring the money in and if you, as most people are, a subordinate at work any form of retaliatory response would be risking your job). So we cannot stop people from expressing their opinions. 90% (I’d take a rough guess at) of the time this is not an issue. It is not all that often that we come across those people who are deliberately hurtful, unpleasant, rude or who deliberately attempt to belittle you. But that minority of people and the things they say can have a large impact on the way we feel about ourselves and our confidence.  So in certain ways, depending on your perspective, we are powerless. But are we? Not if we consider Aspect Two.

Aspect Two – Know your strengths, Know Your Abilities & Use Them

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The second aspect that needs to be considered is the ability accept the limitations of your injury, acknowledge what you can do and give yourself credit and praise for what you have done. I know from personal experience that after a brain injury we tend to spend much of our time lamenting and resenting our losses. There are abilities and skills that we don’t have any more; things that were a part of who we were. That’s just it though, that’s who we were. We’re someone very different now and while certain things have been lost, certain things will also remain. The difficulty is recognizing and acknowledging this change in abilities and acknowledging the abilities and talents we do have.

After everything we have been through, we spend too much time discrediting ourselves, not giving ourselves enough praise for our talents and skills. As I have stated in previous posts, brain injuries are never identical and everyone is affected differently. For people hoping to live independently post ABI or TBI in whatever aspect (living situation, social skills, finding and keeping employment, managing finances etc.) it is essential that we see what we have and what we don’t have NOW in terms of talent and ability and equally important, ensure that we tailor our recovery and our move towards independence to the strengths and not the weaknesses. If we have issues with memory, perhaps avoid things that involve meticulous detail. If you have job experience prior to the injury that can be used maybe apply for jobs or voluntary work that is similar or the same, if you are good at talking and communication try to implement that to your benefit. All of your talents can be used as a way to strengthen your position in almost any aspect of YOUR OWN life. Once we acknowledge that these strengths and talents exist and that they can help you in ways you had not previously considered it can open a surprising amount of doors for you. Also, knowing that you have these talents and being aware of the opportunities they can provide and how you can capatalise on said opportunity to your benefit can increase confidence and produce a more positive state of mind. It’s amazing the effect success has. The key thing to take away from these successes is that YOU DID IT, YOU SUCCEEDED, IT WAS YOU AND YOUR TALENTS. NOW, YOU ARE REEPING YOUR REWARD. When we get to this stage, successes are starting to come, opportunities are presenting themselves and you are feeling good, safe in the knowledge that IT WAS YOU WHO ACHIEVED THESE THINGS, then can we can start to turn success into the confidence building discipline that is Positive Affirmation.

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As I said earlier, success breeds confidence. As confidence builds and successes continue to occur we must use these tools to build a wall around ourselves that make us almost impervious to the opinions of others. The key to this is self-belief. We need to know and tell ourselves that, given our health situation and all the obstacles we have to overcome to get things done, we are still achieving, still succeeding, we are overcoming the odds. The trick is then to turn this knowledge into a tool. Each morning we need to wake up and we need to know and believe all of those previous statements. We need to tell ourselves these things each morning: “I am capable, I am doing the best that I can, I am going to do a good job,” and so on. The important thing is to then act on these statements; be capable, do the best you can, do a good job. If you can tell yourself this at the end of a day before bed, I can tell you personally that you will sleep a lot easier. It also helps when the critics and the haters give their normally unnecessary and uninformed opinions (when I say uninformed I’m talking about what they say to you without knowing the or even having the slightest comprehension what you as an ABI patient have been and are still going through) it becomes easier to brush them off without the words affecting you as strongly as words and the way they are spoken have the power to do.

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That self belief, those three phrases; “I am capable, I am doing the best that I can, I am going to do a good job,” should be part of the foundation for recovery, the transition into and development of a well rounded and fulfilling independent life, as should the praise for any other personal targets and goals that you achieve. With this type of belief system and a supportive network of friends and family behind you sharing this positive attitude, I think you will be amazed at how drastically it can change your opinion of yourself.        

