Dealing with a serious injury can have a big impact on your physical health, but it can also do lasting damage on your mental and emotional well being. The University of Manitoba looked at over 20,000 patients hospitalized for injuries and found that people with serious injuries were three times more likely to be hospitalized for mental health. While the pain and suffering are more pronounced there are a lot of underlying factors that can cause an injured person to become depressed. An injury can sideline a person, possibly forcing them to stop working temporarily or even participating in everyday activities and cause them to depend on others for help. The undue financial strain, lack of mobility, loss of independence, and social isolation can all be contributing factors for falling into depression. A study from the Institute for Work & Health, a non-profit research organization, found that the first six months after an occupational injury are particularly important to an injured worker’s future mental health. This is why it’s critical to take immediate action after being injured and find practical steps to help manage your mental health. To get you started here are ten tips to help you fight depression after an injury:
Set “SMART” Goals
SMART stands for specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-based. An ideal place to start your journey against depression is to educate yourself about your injury and recovery process. Speak with your doctor about what to expect with healing in your type of injury and then set SMART objectives to help gain control over the process. These goals will provide you with the motivation to fight off depression and with each achievement you will gain an additional sense of accomplishment while getting closer to healing. The more you know about the injury, treatment, and healing process the less it will cause fear and anxiety that can evolve into depression.
Continue to Exercise
Depending upon your injury staying active can be very tough to do and sometimes you are required to adjust or even stop your normal exercise routine, but it’s important to find alternative ways to get moving. Inactivity will only slow down your rehabilitation while reducing essential “feel-good” hormone boosts from endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, and testosterone that all help against depressive symptoms. Low impact cardio alternatives like walking or swimming provide ideal exercises for recovery, but take it slow and always check with your doctor first.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
One of the keys to a healthy body and mind is making the right food choices. Changes to your diet can help improve your mood and protect your mental health. From providing the essential nutrients your body needs to heal and brain needs to function properly to help maintain a healthy weight there are a number of ways food can help fight depression. Always try to eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean meats, poultry, and fish while avoiding refined, processed, and high sugar foods. Eating a diet with a wide variety of healthy foods will help to ensure you obtain all the micronutrients you need.
Sometimes efforts at lifestyle or dietary changes make no difference in helping to improve your mental health. This is why it’s important to try different techniques. Meditation is a great option. Regular meditation practice can help your brain better manage the stress and anxiety that can trigger depression. Dr. John Denninger, director of research at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, says that “meditation trains the brain to achieve sustained focus, and to return to that focus when negative thinking, emotions, and physical sensations intrude — which happens a lot when you feel stressed and anxious.” Meditation has also been shown to alter regions of the brain that are specifically linked with depression. It shrinks and deactivates the amygdala, the fear center of the brain, while increasing the volume of grey matter in the hippocampus, brain tissue responsible for seeing, hearing, memory, decision-making, and emotion. It also boosts and replenishes important neurotransmitters like serotonin and norepinephrine. Remember though, just as with maintaining a healthy diet and continuing to exercise, it takes time to feel results from regular meditation practice.
Keep a Journal
Journaling may seem like something for a teenager, but it has actually been shown to have many scientific benefits to managing stress, anxiety, and depression. Writing in a journal can help remind you of your goals while providing a place to hold a deliberate and thoughtful conversation with yourself. One way to ease into journaling is to keep a gratitude journal. Simply write down things that you have seen or experienced that give you feelings of gratitude. Studies from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that this can help shift your viewpoint and literally rewire your brain to be more optimistic. Dr. Aparna Iyer, a psychiatrist at the University of Texas SW Medical Center says that “optimism is a mindset that enables people to view the world, other people, and events in the most favorable, positive light possible. Some people describe this as the ‘glass half full’ mentality.” Not to mention journaling comes with a list of impressive physical benefits as well, including better sleep, improved heart health, and reduced aches and pains.
Speak to a Therapist
It may seem like admitting defeat, but there is no shame in seeking the help of a professional. Psychologists have been trained in depression and will have actionable steps and helpful advice for developing skills to cope with the symptoms and identify or prevent future episodes of depression. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is considered by many to be the gold standard for treating depression, but you may want to do some research. There are many types of therapies available and a blended approach is probably best.
Spending time with your friends and family can provide a number of benefits to both your physical and mental health. Sometimes it’s tough enough just to get out of bed, but person to person contact actually triggers a release of depression-fighting neurotransmitters. The emotional support provided by socializing helps to reduce the damaging effects of stress. If you don’t know where to start, volunteering can be a great way to be social while creating a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Volunteering can help you break the cycle of negative thoughts by changing your perspective.
The old saying really is true, laughter is the best medicine. It strengthens your immune system, releases endorphins, reduces pain, and protects you from the damaging effects of stress helping you to relax. Laughter also provides the benefits of a mild workout by contracting the diaphragm and abdominal muscles, increasing your oxygen intake, heart rate, and blood flow while decreasing blood pressure and stress hormones like cortisol. More importantly, laughing can help clear your mind and put your brain in a state where you’re able to think more level-headed.
If you or a loved one have been seriously injured by the negligence of another person or entity, you may have a viable claim for a personal injury lawsuit. Contact our experienced personal injury attorneys at Kaufman Law to help you assess damages and find out whether you are entitled to collect financial compensation for your injuries.