Tag Archives: emotion

Utilizing Music For Mood

Music has the amazing power to touch our hearts and souls.  The right song at the right time can move us in powerful ways, eliciting emotions ranging from brightest joy to deepest sorrow.  Harnessing the power of music can also help brain injury survivors (along with the rest of us) make it through their days more successfully.

It is a common sight at a gym to see the majority of participants working out with music in the background to help keep them motivated and driven.  This music tends to be upbeat and intense.  This workout music highlights the ability of music to boost our performance.  Survivors may want to consider using similar energetic background music while they are working out, whether in a gym or in therapy, to help them when they might be feeling low in energy.  However, it is important to ensure that the music does not distract the survivor.  An example of this pitfall to be avoided can be observed in a survivor suffering from substantial deficits in the arena of attention.  A catchy song could cause this survivor to sing along and devote a disastrous lack of attention to foot placement while practicing walking.  Finding the balance (whenever possible) between drive and distraction is important.  Energetic music may also help mitigate general fatigue that can occur at any part of the day.

Music has the ability to lift us when we feel down.  Following a brain injury, many survivors will display acute symptoms of depression or at the very least be significantly (if understandably) sad about their situations.  Survivors should identify songs that lift their moods and listen to that music when they find themselves feeling low.  These songs often tend to incorporate themes of hope and joy.  Religious music is also a very popular and effective source of this helpful form of mood modulation.

Many survivors also face serious difficulties with stress and anger.  Certain music can help individuals to relax and stay calm.  Soft, classical music tends to be popular to ease stress and anger though other types of music can do this as well.  Some individuals prefer listening to sounds of nature (such as waves lapping upon a beach) to reach a more calm state.  Meditation music is a hot market and there is a huge amount of excellent music available both in stores and online.

Not every song will help with every mood and sometimes the music that is most helpful may not be the survivor’s favorite song or from a favorite band.  What is most important is that the music in question leads to the emotional experience that the survivor would like to cultivate.  Technology has advanced exponentially over the last few years, and survivors should take full advantage.  A survivor can keep a playlist of songs to help influence his or her emotions on a smartphone, Ipod or other similar device that can then be accessed throughout the day.  Remember that music can be an important part of any recovery process!

Learn about brain injury treatment services at the Transitional Learning Center!  Visit us at: http://tlcrehab.org/

 

 

 

Give Yourself Permission

Brain injury survivors and their loved ones often try to approach life after an injury as if it is a fight.  Battle hard, stay strong and never let your enemy see your weaknesses.  But in truth, though there are some similarities in this analogy that are appropriate, life after an injury is not an actual fight.  In fact, by treating it as a real fight survivors and their loved ones can sometimes hurt themselves by not allowing themselves to feel and process certain emotions in a healthy manner.  By not processing emotions, individuals may allow these emotions to fester inside and come out at the wrong time or in the wrong situation.  Not processing emotions can lead to difficulties such as depression, anxiety and relationship stress.  I would like to encourage you to give yourself permission to feel these emotions.

Give yourself permission to get angry at the injury.  It truly is a frustrating and unpleasant experience.

Give yourself permission to cry.  There is no weakness in crying.  This is an appropriate reaction to a painful situation.

Give yourself permission to mourn.  There may be parts of you from the past that will no longer be part of your post-injury future.  It is okay to mourn their passing.

Give yourself permission to laugh.  Laugh at the moments of oddity.  Laughter, in measured amounts, is a reasonable coping technique during times of distress.

Most of all, give yourself permission to experience and value the full range of your emotions.  After all, our emotions are important aspects of who we are as people.  They are a central part of simply being human.  So please give yourself permission to be the complete person that you are, despite your injury.

Learn about brain injury treatment services at the Transitional Learning Center: http://tlcrehab.org/

 

 

 

 

Give Me Your Best 40%

Good days, bad days.  Everyone has them.  No one minds the good days, but those bad days can be such headaches.  Maybe you didn’t sleep well the previous night.  Perhaps your children were sick and were thoughtful enough to pass their germs on to you.  Those bad days pose a regular struggle that we can only push through.  However, sometimes bad days have potential to knock traumatic brain injury and stroke survivors to emotional low points markedly lower than anything experienced in their lives prior to the injury experience.

Often, patients will apologize to their therapists when they are having bad days, even though they would not feel the need to do so when going through a similar bad day at a job in their pre-injury lives.  In reality, no apology is truly necessary.  Having good days and bad days is not only a natural part of life, but is just as natural a component of the journey to recovery.  The progress of a healthy recovery can usually be observed to resemble that of a healthy stock market.  We can track plenty of ups and downs, but a general upward trend is just as persistently evident.

On rare occasions, a patient may ask a therapist if he or she can skip a session because he or she is having a bad day.  Unless the patient is deemed unable to participate in therapy by a facility nurse or doctor, the patient will be strongly encouraged to engage in therapy.  This can be a bit confusing for patients.  After all, why shouldn’t they be able to skip rehabilitation when having a particularly bad day?  I will explain some of the logic involved in having patients stay in therapy even on those bad days.

