It’s important to give yourself the permission to relax every once in awhile, whether that quiet moment is spent with a steaming cup of tea or an indulgent massage. Stress and exhaustion can cause long-term health issues if allowed to remain severe for too long. We’d like to share a few tips for relaxation to help you take care of yourself.

PUT ON THE KETTLE.

We’ll start with a cup of hot tea. Some studies suggest that an amino acid found in tea, L-theanine, causes the brain to relax. While this statement is still mildly debated, the fact remains that tea is the second-most-consumed liquid in the world, next to water. Many people attribute the simple ritual of sipping a cup of tea to a calming, familiar feeling that is brought on simply by the action of drinking it.

Other herbal teas, such as chamomile and lavender, are said to have calming properties as well. When dealing with herbs, it’s important to check with your doctor if you have any conditions or take medicines that react badly with the herb blends… but if you’re in the clear, what’s to lose? Put on the kettle and see if those shoulders loosen up.

CREATE A COMFORTING ROUTINE.

If you find yourself regularly feeling stressed out, you might benefit from a calming routine. It can be something small-scale to help you calm down in a pinch, or a longer ritual to help you wind down before bed. Either way, it’s important to examine your needs and feelings to establish a routine that will be right for you. Do breathing exercises help? Do you enjoy reading? Is a long, hot bath a surefire way to ease your worries and turn down the thoughts in your head?

Routine provides something to look forward to and creates a consistent set of actions that you can depend on. You can always add a nice cup of tea to that ritual, of course!

EXERCISE

For some people, the act of movement allows the body to burn off energy and the mind to find focus. While more strenuous activities like running and weight-lifting provide a release for some, it’s often the case that a more gentle form of exercise allows a stressed-out individual to calm both their mind and body. Long walks, yoga class, and low-impact swimming are all ideal examples of using exercise to release stress.

JOURNALING

Stress often results from a buildup of responsibilities and negative emotions. Keeping a journal can provide a much-needed space into which you can release some of those fears and concerns. According to a 1986 study on expressive writing, students who wrote about traumatic and stressful events reported an almost immediate decrease in distress. Those who continued the practice over time reported an increase in the quality of their physical health as well.

Bottling up your feelings can lead to stress. Releasing those feelings can relieve that stress. A journal is a wonderful way to disclose your emotions and thoughts in a safe, controlled environment.

MAKE IT ABOUT YOU.

Whether you love tea or hate it… whether you’d rather run a mile than get a massage, the point of this post is to encourage relaxation that works for you. A mind that carries stress and tension for a prolonged period is also a body carrying that stress and tension. Finding techniques that help ease both physical and mental stress will allow you to focus on the things that you love.

Our staff did it again! We’ve been ranked in the Top 10% nationwide for our patient care at Corpus Christi Rehabilitation Hospital. That makes us pretty happy, and here’s why:

Top 10 Reasons we like being in the Top 10

  1. We like the Number 2. This is the 2nd year we’ve been ranked as a nationwide leader in rehabilitative care.
  1. It makes us feel good. We’re passionate about patient care, and it’s nice when our efforts are recognized (especially by an unbiased, third-party).
  1. It makes our patients feel good. Who doesn’t want the best care when you’re in a hospital? Our patients know they’ll leave the hospital as active and independent as possible.
  1. Patients and families can save their frequent flier miles. We keep people here in Corpus Christi. Our patients and their families don’t have to travel the U.S. to receive the best care available. We bring it right here. To you. Locally.  
  1. We like being a leader. OK, so yeah, we enjoy standing out from the crowd and being different from others around us who provide rehabilitative care. Let’s face it, not all rehabilitative care is the same – inpatient care is better. And we’re not just saying it, research proves it.
  1. We might get more “likes” on Facebook. We know we’re not Justin Bieber or Bob Marley, but we love our fans. And we want them to love us. We like sharing good news and like when others share it too.
  1. It’s not every day you get to work on a Dream Team. The men’s Olympic basketball team has nothing on us. We work with talented, dedicated colleagues every day, and we look for health professionals of the same ilk to join us….which can only lead to better results for our patients.
  1. Ben & Jerry’s is naming an ice cream after us. Well, not really. But that would be cool.
  1. We’re throwing a party. We’re going to celebrate with music, friends and yummy food like cake and barbecue. And if we’re lucky, might get to see our CEO’s “happy” dance.

And the Number 1 reason we like being in the Top 10?
1. It Matters! Can you say Olympic gold medal? Fun aside, we’re serious about our commitment to our patients to provide them with the highest level of care available. It matters. To us. To our patients. To our community.

In our last post, we detailed how important it is for people to get help with anxiety disorders, especially because they can negatively impact overall physical and mental health. However, it’s often difficult to know where to start. In our second post on anxiety, we will focus on how to combat anxiety and what to expect when seeking treatment.

