Learning To Live And Love Yourself After A Life-Changing Injury by Gloria Dunn

Each year millions of Americans of all ages experience a life-changing injury.

In high school and college, brain and spinal cord injuries account for 69 percent of football injuries. For those in the workplace, an employee is injured every seven seconds, in some cases, changing their career life in an instant. While the physical trauma that comes with a life-changing injury can be challenging enough, it can also come with substantial mental health impacts, including an increased likelihood of depression and even the contemplation and attempt of suicide. Approximately one in five people with a spinal cord injury deal with depression, compared to the one in 20 Americans overall. While this may seem like a seemingly impossible period to overcome, it is possible to rediscover life after a life-changing injury – and it begins with being kind to yourself.

Acknowledge Your Trauma And The Change In Your Life

Life, as you know it, has now changed thanks to your injury. Before you can truly move past and imagine what that life looks like, it is helpful first to confront what has happened to you. This helps you to move through the grief process, grieving the incident and the loss of your old life. It also enables you to face any physiological trauma, as well as any effects like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Around 70 percent of adults experience physiological trauma during their lives, and of that number, 20 percent of them experience PTSD.

It is important for you to recognize there is no set timeline on this: overcoming and acknowledging your trauma can take years, and there is no set path for everyone. Start with revisiting the incident leading up to your injury. For some, seeing the visual impact of their injuries can help. If you do find it difficult, speaking to a therapist for hypnotherapy or behavior therapy may be a good solution. By acknowledging what has happened, you can then begin to take small steps towards creating a good life post-injury.

Map Out The Financial Impact Of Your Injury – And What Help Is Available If Needed

Finance is a huge stressor for many people, particularly in the aftermath of an injury. This is heightened for those that have life-changing injuries. Catastrophic injuries may mean a drastic change in their personal and career lives, impacting their income and home dynamics. The uncertainty and increasing medical bills that come with an injury can lead to high levels of stress, changes in lifestyle habits such as sleeping patterns, and a knock-on effect on your mental health. However, you can be proactive by mapping out the exact financial impact of your injury and creating a financial plan going forward, removing some of that uncertainty that drives your stress. 

A reduction in earnings or change in expenses are instances when a re-evaluation of your current budget is needed. Speak to your employer about any workplace provided coverage, such as disability insurance, and the potential of continuing with your current role (even in a slightly changed capacity, such as reduced hours). If your injury means you are away from work for some time, reach out to nonprofit and legal organizations to find out your options for grants, hardship funds, and other forms of assistance like sponsored therapy sessions. A legal team can also clarify your chances if you plan to pursue a case. For example, those seeking compensation for spine injuries can seek five kinds of compensation, including medical expenses, loss of wages, and emotional distress.

Set Post-Injury Life Goals 

Setting recovery and post-life goals gives you something to work towards and an achievement to look forward to. When you have reached one of those set milestones, it can help you feel empowered and positive. Start with small everyday life goals before progressing onto more intensive targets. Whether it is leaving the house for the first time after your injury or doing a household chore unaided, appreciate every step forward you make. For long term or life goals, consider what you wanted out of life before your injury, and amend it to fit into your new reality. It may mean changing the path taken or timeline, but it not necessarily unattainable.

Add Mindfulness To Your Self Care Repertoire 

Finally, prioritize self-care during this time of adjustment. An article published Frontiers in Psychology showed that mindfulness can help athletes overcoming sidelining injuries by drawing their attention to what is happening to them now, without the self-criticism aspect. The same can apply to anyone recovering from a catastrophic injury. Easy ways to incorporate this into your daily life can include practicing daily meditation and breathing exercises, or focusing on nourishing your body with a well balanced and healthy diet.

By focusing on overcoming the negative barriers and celebrating your achievements – no matter how small – you can help yourself not only accept your injury, but thrive in life after a life-changing injury.

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