(1) INVOLVE YOUR FAMILY
Your physical injury will have an impact on your family members. They may worry about you but say nothing because they don’t want to burden you with their fears and concerns. You may worry about being a burden to your family but say nothing because you feel guilty or ashamed. This silence causes tension, compounds worries and can fester into resentment – none of which will help your recovery. Try to start a dialogue by asking your family members how they feel and how they are dealing with any physical or lifestyle changes that resulted from the accident. By being open, you may find that your family becomes a source of support and strength for you, and you for them.
(2) MAINTAIN SOCIAL TIES
As much as you are physically able to maintain ties with your friends and keep up your social calendar. Maintaining friendships can help to stave off anxiety and depression and keep at bay the social isolation that sometimes accompanies recovery from a physical injury.
You don’t even need to leave the house to do these things. Friends can bring take-out; you can have a movie night at home. Book club or your fantasy football league can meet at your house until you feel up to getting out.
(3) TALK TO A THERAPIST
Talking to an objective third-party can give you some much-needed perspective. A therapist can help you reframe your thoughts and reactions and change your relationship to anxiety and pain after a traumatic event. Therapists are trained in different methods, so read through their websites or speak on the phone about their philosophies and the types of treatment they would recommend. Many therapists offer phone or video appointments, which can be a real benefit if you are unable to leave the house for a certain period of time. If your first therapist does not seem like the right fit, search for another until you find one with whom you are comfortable.
(4) BE OPEN WITH YOUR DOCTOR
It is absolutely “normal,” and even expected, to struggle with mental and/ or emotional issues following an injury accident. If, however, your symptoms linger for more than a few weeks, you may be dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a mental health disorder that can affect anyone who has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event. Common symptoms of PTSD include:
- Reliving the traumatic event in your mind (e.g., flashbacks, nightmares);
- Actively avoiding anything associated with the event (e.g., if you were injured in a car accident, avoiding driving or riding in a car);
- Actively avoiding talking about the event;
- Isolating yourself from others;
- Experiencing exaggerated reactions (e.g., jumping at loud noises);
- Difficulty concentrating;
- Difficulty sleeping;
- Anxiety; and
Experiencing mental and/or emotional distress is not a sign of weakness; it is just a symptom of your injuries related to the accident, in the same way that pain or dizziness or a stiff neck is a symptom of an injury. Don’t try to “tough it out.” Talk to your doctor. Be open about how you are feeling and open to receiving help.
(5) PRACTICE RELAXATION TECHNIQUES
You can minimize the mental and emotional impact of physical pain by practicing relaxation techniques, including, for example:
• Controlled breathing is a means of diminishing the body’s stress response and activating a relaxation response. A quick Google search will reveal a number of free and low-cost apps that will teach you this technique.
• Meditation and mindfulness can be highly effective in reducing stress and anxiety. If you are unsure of how to begin, this is a good place to start: https://www.mindful.org/meditation-for-beginners-video/. You also can find plenty of other resources online.
• Journaling. Keeping a journal can help you connect with your feelings and bring buried emotions to the surface, where they can be addressed.
• Visualization is the practice of imagining a desired outcome. Imagine yourself being pain free. Visualize your body being whole and healthy. To learn more about how this technique may help you deal with pain, visit https://www.gaiam.com/blogs/discover/how-to-use-visualization-to-heal-physically-or-emotionally.
(6) ALLOW YOURSELF TO REST
Do you feel guilty about taking time off to recuperate from your injuries? If so, you are doing a disservice to yourself and those who care for you. As much as you can, let go of the guilt. Remember that rest is essential to making a full and speedy recovery—physically, mentally, and emotionally.
(7) PRACTICE SELF-COMPASSION
Engaging in self-criticism or blaming yourself for what happened to you is not productive. Pay attention to the way you talk to yourself. That voice in your head should be kind and supportive.
(8) FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL
Rather than dwelling on things that are out of your control, focus your attention and energy on what you can control: your attitude about your injury; the foods you put into your body; the effort you give to physical therapy and other aspects of your recovery. Regaining a sense of control, over even seemingly small matters, will boost your spirits.
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