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Jan 24, 2018

Traumatic Brain Injury & Recovery: Tips, Tools and Resources

Written by Dr. Caroline Leaf

During my years in clinical practice, I saw many patients who suffered from traumatic brain injury (TBI). Unfortunately, many were told, by doctors,  that they would never be on the same cognitive or functional level as before the accident. The dominant belief at the time was that the brain could not change. I was considered radical in my belief that the mind could change and heal the brain; however, I persisted in my research and the results were nothing short of miraculous. It was not easy; my patients worked long hours and pushed through tough challenges. Yet they chose to persist, which was a key factor in their healing. I am still  asked for help in this area, and although this is a very complex and unique subject, I have listed some of my tools and techniques that I used in my practice and that you can find in my resources listed at the end.

Stimulating the mind will help the brain regrow and heal. It is therefore very important to develop a lifestyle of stimulation post trauma. Bearing in mind how recent the trauma was, multiple sessions a day, starting at 10 minutes and building to 45 minutes, are advised. All the activities below are based on the concept of mind-directed neuroplasticity, which is the deliberate and intentional deep thinking in order to rewire and improve brain function.

 

  1. Set yourself goals: Do this each day, but also set goals for what you want to achieve every  21-days. The mind and brain heal in cycles of 21 days. A goal can be anything from reading a chapter in a book to learning (or relearning) a new work skill.
  2. Read: Reading helps stimulate the growth of new brain cells.I encourage you to read every day. You can read anything from an article to a short story to a novel, but do it every day. Additionally, always include a discussion of what you have read to engage the brain on a deeper level and to stimulate the regrowth of brain cells.
  3. Movies: Sessions can also include watching a movie or a TV series and discussing it, anticipating what will happen next and so on. Engagement with the material is important in mind-directed neuroplasticity.
  4. Discussions: General discussions about life are very important in this healing process. They keep the person who has suffered a TBI grounded in the time and context of their daily life. This can include politics, school, university, family news or whatever the person is interested in.
  5. Academic material: Do not stop studying, even if you have to go back a few levels or take far longer than expected. Use schoolwork, work, other materials or whatever interests you to keep learning and building memory. 
  6. Metacogs: Create Metacogs™ of what you have watched, studied or read. A Metacog(tm) is a way of organizing information, and a very powerful tool that facilitates brain growth and healing. You can find out more about this in my workbook and DVD called Switch on Your Brain with the 5-step learning process(r).
  7. Family support: It’s essential that family and close friends get involved in all aspects of healing TBI. This can be done in various ways, such as different people directing different sessions so they do not all fall on one person’s shoulders. Any family member or friend can be a part of and do all the same works as the patient. Try to get outside support from friends and family as well. It is important to have a social support group to deal with all the emotions and changes—family counselors are good places to start.
  8. Diet and Exercise: Diet and exercise are essential components for healing. See my book THINK & EAT YOURSELF SMART for more information and tips on how to eat right for healing your brain and body. Be sure to include a few minutes of exercise everyday; anything from walking to pilates to swimming and more will support the healing process.
  9. 21 Day Brain Detox: This program can help with emotional issues that arise after damage to the brain. 

For more information, click here to listen to my recent podcasts on traumatic brain injury and recovery: https://drleaf.com/media/podcasts/

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