Ignoring The Haters

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When we can master these arts of acknowledging the things we can control and the things we can’t, acknowledging our successes and using them as motivational tools as well as accepting the ways, attitudes, opinions and their right to express those things then, with the right attitude, you (as I have found) will find that the words of other people don’t matter very much.

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People have opinions, they can express them in whatever way they please. However, I believe in myself. I know that “I am capable, I am doing the best that I can, I am going to do a good job,” and this, in the end is what truly matters. If you can look at yourself in the mirror in the morning or at the end of the day, or look a supportive family member or friend straight in the eye and say them and mean it, then you will have the art of Self Affirmation mastered and it will bear fruit for as long as you keep practicing it.

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Holistic Health

Holistic Health

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Brain injury, in all senses is an incredibly complex issue. There are numerous debates on different recovery methods; which works best? What’s the first step? What’s the best method of recovery? Finally, what I’m sure is the most common question, what is the cure? The truth is, as I and I’m sure you also have learned that there is no prescribed cure for ABI. In fact, I don’t think it can be cured; situations can improve but complete recovery? I’m very dubious. It is not the same as taking Ibuprofen to relieve a headache. The damage ABI does and the way it manifests itself can potentially affect everything from cognitive function to physical movement. Down the centre of my head is a huge scar that spirals round to the front of my right ear. And at the back of my head a large scar that slides down from just above the base of my skull to the upper parts of my neck; both visible mementos of my brush with death. The biggest scars, the ones that trouble me most today are the ones that can’t be seen.

Invisible Wounds & Injuries

I often feel that the things I am battling with most are issues such as anxiety, anger and depression, in essence factors connected to how I perceive myself and others perceive me. I will talk about the type of alternative choices and helpful lifestyle practices that can install a sense of calm and help achieve an inner-peace. These are methods of healing that are not just prescriptions to cure an ailment but to aid the healing of the whole, the mind, the body and the soul; in essence, holistic healing.

(Holistic – The belief that the parts of something are intimately connected and that you cannot separate one part without referring to the whole. For example when I was referring to a person’s health I used the term “mind, body and soul”, meaning that only when all are healthy and content at once can one be truly what you would call “healthy”.)

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Some of the things I am going to suggest are things that one can obtain by walking into a shop and buying, or looking up the methods online but those parts are just a small part of the overall recipe. Much of what I am going to advise is definitely not easy. Most of these things involve a lot of discipline and awareness of both yourself and what’s happening around you. If we master these techniques though, believe me when I say this, we can learn to carry and manage the burden that is ABI and obtain a sense of peace, something I lacked for three to four years until I made the effort to learn, change my lifestyle and accept myself for who I am now.

What Is Peace? How Do We Get It?

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The pursuit of peace, I believe stems from the every day stresses one endures: work, family life and commitments or, in our case, past traumas and the basic human need to escape from those stresses. I also believe that moments of peace where we are not in a state of constant mental conflict are essential for everyone’s day-to-day health. I am a great believer in holistic methods for creating periods of time where a person can be at peace and feel peaceful.

We all know that the ever-elusive pursuit of peace (a pursuit that on some level, all people whether they have suffered an ABI or not are on) revolves around our state of mind. It is a journey we try to go through each day so that we can arrive at a place, if only for half an hour each day, where we feel we have arrived at the desired destination; a place of comfort where none of the worries that we have been through during the hours before matter and they no longer concern us. What peace is depends purely on whom you are, the type of person you are, the intricacies and character traits that make you an individual. But I will explain to you what my place of peace is later on.

I also think that much of finding that feeling of peace within the self is being at peace with yourself and who you are. I think that accepting where your limitations are and finding alternative ways to overcome them or achieve the same end by a different means is how we can empower ourselves and feel that a brain injury does not rule our lives; that with hard work, the ability to accept certain defeats but not let them defeat you entirely and an open minded outlook and willingness to try new things we can be proud of who we are and be at peace with our injuries and the effects they have had on our lives. It’s a case of staring down the brain injury. The question is, who is going to blink first? I’ve found in the last seven years that I can stare for a long time.  

