A stroke usually happens unexpectedly without any warning or time to prepare. This leaves you in a state of shock - overwhelmed, feeling scared, helpless, confused, angry, vulnerable, depressed, anxious, and often in physical pain.
After the initial phase of adjustment, you can experience feelings of fear, worry about many things. You worry about things like the changes in your physical capabilities, the effects on your employment or ability to work, the effects on your relationships, and the quality of your life. It is often a life changing event!
The first response to a stroke involves managing the often complex array of physical symptoms. It can feel overwhelming to deal with all of the medical exams, tests, procedures, medicines, health care providers and therapies.
It can feel that you have lost your old identity and have now become a patient. It can feel like your body has betrayed you. As you begin to manage and deal with the physical symptoms, it is also important to recognize and manage the wide range of emotional and psychological effects.
One of the most overwhelming effects of a stroke or neurological event is the amount of loss you experience. There is the loss of your health, the loss of physical strength and capabilities, the loss of memory, the loss of speech or cognitive abilities, the loss of independence, the loss of employment or ability to function at the same job, and the loss of confidence and motivation.
The biggest loss is the loss of the old you – the person you used to be.
You wonder: “Will I ever be like I used to be?” and/or “Who will I be now?”
The cycles and stages of the emotional responses are similar to the grief stages.
These stages are not linear and don’t follow a neat pattern. People are all different in how they go through the stages and cope with loss and grief.
You can respond in ways that may seem confusing, moving from anger to acceptance and back to hopelessness, depression, and other emotional responses all in short periods of time. It is important to be gentle and patient with yourself as you cope with the losses in your own way.
Recognizing and dealing with the emotional and psychological symptoms and effects of a stroke or neurological event is critical. It’s important to balance the attention and work on physical symptoms and emotional symptoms. It’s also important to remember that there is no one “right way” to deal with your emotional and psychological symptoms. Everyone has to find their own “right way.”
Healing and recovery are part of a journey that takes time, dedication, and patience.
Explore strategies that are helpful to you. You may not always feel like it, but remember, you are the best authority about you and what you need. Be open and listen to helpful advice (like this) and then decide what you determine will be best for you. If what you try doesn’t work, try something different! The important thing is to keep trying!
The following are some strategies that you may find helpful:
Make sure that you pay attention and recognize how you feel – physically and emotionally. Ignoring symptoms may contribute to greater problems later on.
Know that you are not alone! Even if it feels that way sometimes, know that there are others out there who can support you and be of help.
It’s OKAY to ask for help – to help with physical needs as well as emotional needs.
Join a support group, read blogs or talk to other people who have had a stroke or neurological event.
Talk about what your feeling – get help if necessary. Find a good counselor to help you deal with what’s going on emotionally.
Neurofeedback, biofeedback and Tapping Techniques can be helpful.
Exercise, move and re-connect with your body.
Sleep. Make sure you get plenty of sleep to help heal your mind and body.
Feed your body healthy nutritional foods
Learn stress management techniques to help manage everyday stressors in your life as well as the stress involved with healing and getting well. Mindfulness Stress Reduction techniques can be very helpful.
Read/ listen to uplifting and inspiring messages, books or TED Talks.
Meditation has been proven to help the brain heal. Practicing meditation can help reduce anxiety, depression, improve focus, & attention and increase mental flexibility.
Visualize. We all have is a strong mind-body interconnection. The body is influenced by what the mind thinks, and the mind is influenced by what is going on in the body. Visualizing yourself being healthy, strong, able to move your limbs can produce positive effects. The body will respond to what the mind envisions. If you focus on what’s wrong with your body or on being sick, the body complies with those messages. When you visualize yourself as well, the body complies with that message.
Listen to music. Research has shown positive effects of the magic of music.
Laugh, sing, cook, garden, be out in nature and other things that can help you lift your spirits. Engage in activities that bring you pleasure.
Engage in self-care activities like massage, manicures, reflexology, baths, getting your hair done, wearing clothes that make you feel good or putting on makeup.
Find ways to be happy and grateful. Keep a Gratitude Journal and write in it every day.
Be social (avoid isolation). Enjoy the company of good friends, children and loving family members.
Most importantly, be kind, gentle, patient and love yourself.
Healing from a stroke or neurological event is a journey that takes time.
This article was written by Kathleen Todd, LCSW.
She is the author of Mindful Loving, A Guide to Loving with Passion and Purpose. Click here for more info.