How do I ask for help?

If you think you may be suffering from anxiety, you should share your concerns with your primary care physician. A physician can help determine if the symptoms are due to an anxiety disorder, a medical condition, or both. If your physician diagnoses an anxiety disorder, the next step is to see a mental health care professional. You and your doctor will then work as a team to develop the best treatment plan.

What are my treatment options?

Treatment for anxiety can involve medication, therapy, stress reduction, coping skills, family involvement, or a combination of these. A mental health care provider can determine what type of disorder or combination of disorders you have, and if any other conditions, such as grief, depression, substance abuse, or dementia are present.

If you have been treated before for an anxiety disorder, you should tell your provider about the previous treatment. Be sure to detail what medication was used, dosage, side effects, and whether the treatment was helpful. If you attended therapy sessions, you should describe the type, how many sessions, and whether it helped. Sometimes individuals need to try several different treatments or combinations of treatments before they find the one that works best for them. It is important to be patient and committed to treatment efforts until you find what is best for you.

Medication

Medication will not cure anxiety disorders, but it can keep them under control while you receive therapy. Medication must be prescribed by physicians, often psychiatrists or geriatric psychiatrists, who can also offer therapy or work as a team with psychologists, social workers, or counselors who provide therapy. The main medications used for anxiety disorders are antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and beta-blockers, which control some of the physical symptoms. Below are several points to remember when beginning these types of medications.

  • Learn about the effects and side effects. For example, ask when the medication should begin to help and in what way. Also ask about what negative effects you should look out for.
  • Tell your doctor about any other drugs (both prescription and over-the-counter), herbal supplements, or alternative therapies you are taking.
  • Find out when and how the medication should be stopped. Some cannot be stopped abruptly and must be tapered down under a doctor’s supervision.
  • Some medications are only effective if taken regularly. Be sure to ask what you should do if you accidentally miss a dose.

Therapy

Therapy involves talking with a trained mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or counselor, to discover what caused the anxiety disorder and how to deal with its symptoms. Therapists can help people change the thinking patterns that contribute to their fears and the ways they react to anxiety-provoking situations. A therapist can also teach new coping and relaxation skills and help resolve problems that cause anxiety.

What else can I do to help relieve my anxiety?

  1. Acknowledge worries and address any fears that can be handled. For example, if an individual is worried about finances, a visit to a financial planner may be helpful.
  2. Talk with family, a friend, or spiritual leader about your worries. Sometimes voicing them can be a big relief.
  3. Adopt stress management techniques, meditation, prayer, and deep breathing. Because anxiety is so tied to a physical response, relaxation techniques can be very helpful.
  4. Exercise regularly and when stress builds up. Even a short walk can help alleviate tension and anxiety symptoms.
  5. Avoid things that can aggravate the symptoms of anxiety disorders:
    • Caffeine (coffee, tea, soda, chocolate)
    • Nicotine (smoking)
    • Over-the-counter cold medications
    • Illegal drugs
    • Certain herbal supplements
    • Alcohol
  6. Limit news of current events. It is important to stay current, but too much negative news can contribute to anxiety.
  7. Allow time for treatment to work. Treatment is not a quick fix. It takes time, patience, and perseverance.

The goal of rehabilitation is to help your loved one live and function as independently as possible. Rehabilitation helps the body heal and assists the brain in relearning processes so that an individual recovers as quickly and efficiently as possible. Rehabilitation will also help the person with Brain Injuries learn new ways to do things if any previous abilities have been lost.

After your loved one’s initial life-saving treatment at the time of the injury, he or she will most likely start a rehabilitation program and will work with a team of specialists. The person with an injury and his or her family are the most important members of the rehabilitation team. Family members should be included in the rehabilitation and treatment as much as possible. Some of the other professionals who may be part of this team include:

  • Neurologists – doctors who are trained in the diagnosis and treatment of nervous system disorders, including diseases of the brain, spinal cord, nerves, and muscles.
  • Occupational, physical, speech and language therapists – therapists that help the person regain thinking skills, communication skills, physical abilities and behavioral skills.
  • Neuropsychologists – specialized psychologists who focus on thinking skills and behavior problems.
  • Vocational rehabilitation experts – employment coaches who help with regaining job skills.

Some of the different types of rehabilitation facilities include:

  • Acute rehabilitation – an intensive rehabilitation program.
  • Coma treatment centers – provide coma-specific medical care.
  • Transitional living programs – nonmedical residential programs that teach skills for community living.
  • Long-term care and supervised living programs – residential facilities that provide care and
  • rehabilitation to people with brain injuries who are not able to live independently.
  • Behavior management programs – typically community-based (i.e., not residential) programs that teach self-control and appropriate social behaviors.
  • Day treatment programs – provide rehabilitation during the day so the person can return home at night.