My Place Of Peace

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Near where I live (on the south coast) there are numerous cliff paths. I can walk up the cliff and onto a long coastal path. I have brought nothing with me except a bottle of water and my iPod. As I approach the uneven path up the steep cliff, I select my relaxation/mindfulness music album and press play.

As I set off I walk up the steepest part of the cliff walk up the steep green path until I come to a flat level where I can walk across the tops of the cliffs with ocean views as far out as you can see, I take that time to do some breathing exercises to get my already pumping blood full oxygenated. It is hear on these cliff tops that I can put aside the battles I have with myself in my own mind and stand and appreciate if only for half an hour, that there is so much beauty in the world. I can walk up and down that path for as long as possible. This is where I find my time of peace. A place where I can admire the beauty of the world, a world that seems much quieter, much more beautiful and relaxing that I enjoy far more than a world where I often see little to admire which only aggravates an internal struggle that I am battling with everyday.

Exercise

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There are many different ways to keep the body healthy and that can lead to a sense of happiness (a topic I covered in my previous post Exercise: Body vs. The Mind). Happiness is key to us finding a place of peace. Peace and relaxation is not what I would call happiness, more a sense of satisfaction or contentment. They are still though, in my opinion, branches of the same plant.

With regular aerobic exercise such as jogging, swimming or walking comes with it the release of endorphins into the blood, endorphins – the healthy person natural drug of choice. I think this is why my feelings of peace often come after a period of exercise. The oxygenation of blood, achieved by rhythmic steady breathing during exercise is also important during periods of relaxation. When oxygen passes through cell walls and attaches itself to red blood cells the oxygen is transported to the parts of the body that are most fatigued and need it most. The brain needs a steady supply of oxygen to operate at its maximum capacity. In other words, for people like us with brain injuries, providing the body with a supply of well oxygenated blood will ensure that our brains operate at a higher capacity that if we don’t do exercise.

Diet

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People say that dieting or eating healthily is a chore what they don’t know is that often the foods we eat can have a big impact on the way that we feel due to their content. Certain foods can help us cleanse and detox our body, even eliminating certain chemicals and molecules that can negatively affect our mood and yielding ones that produce a positive effect. I do not pretend to be in expert so I will link you to a couple of website that include far more information than I can give you. As I said, much of what disturbs my sense of peace is the ongoing battle in my mind and the effects that my emotions and mental health have. Changing ones diet can have a huge impact on the way that issues such as depression or anger can affect our day-to-day lives.

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

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I should also add that it is not just the things we EAT that can produce these positive effects within the body, but also within the things we DRINK. So here is a link to my friend and blogging colleague Chelsea Webster’s blog Taste the Tea particularly her post on the positive effects different types of tea blends can have in helping to relax the mind and the positive effects of Tisanes. http://tastethetea.co.uk/2016/05/10/abi/ You can also find out more about her and the writing she does on Twitter @TastetheTeaBlog.

Fulfilling The Soul

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One of the key parts to gaining peace within you is finding happiness and fulfillment in the things that you do. This is an extremely difficult thing to do after something like an ABI or TBI as it can seem that so much is against us. It can be difficult to find the right things for you personally due to the way your own individual injury has manifested itself and the things that you personally struggle with. These common feelings can often induce in us a certain fear, a fear of failure. Developing that kind of fear is the worst trap that we can set for ourselves. Instead, the approach that I take (and it’s not an easy mindset to get into) is that when we try new things, different things, there is always likely to be bumps in the road and difficulties the same as any other person. Those difficulties are emphasized by my injury and that is something that I cannot help. I hate and resent the idea that something that happened to me at the age of nineteen, seemingly at random, holds so much power over me but it does. That’s the way it is unfortunately and I can do nothing to change that.

