The recovery period following a stroke consists of lots of little successes and moments to be proud of, but it can also be beset by minor setbacks and disappointments that make all your progress feel pointless. This is completely normal – you have, after all, experienced an intense form of trauma and, sometimes, the speed at which you wish to return to some form of normality doesn’t always match the rate at which your brain can heal.
But the brain is a wonderful organ, in that it has the unique ability to rewire and heal itself when certain training is undertaken. An ability referred to as neuroplasticity, research has identified that the brain is able to adapt and reorganize to meet your needs, if you work to train your brain to progress through recovery in ways that prioritize your individual requirements.
Patience + Simple Solutions
Your body changes in ways you may not understand after having a stroke, which can be intensely frustrating when all you want is to return to yourself. Patience is key, however, as frustration will only make it harder for you to make progress in your recovery.
Identifying some simple solutions that will aid your everyday life can help you to look forward and regain confidence. For example, adjust the layout of your home to make moving around it easier. Become more familiar with local public transport. Keep a walking aid and phone nearby. If you experience dysphagia – the umbrella medical term for difficulties with swallowing – try products such as SimplyThick, which utilizes xanthan gum to thicken foods and drinks to make them easier to swallow. These steps will help to reduce stress and allow you to focus on other areas of recovery.
It may seem impossible, but remaining as mobile as possible (even in short bursts) following a stroke is vital. Such activity, consistent and daily, will help the brain to adapt to function loss and gradually make it easier. The activity can be as minor as walking around the garden, dusting, or watering your plants.
Socialize with Friends
Never underestimate the benefits of friends and family in your recovery. Simply spending time with them socializing and maintaining connections can help you to stay positive and find day-to-day purpose. They can even help you to identify new hobbies that you can feel passionate about!
It can be easy to give up to communicate with others if your speech is affected following a stroke, but identifying different ways to communicate can do wonders for you! Keep a notepad & pen close by to draw simple images and words to communicate, or create a system of signals via facial expressions to get across what you mean.
The important thing here, however, is to recognize that you won’t always find this easy and that it’s okay if you don’t always understand what others are trying to get across to you. Take your time.
Routine is Key
Routine is the biggest way to affect changes in the brain. Maintaining a simple routine – such as eating breakfast at 9am, taking a walk in the garden at 10am, engaging in a hobby at 11am etc., will aid your memory and thinking processes. Again, having a notepad by your side to make notes of things you need to remember or key dates is also handy.
Reduce your alcohol and caffeine intake; quit smoking (if you haven’t already); eat lots of fruit and vegetables in a balanced diet; try and exercise as much as possible; and try to maintain a regular sleep schedule.
As well as communicating your thoughts, feelings, and difficulties with loved ones, familiarize yourself with key organizations and support groups in your locality that will help you to feel less alone and help you to stay positive.
Each stage of your progress is something to celebrate – never forget how far you’ve come! Progress will occur at your own pace but don’t worry, you will get there.