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Managing anxiety after brain injury

Managing anxiety after brain injury

Anxiety is a commonly felt emotion after brain injury. Here are 8 top tips to help

Anxiety is a commonly felt emotion following a brain injury and statistics show that it is one of the most talked-about topics for callers to our helpline.

Anxiety can impact upon a person’s daily life and may obstruct their rehabilitation.

Early recovery from a brain injury may bring about feelings of anxiety as the person comes to terms with changes to their cognitive skills and personality.

As time goes on, people with a more severe injury may become anxious as they begin to appreciate the extent of their long-term disability and feel apprehensive about the future.

Anxiety is a common response to many day-to-day events and everyone will have feelings of anxiety at some point in their lives. However, persistent and uncontrollable anxiety is a recognised mental health condition.

In this feature, we list some commonly practised techniques for managing anxiety.

The information contained here is not intended to replace medical advice, and if you feel like your anxiety is obstructing your rehabilitation or impacting upon your day-to-day life, you should speak to your doctor.

Talk to someone

Simply talking to someone you trust about the things making you anxious may help reduce your anxiety. You are also welcome to contact our free, confidential helpline on 0808 800 2244 or helpline@headway.org.uk.

Look after your physical health

Our mood is often affected by our physical health.

We’ve created guides to help you exercise, eat a healthy diet, get a good night’s sleep, and moderate your alcohol intake after brain injury.

man with his head in his hands

Reduce overall stress levels

Stress and anxiety are closely linked, so identifying and addressing why you feel stressed may help reduce your anxiety levels.

Our top tips for managing stress may be helpful.

Try breathing exercises

A common symptom of anxiety is feeling breathless, and this can even lead to panic attacks. There are several breathing exercises that may help alleviate rapid breathing and lower your anxiety levels. You can find a list of breathing exercises here, and make sure you speak to your doctor or therapist to find a technique that works best for you.

Try visualisation techniques

Visualisation techniques aim to reduce anxious thoughts by allowing the mind to focus on something more positive. You may wish to combine this with the breathing exercises mentioned above.

Try taking time out to focus the mind on a relaxing scene or happy memory, or if you’re anxious about a particular task try to visualise a positive outcome.

Keep a diary

It might help to write about your feelings of anxiety, including what triggers your anxiety and what helps to reduce anxiety levels.

This can be something for your eyes only, or something you may wish to share with friends, family or medical professionals as a way of explaining your anxiety.

You've got this

Seek medical advice

The self-help techniques listed here might go some of the way to reduce anxiety levels. However, if you feel like your anxiety is controlling your life, obstructing your recovery or preventing you from doing things then it is probably time to seek medical advice.

Speak to your doctor about how you feel. They may recommend medication and/or talking therapy.

Reward yourself

Anxious thoughts can often be overwhelming following a brain injury. It’s important to take small steps and reward positive outcomes. For example, if you were anxious about leaving the house but managed a short walk to the shops this achievement should be recognised.

Don’t be too hard on yourself if anxiety prevented you from doing something – it’s something to work towards in the future!

Find out more

We spoke to brain injury survivor and anxiety sufferer, Pamela Ashcroft, who shares her top tips for managing anxiety - read her advice here.

 

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