What I can do however is use that as a motivation. Once we accept the fact that our injuries will affect certain aspects of performance, whether cognitive, physical or emotional and by proxy affect tour ability to do certain things I believe that we are in a much better position to try and do as many things as possible. When we do this, it is possible (and quite likely) you will find something that you do have a talent and passion for. I’m not saying we should try and do these things on a grand stage in front of a huge audience but why not try them on a small scale first. Why not (as I have mentioned it above in this post) try exercising and setting small goals to overcome, an example being losing a certain amount of weight in a certain amount of time. Or if you are struggling with issues such as depression then why not try experimenting with cooking recipes using the information I have provided with the links I have provided above to try and help improve your state of mind. Finally, an option that is my own preferred option that makes me happy; try expressing yourself in a creative way through writing (scripts, prose, poetry, songs). Why not try learning an instrument? Why not enroll in an arts class or maybe an amateur dramatics class? I am sure there will be plenty of information for local organisations online where these kinds of facilities will be available. If not then try speaking to specific charities and organizations’. Again I would suggest speaking to your local chapter of Headway UK who I am sure would be delighted to help you investigate where such local sports centre’s, organizations, clubs, societies and groups are and how to contact them to find out about different courses, lessons or meeting that take place.

The key thing is to find something that you can enjoy doing that gives you a feeling of accomplishment. Find where your talents are, embrace them and use them. The feeling you get when you are doing something you enjoy and it is yielding a positive result is an incredible one.

Peace & Relaxation

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Finally, I think that doing things that focus our minds, doing things that we enjoy and make us happy are a significant part of holistic healing. I believe that that lump in your throat and that feeling of heaviness in your heart that we feel so often after an ABI or TBI co-exist in the same part of you that explodes with happiness when England score a goal and the same part of you that brings a tear to your eye whenever you hear The Three Tenors –Turandot: Nessun dorma! They are just examples from my life, my point is that while there is sorrow that lives there, there is also passion, happiness and beauty in all of us. What we need to do is to find a constructive way to show our passion, our beauty and our happiness! When we can show that as well as absorb the beauty of the people and the world around us, while ignoring the slights of ignorant or unpleasant people and just continue living our life with good intentions and good morals and with gratitude. Then we shall be well on the way to being healed.I stress the importance of the wording, healed not recovered

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.

 

 

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.

ABI: Mind, Body & Soul

ABI: Mind, Body & Soul

Here is our first “ABI: Mind, Body & Soul” blog post. I hope you enjoy and can gain something from it. For the picture below describes how I felt for a long time after my ABI.

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Mind – Mindfulness

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-courage-be-present/201001/how-practice-mindfulness-meditation

Mindfulness meditation is a technique that when used in the right way can be extremely useful in gaining a sense of piece and control and eases the feeling of unpredictability that goes on in the mind of an ABI patient. If you’re an ABI patient you’ll know, issues regarding mood levels, state of mind, and positive vs. negative outlook are difficult to manage. Trying to find that sense of contentedness and stability in your mind and thought processes can seem like a never-ending struggle. Mastering certain aspects of Mindfulness can help you manage these issues. I will not lie to you; it is not an easy thing to master, the particular aspect that I am talking about especially. I would also add that you DEFINITELY CANNOT master it overnight. It can be a period of weeks and even months but please, don’t let that deter you because it has done wonders for me.

What Is It?

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It is a case of disciplining yourself, not allowing your brain to think the thoughts that lead down a road to depression, anger, and anxiety etc. all of the things that we struggle with as ABI patients, heading them off before they gain momentum and simply being yourself in the moment with no thoughts, anxieties or worries.

The first step of that is learning the thought patterns of your brain. Think of your thoughts almost as a road map, you have to learn that road map inside out.

For example, say you have one of those moments where you suddenly realise that you feel down and depressed, in and Mindfulness it is a case of analyzing the thoughts you were having previously: what was I thinking about? Was it a memory? Was it a hypothetical scenario? Was it an imagined situation? Was it an encounter with a particular person? Was it thinking about things outside my control? Ask yourself the question “how did I get here?”

How To Master The Process

For thoughts to get to a certain place there is a trail, a road to that negative destination. There is almost an element of detective work about the process: looking back through the thoughts you had previously that led you to the place you are now. Analyze those thoughts and see whether they cause a negative, positive or passive response. This can be difficult to do and requires a lot of hard work, discipline and practice. I realise that memory is a problem for people like us with an ABI so when trying to recall your thoughts and analyze them, maybe try jotting them down the subjects and responses in a notebook (this will also come in handy later on).

