The Impact Of Injury On Our Mental Health

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The Impact of Injury On Our Mental Health  

Physical injury can have a profound effect on our mental health and overall wellbeing – it's not just about the obvious physical obstacles ahead.

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Understanding the Impact of Injury on our Mental Health and Wellbeing

Physical pain takes a toll psychologically; adapting to changes in mobility, coming to terms with and processing the event that caused injury, all adds to our psychological load. It is understandable that many individuals who experience injury therefore find themselves feeling overwhelmed, and unsure how to cope.

Not only this, but our fundamental needs can be impacted by injury, whether our appetite changing, sleeping patterns changing, ability to engage in hobbies, interests and physical activity. These may change either directly such as a result of changes to mobility, or indirectly such as a result of prescribed medication. Regardless, all of these changes can make daily stressors much more difficult to manage, and can often be overlooked. It is important therefore that the psychological impact of injury isn’t overlooked or underestimated.

Post injury it is common to experience depression, anxiety, and even post-traumatic stress disorder. Self-medicating may occur, such as through alcohol or other substances. You may experience periods of shock, disbelief, denial, fear, and anger to name but a few. Feelings of frustration and helplessness may also arise, as you crave your former normal.

Injury can also bring with it uncertainty – whether around potential for recovery, timescales, or financial uncertainty such as due to implications of being off work.  Uncertainty in itself can increase stress, anxiety and overwhelm, all of which can drain the body of energy it needs to heal.

It is essential to be aware that these psychological reactions are normal, and expected. However, if these feelings are becoming intense, prolonged or impacting your wellbeing and recovery, then it may be worth considering getting professional support. You deserve the same support for your mental health as you do for your physical health.


Addressing the Ongoing Psychological Impacts of Injury

Psychologically, adjusting to your new or current normal can be a difficult process. As a result, mental health difficulties often co-exist alongside physical health challenges resulting from injury, which can further impact quality of life.

Acknowledging the impact that injury is having on your mental health can be a difficult step, but an important one. Honesty with those around you in itself can help to reduce some of the anxiety associated with injury, and encourage belief in yourself and your abilities to overcome challenges with your mental health.

Talking therapy such as counselling or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, can help individuals who have experienced injury to find ways to cope with any overwhelming or negative thoughts or feelings. It can improve not only resilience, but optimism, which can significantly positively impact health outcomes.

The benefits of social support, such as from friends, family and others who can relate to your experience (such as through support groups), cannot be underestimated either. Social support can help to improve problem solving, help you to manage your feelings, talk through your fears and reduce feelings of isolation. A sense of belonging can be very powerful during times of adversity.

Mindfulness can also be a powerful took to rely upon following injury. Mindfulness helps to anchor us to the present, pulling us away from fears for the future or dwelling on the past. With regular practice mindfulness helps us to gain distance from our thoughts and feelings, and allows us to observe them as they change and pass. The same too can be said for physical pain and discomfort. This can be highly powerful for inspiring hope that if feelings, thoughts and sensations are constantly changing, then we are not stuck, and things can pass and make way for more pleasant experiences.



Psychological Recovery – Tending to your Mental Health Throughout Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation can be a difficult process that takes time, energy and commitment. Recovery is rarely a linear journey either, and it may require patience through periods of setbacks and frustrations. The psychological impact of navigating this process can be just as exhausting and demanding as the physical requirements. That is why it is so important to pay attention to your mental health throughout this process.

Gratitude can be a powerful tool for managing distress that can arise during rehabilitation. Gratitude for the little things, such as a smile from a stranger, the support of your physical therapist, or for a friend driving you, can all help you to reconnect to the good in the world. Gratitude for your body and all that it is doing to try to help you to recover, can also help to improve your relationship with your body.

Treating yourself with the same compassion you would offer to a loved one can also be invaluable. Adapting to life post-injury can be difficult enough without being put down constantly by the one person you spend the most time with – yourself! Practice talking to yourself with kindness, as though you are someone who matters (because you are!).

Creating routines and sticking to them can create a sense of predictability and certainty, which you may be lacking post-injury. Setting small, achievable goals can also help you to focus on the little wins and improve your sense of control over your recovery.

Your brain is as much a part of your body as your lungs or limbs, and it deserves as much care and attention during the rehabilitation as possible. Whilst these steps may not create immediate relief, a daily effort to support your wellbeing will have a positive cumulative effect, and is well worth doing!

If you are struggling at all with an injury, or your mental health, please reach out to us for FREE using our Ask An Expert tool, here.

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