Emotional Distress and Symptom Management following Injury and Disease

What is this blog about?

Our emotional well-being and quality of life depends on how well we can function in our world.   When our daily life is disrupted by a major injury like a brain injury, or disease, recovery can be a challenging road ahead, to say the least.

  1. This blog discusses the underlying sources for emotional distress that is experienced by people who suffered a brain injury or disease that negatively impacts brain functioning.
  2. It provides information on how to address symptom management in a way that allows allows a person to actually return to their daily life as opposed to the often experienced downward spiral of crash and burn that comes with pushing through activities or symptoms.

The brain is responsible for everything including physical, cognitive (thinking), emotional, and social functioning, sleep regulation, balance, balancing the body’s water household, movement, and so on.  In short, the brain is the control centre that allows us to function successfully in everyday life- to do the things that we want to or must do, successfully.  

When the brain is impacted by injury or disease, the ensuing difficulties of not functioning in everyday life and work can be devastating on many levels, bringing with it decreased quality of life and emotional distress.

Symptoms following brain injury including concussion, stroke, chemo brain, and other diseases that impact brain functioning often include:

  1. Physical symptoms, which include invisible and invisible symptoms such as
    • Fatigue, headaches, sensory sensitivity, dizziness
    • Difficulties with movement
  2. Cognitive symptoms (slowed thinking speed, memory difficulties, difficulties concentrating)

As mentioned above, our emotional well-being and quality of life depends on how well we can function in our world.   When our daily functioning is negatively impacted due to having suffered a longer-term injury or being diagnosed with a disease, the emotional challenges can result from different underlying sources. Some emotional difficulties may relate to the injury and can relate to questions such as: ‘why did this happen to me’. Emotional difficulties also can result from the worries about the future following an injury, difficulties functioning in your daily life due to symptoms can create worries and depression, that may express themselves in questions such as: ‘Is this the new me?’ or ‘How am I going to do this task’. Other emotional difficulties may result from just ‘not feeling good’ due to symptoms, and the resulting challenges of being at work or spending time with friends and family. The latter is a non-exhaustive list of the underlying reasons for the emotional challenges that people experience following concussion.

Importantly, it is the emotional difficulties that seem to rise to awareness, but it is the sources that drive these emotional difficulties that also must be addressed for recovery to become an ‘upward spiral’.

In short, all of the above, the physical and cognitive symptoms, and the associated emotional difficulties, not only negatively impact a person’s ability to function in everyday life.   It is oftentimes difficult for people to know what to do to get better – how to approach symptoms and what strategies to use while struggling to manage daily life.

Therefore, to decrease the emotional suffering following such injury or disease, we need to address the specific sources that drive the emotional suffering including symptom management (physical and cognitive difficulties). At the same time, understanding both, emotional challenges and what drives them, and how these interact, is an important part of learning how to get better following concussion, which oftentimes is part of therapeutic care at Mind your Brain in addition to learning about symptom management, strategy use, and a gradual approach to activities and more. If you would like to learn more about Heike’s approach to concussion recovery, e mail me at mindyourbrain1@gmail.com or schedule a free 15-20 minute phone or skype consult here.

Here are some points and suggestions for symptom management, especially fatigue management, following concussion or other conditions that impact brain function through gradual exposure to activity and symptoms while increasing functionality and emotional-well being.

The How-to’s of gradual exposure to activity and symptoms

Symptoms following brain injury including concussion, stroke, chemo-brain, and other diseases that impact brain functioning often include:

  1. Physical symptoms (e.g. fatigue, headaches, sensory sensitivity, dizziness)
  2. Cognitive symptoms (slowed thinking speed, memory difficulties, difficulties concentrating)

Our emotional well-being and quality of life of course depends on how well we can function in our world.   And under health conditions, we know that sometimes we can push through activities in order to complete the task, usually without much consequence. However, after a brain injury, such approach can have negative consequences: people “crash” and it may take a few days to ‘recover’ from this ‘crash and burn approach’. While regaining one’s energy, it likely feels like it will ‘never’ get better, or even that it gets worse despite best efforts. But the approach that we use under healthy conditions does not work well when dealing with fatigue following a brain injury (concussion, chemobrain, stroke).

Following an injury or disease, It is usually more advantageous to do cognitively demanding tasks (e.g. doing taxes, organizing information) or physically demanding tasks (e.g. shopping, cleaning) for shorter periods of time and switch to other tasks to give the system (brain/ body) a break from doing exactly the same for too long (this includes such ideas such as change in body position, switching up exercises in the gym). With regard to physical tasks, humans usually do this without too much consideration- for example, a body position becomes uncomfortable and we change position.

However, when it comes to cognitively demanding tasks- that is tasks that require effortful cognitive processing such as tasks that are unfamiliar and/ or complex, and require detailed attention, such frequent changes are needed as well. 

Following a brain injury, it can be difficult to identify the need for a break. If you are have experienced a brain injury and struggle with the consequences, while ‘just’ managing your daily life, feel free to e mail at mindyourbrain1@gmail.com with your questions, or just book a free 15-20 minute consult with me here to learn how to identify the need for a break proactively (and breaking the crash and burn cycle), thereby creating an upward spiral of recovery.

Summary
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Emotional Distress and Symptom Management following Injury and Disease
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Sources of emotional distress following brain injury and disease, and symptom management approach
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Mind your Brain
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