As time goes on and your unpredictable moods continue (unfortunately having to live with them is all part of the mastering the discipline) and you continue the analytical approach of examining your thoughts and how you respond and writing them down, you will gradually start to build up a list of subjects that you do not react well to (and perhaps another which is made up of things which have a positive effect). So you have the beginning of the trail that leads to the negative places we so desperately avoid.

What Is The Outcome?

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The final piece of this process is the most important one and probably the hardest. Once you are aware of your thoughts, where they lead and the emotional responses they cause, it becomes a case of training your mind to block off banish the negative thoughts if they occur in your mind. Actively say to yourself “No, I’m going to think about something else,” if that is necessary. Another option is to find a distraction, for example try learning a poem or the lyrics to a song that you like and repeating them to yourself or turn to one of the thoughts you noted that had a positive effect, a comedian you like. You will notice that these positive thought process can gain momentum as well. The most important thing is learning where your thoughts lead and being aware of the effect your own mind can have on you. Learning this technique can help you to use your mind to be positive, be happy and build confidence.

It also allows you to spend time, as I have said, just being. Being able to clear your head of negative thoughts and live in the moment, in the here and now is an amazingly freeing thing. I don’t know anyone who has truly mastered it, I think the only people to have done that might be monks living in Tibet but if you can get to grips with it and set aside some time in the day to practice and discipline yourself to be able to do it even to an average standard, then your day to day life and state of mind will be hugely improved.

Body – Sunrise Wellbeing Tea

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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 any specific conditions.  

Before this collaboration with my friend Chelsea from @TastetheTeaBlog (Twitter) I was very dubious and wary of green, herbal and fruit teas. My experiences had consisted of tea bag Company’s mass-producing them with very little care or expertise. However after ordering the loose leaf teas Chelsea advised me to try and properly brewing them I found that my opinion has been changed.

I chose to drink Sunrise Wellbeing tea (as the name suggested I should) in the morning. As someone used to builders tea in the morning it was a little different I have to say. However, once I got used to the idea and the taste of green tea leaves, I started to pick up a few other tastes in there as well. I found the subtle taste of ginger and lemon to be extremely pleasant, extremely refreshing and thirst quenching. I have to say that I felt in a better mood after drinking it. It was a more uplifting way to start the day.

Many green and herbal teas also offer less caffeine. They are a more natural way to start the day using the goodness of nature and the benefits it provides. Order some Sunrise Wellbeing tea for yourself from the following link and start brewing! http://www.birdhouseteacompany.com/shop/green-tea/sunrise-wellbeing-tea/

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

Body – Probiotics

We often see products being advertised these days using the word “Probiotic” as an influential factor. It sounds like a fancy word and it’s surely a positive thing to have in drinks and yoghurts, or else why would they be telling us about it? In advertising they only tell us what we want to hear and what is good. A good example is soft drinks companies. They tell us what is good about the product; tasty, refreshing, best served chilled with ice on a hot da. What they exclude is the bad; there is so much sugar in them that they are a big contributor to the increase in diabetes and obesity over the last five years in the UK (http://www.nhs.uk/news/2013/02February/Pages/Latest-obesity-stats-for-England-are-alarming-reading.aspx). The thing is though that many people do not know what this fancy word that is obviously supposed to be good actually means.

Well, probiotics are essentially good bacteria or as stated on http://www.medicinenet.com/probiotics/article.htm “live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.” Most of these probiotics, good bacteria, are available in specialist dairy products. The main areas these products will produce results is in strengthening the immune system (Activia) and the digestive system (Yakult) renowned for aiding those who suffer from the many forms of irritable bowel syndrome, as well as being available in products such as Activia probiotic yoghurts. If we can keep the key systems that keep us going well maintained and provide them with things that will be beneficial to their functioning, then I believe we should do it. I can assure that when our bodies feel good inside the feeling spreads to the mind.