First, as stated earlier, bad days are a natural part of life.  Therapists know that on some days a patient will simply be unable to contribute that normal 100% effort.  This is fine.  Advances in therapy can be made even on bad days.  A therapist will always take a patient’s best effort, whether it be that patient’s best 80%, best 60% or even a 40% effort.  Every step forward in rehabilitation is a step in the right direction.  Second, it is important to remember that every activity in rehabilitation is aimed at facilitating success following discharge.  At home, just like in rehabilitation, there will be good and bad days.  Survivors need to be just as prepared to handle bad days at home as they are to handle the good ones.  For example, a patient may not want to work on hand skills necessary to use adaptive flatware on a bad day.  But what is that patient going to do when he or she is hungry at home on a bad day?  Will the patient not eat because he or she is having a bad day?  Good day or bad day, the same skills will be used to succeed at home and therefore they need to be practiced both on good days and bad days in therapy.

So don’t worry about having a bad day.  Just give therapy your best effort, even if on that day your best effort is only 40%!

Learn about brain injury treatment services at the Transitional Learning Center: http://tlcrehab.org/

What Is a “Flat Affect?”

There are so many terms that family and friends of brain injury survivors are exposed to that are simply not part of our day to day vocabulary.   Learning to understand all these new terms while attempting to cope with an already trying experience can be quite dizzying.  I would like to take a moment to explain one of those terms, “flat (or flattened) affect.”

 
A flat (or flattened) affect is when a person does not display or experience emotions with the same intensity that  he or she did before an injury so that the affect (mood) of the individual in question appears to be unchanging (flat).  This symptom is most common in right-sided brain injuries.  A survivor with a flat affect may be told that a friend has died and blandly state, “That is too bad.”  The same survivor could be told that he or she has won a huge contest and simply say, “That is nice.”  Instead of being distraught and tearful in the first example or excited and elated in the second, everything ends up feeling to the survivor similarly ordinary.  This is not to say that the person does not understand the importance of each situation.  It is simply that the person’s brain is no longer capable of experiencing the strong emotions we generally associate with having encountered such a situation.  Rather than traversing the hills and valleys of normal emotional fluctuation, the person’s emotional experience is more akin to that of an even surface or flattened plain.

 
As we are social beings, a flat affect can of course interfere with social relationships.  Other people may find it awkward or off-putting when the survivor does not display the emotions that would be normally expected in a given situation.  For instance, a friend might find it odd that a warm smile is not reciprocated with a similar smile by the survivor.  It may feel to the other person like the survivor is now almost robotic in most interactions.  Many survivors with a flat affect need to be retaught social skills so as to allow for improved social functioning.  This may include learning to show facial expressions appropriate to the emotion associated with a given social interaction, even if the person is not feeling said emotion or perhaps not feeling the emotion very strongly.  Sometimes, loved ones mistakenly assume that the flat affect implies depression or anger.

 
A further complication is that the lack of or decline in the experiencing of emotions can also impact motivation to engage in activities.  If a person feels strongly that he or she wants to accomplish a goal, then motivation there will clearly be high.  However if the person feels little emotion to begin with, it is often difficult to arouse more than minimal motivation.  Many survivors with flat affect report little desire to participate in activities that they previously enjoyed or weak motivation for therapy.

 
Survivors with flat or flattened affect often find that as their injury heals, they experience a wider range of emotions.  Unfortunately, there are also those survivors for whom this will prove a symptom that provides some level of struggle throughout the remainder of their lives.

Learn about brain injury treatment services at the Transitional Learning Center: tlcrehab.org

Focusing on the Positive – Part 1

All people are inherently programmed to notice and immediately form lasting and indelible memories from having negative experiences more so than they will from having positive experiences.  For instance, if someone cuts you off in traffic, you are more likely to remember that event than if someone allowed you to merge into traffic.

Generally, our lives are filled with considerably more positive than negative events so our moods tend to be good.  However,  a brain injury invariably brings about a noticeable increase in the number of negative events in a survivor’s life.  These negative events can include such things as the loss of a job, physical pain or a decline in mobility.  As the ratio of positive to negative events shifts, many survivors see a decline in their emotional well-being.

One of the methods that can help improve mood is to deliberately focus on positive events.  A simple way of accomplishing this is by writing down at least five positive things that happened during the day.  This should be done on a daily basis.

Positive events do not have to be large accomplishments such as walking for the first time post-injury.  They can be (and usually are)  smaller events such as having a nice conversation with a spouse or working hard in speech therapy.  Moreover, if the same positive events happen each day, they can be written down each day.  You do not want to ignore positive events just because they happen regularly. The events should  be documented and kept in a format that can be easily accessed and reviewed.  A clear and concise diary-style list is suggested, and survivors with visual deficits may benefit from making a voice recording of events.  This activity should not be done only in one’s head.  When we leave the positive events in our head, it is all too easy to forget or discount them.  As such, it is preferable to have them available in a concrete visual or auditory format.

Here are some sample entries of daily positive events:
11/25

1.  Went out to eat for breakfast

2.  Enjoyed reading a book

3.  Transferred from my wheelchair without help

4.  Showered with only 25% assistance

5.  Had a nice conversation with my mother

11/26

1.  Was complimented by my physical therapist for giving great effort

2.  Was able to share my feelings with my counselor

3.  Conducted a cash transaction without assistance

4.  Told a joke that made everyone laugh

5.  My wife served my favorite dish for dinner

11/27

1.  Woke up without needing my alarm clock

2.  Followed my daily schedule without errors

3.  Received a card from a friend

4.  Found out that I gained 5% range of movement in my right arm

5.  Finished reading my book

By doing this activity every day, it is easier to notice and focus on positive events.  Consequently, many people who engage in this activity experience an improved mood and an expanded appreciation of daily life.

Learn about brain injury treatment services at the Transitional Learning Center: tlcrehab.org