Recovering from a brain injury is a process and is individual to each person and family. One of the major impacts that stroke has on quality of life is the way that it affects a person’s emotions and relationships. There are hardships that immediately come to mind – communication problems, mobility limitations, cognitive impairment – but there are also complex social and emotional stressors that impact well-being. Stroke affects emotions, and in turn, relationships and social functioning among stroke victims and family, friends, and/or caregivers. It is important to remember that rehabilitation may last weeks or even years and that your loved one will benefit from the ability to receive rehabilitation services throughout this time. Appropriate programs and treatments will also change as your family member’s needs change. Choosing Ernest Health is a huge step forward on the road to recovery!

References:

www.biausa.org

www.caregiver.org

Last week we covered identifying and understanding brain injuries. If you or a loved one you know has had a brain injury or are at risk for a brain injury, knowing what rehabilitation will consist of can be comforting during a stressful time. There are many physical and emotional challenges that can discourage both the patient and the caregiver.

Brain injury is a broad category that refers to any injury to the brain which impairs functioning. The injury may be mild, severe, traumatic, or caused by associated medical problems; however, the goal of rehabilitation is the same – help patients gain the most independent level of functioning possible. Whether the brain was injured during a stroke, a fall, or even an electric shock, the goal of Ernest Health is to get our patients back to a place where they can manage and hopefully flourish in daily life. Rehabilitation therapists form a team, together with the patient and family/caregiver(s), to achieve the best possible outcome.

REHABILITATION AFTER BRAIN INJURY:

Rehabilitation after a brain injury is more likely to involve several types of therapists and practitioners on our staff because of the effect that a brain injury can have on multiple parts of the body. A physical therapist would help the individual regain range of movement and strength, like in the case of a patient who has had a stroke and subsequent paralysis. An occupational therapist caring for the same patient might work with him or her on dressing, eating, and completing household chores. A speech pathologist might work with the patient on swallowing and communication. Still other practitioners such as psychologists and social workers would aid in psychological, emotional, and social assessment and care.

Just as with any type of rehabilitation, a patient’s treatment plan is highly individualized. A patient who has experienced a stroke may need different types and degrees of therapy than a person who was in a car accident. It all depends on the extent and impact of the injury. Likewise, one’s treatment may vary according to life stage, age, and daily needs. This individualization greatly benefits our patients and their families.

However, Brain Injuries are so much more than a series of physical consequences. One of the major impacts that brain injuries have on the quality of life is the way that they affect a person’s emotions and relationships. There are hardships that immediately come to mind – communication problems, mobility limitations, cognitive impairment – but there are also complex social and emotional stressors that impact well-being.

 

Knowing what to expect from brain injuries can be especially useful for the caregiver. Being a caregiver requires constant encouraging and optimism, but that can be wearying. Next week we cover brain injury rehabilitation for the caregiver.

For more information on brain injury, go to www.biausa.gov.

 

Brain injury is unpredictable in its consequences. Brain injury affects who we are, the way we think, act and feel. It can change everything about us in a matter of seconds. The most important things to remember include:

  • A person with a brain injury is a person first.
  • No two brain injuries are exactly the same.
  • The effects of a brain injury are complex and vary greatly from person to person.
  • The effects of a brain injury depend on such factors as cause, location, and severity.

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

A TBI is caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or a penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain. Not all blows or jolts to the head result in a TBI. The severity of a TBI may range from “mild,” i.e., a brief change in mental status or consciousness to “severe,” i.e., an extended period of unconsciousness or amnesia after the injury.

2.4 million people sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI) each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Injury Prevention, the leading causes of TBI are:

  • Falls (35.2%)
  • Motor vehicle-traffic crashes (17.3%)
  • Struck by/against events (16.5%)
  • Assaults (10%)

Acquired Brain Injury

An acquired brain injury is an injury to the brain, which is not hereditary, congenital, degenerative, or induced by birth trauma. An acquired brain injury is an injury to the brain that has occurred after birth.

There is sometimes confusion about what is considered an acquired brain injury. By definition, any traumatic brain injury (e.g., from a motor vehicle accident, or assault) could be considered an acquired brain injury. In the field of brain injury, acquired brain injuries are typically considered any injury that is nontraumatic. Examples of acquired brain injury include stroke, near drowning, lack of oxygen to the brain, tumor, neurotoxins, electric shock or lightening strike.

An Injured Brain

When a brain injury occurs, the functions of the neurons, nerve tracts, or sections of the brain can be affected. If the neurons and nerve tracts are affected, they can be unable or have difficulty carrying the messages that tell the brain what to do. This can change the way a person thinks, acts, feels, and moves the body. Brain injury can also change the complex internal functions of the body, such as regulating body temperature; blood pressure; bowel and bladder control. These changes can be temporary or permanent. They may cause impairment or a complete inability to perform a function.

www.biausa.org