Soul – Talking to Positive People

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When we are feeling down engaging with the right kind of people can have a really positive impact on our frame of mind and our thought processes. We all have at least one person in our lives, whether a friend, family member or co-worker, who has that ability just to make you feel better. They encourage you, they make you laugh, and they stimulate your mind. Whether you go to see them in person or talk to them over the phone is up to you. I do believe being able to see and touch a person, read their body language and expressions are important but that’s just me.Whatever it is they are providing they have that ability to make us feel good and that’s important.

Having these people in your life is so valuable. Take my Granddad for instance, where my parents see it as their job to keep me grounded and to not get carried away he thoroughly encourages me to get carried away, to have dreams and ambitions that may be a little out of reach. If you have the foresight or ambition to dream about achieving certain goals and vitally, someone who can validate the dream and not treat it with scorn or ridicule but encourage you and believe in you, then you really have someone in your life worth holding on to. After all an ABI/TBI can take away so much from us, why can’t we dream a little? Aim for the stars, you might only reach the moon but its still a bleeding long way!

Taste The Tea & ABI blogger present – ABI: Mind, Body & Soul

Taste The Tea & ABI blogger present – ABI: Mind, Body & Soul

Today commences Action for Brain Injury Week. It is an important week where people such as me, the victims of ABI and TBI, get to raise as much awareness as possible about the subject. The subject of brain injury is often overlooked in many ways. The disabilities that come as a consequence are life changing and the effect it can have on your mind and mental health issues that can manifest themselves are just as potentially debilitating. Very it can feel as though we are on our own. Outpatient services are not in place to tackle brain injuries appropriately. It can feel as though the recovery methods we are told to try by doctors are ineffective or not suited to your personality. When we feel as though we are getting nowhere, however much support we receive at home (which is so important by the way), we can feel alone and that nobody understands or cares how much of an impact TBI’S and ABI’s make is and how life changing they are to patients.

Lifting Our Spirits

Having said that, situations and opportunities present themselves sometimes that help to lift our spirits. After an ABI or TBI there is a feeling of solitude and loneliness that can become overwhelming. So when someone reached out to me, a fellow writer who and recognizes the importance of highlighting the disability that changed my life forever, I couldn’t help feel uplifted and a little revitalized.

ABI: Mind, Body & Soul

Between us, Chelsea writer of @TastetheTeaBlog (http://www.tastethetea.co.uk) and I have produced a mini-series of blogs, both of us using our own particular skill sets and expertise, to think of alternative treatments that are more based around lifestyle and health choices than they are based around medicine.

There will be a new post posted each day on my WordPress blog https://lifeafterabraininjurydotorg.wordpress.com. Within each post will be advice, tips and general information about keeping yourself healthy in mind body and soul. I believe that there is a lot more to ABI recovery than just prescribed rehabilitation and recovery programs and methods.

Mind

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The mind section will be an important part of the series. Each new post will contain a new discipline; a new method of thinking that can benefit you when it comes to your state of mind. These disciplines can help with anxiety, depression and with the many other similar issues that often manifest themselves in the mind post-brain injury. My hope is that people reading the posts will be able to master the techniques and use them to good effect leading to better day-to-day experiences as we live our every daily lives.

Body

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This section will focus on the things we put into our body and what we do in terms of exercise can affect us, the way we feel physically, the way our mind feels and the fact that when your body feels good it goes a long way to making your mind feel good. Each day will provide some useful information and tips on health such as diet and exercise, as well as providing a different herbal tea (green and herbal teas provide anti-oxidants and other vitamins and nutrients which cleanse the body and help to protect it from cellular damage).

Soul

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The final component of what makes up these blog posts is an intangible one; fulfilling the soul. I know that for a long time after my brain injury I felt as though nothing would ever fill me up again. That nothing would give me that warm feeling in my heart and that feeling of contentedness. I have found that trying to help others is providing me with fulfillment. The final section of each blog is about trying to restore balance to that part of you, the part deep inside that no one can touch.

How Will It Go Down With You?

I hope that you will join me for this weeklong journey. I’m not sure how people who read my other posts will receive it but I think it will be a different type of blog with different content. We hope that it can help people think outside the box a little more and find alternative ways to find solutions to their problems