Strokecast
A hand holds up a white piece of paper against a sunny sky. The paper says "Let's Rethink" in sky blue

Guest Post: Don’t Underestimate the Impact of Emotions on Stroke Recovery

Today’s post comes from stroke survivor Peter Evans. You can hear more of Peter’s story in Episode 060. You can read Peter’s Bio here.

— Thanks, Bill

The Power of Emotions

For good or for ill, emotions are the powerhouse of human experience. They inspire us to dream of a better tomorrow. They give us the courage to try new things. They also give us the energy to keep working toward our goals, even when the going gets rough.

But just as gasoline and a spark can power a roaring engine past the finish line, managed poorly, emotions can explode even the best-laid plans. Make sure you have the tools to monitor and direct your emotions in the most helpful way to turbo charge your recovery, and not to blow it up. Make learning how to stay conscious of and manage your emotional states a top priority post-stroke.

Make learning how to stay conscious of and manage your emotional states a top priority post-stroke. -- Peter Evans #Stroke #Emotions #MentalHealth Click To Tweet

Don’t Believe Everything You Think!

You can’t control every thought that passes through your head, but you can control which thoughts you’ll spend your time focusing on. You’re in the driver’s seat. You’re in charge of mapping out the course and charting your own destiny. You just need to remember to keep your hands on the wheel and stay focused on the destination — your own goals. Letting the mind ruminate on disappointment, frustration, and loss will lead you straight into a ditch.

Had I known this earlier in my recovery, I could have saved my wife and myself a lot of unnecessary pain and grief. It took too many painful arguments and fights for me to really appreciate how much my judgment and emotional awareness had taken such a big hit as a result of my stroke. I’ve come now to take a cooperative approach, staying open to other people’s suggestions and impressions of the situation before coming to any final conclusion. This helps me avoid overreacting or building my strategy based on faulty impressions.

It took too many painful arguments and fights for me to really appreciate how much my judgment and emotional awareness had taken such a big hit as a result of my stroke. -- Peter Evans #Stroke #Emotion #MentalHealth Click To Tweet

Changing the Story

While emotional outbursts, bouts of hopelessness, and persistent worries about the future are very common after stroke, they can be very disruptive, painful and draining for stroke survivors, caregivers, and loved ones alike.

Choose Your Focus Wisely!

The surest way to eliminate unhelpful thoughts is to replace them with helpful ones.

But, just as ordering someone not to think about elephants is sure to conjure up images of long, wrinkly trunks and big floppy ears, the easiest way to stop thinking about something is to start thinking about something else. That’s when you can call upon your list of Power Thoughts.

A hand holds up a white piece of paper against a sunny sky. The paper says "Let's Rethink" in sky blue

Working with Power Thoughts

Start a list, on paper or in your head — it doesn’t matter which. The power of the list lies in the making of it and the recalling of it, rather than the list itself. Power Thoughts are the intentional observation and appreciation of what’s working in your life. Nothing is too big or too small. The only requirement is that the list item evoke a sense of pleasure or gratitude, feelings of appreciation or enjoyment. Don’t make too much work of this. Here’s a list I started about a year ago.

It’s always evolving because when I actually sit down to review it, there’s always something new I can remind myself of to help keep me reasonable.

I keep it on my computer desktop and add to it or read from it when I need a boost to feel better. I also try to remember as much of it as I can before falling asleep. I was never really a grateful person before, now I’m a full-time student of the practice. Your frame of mind dictates what you see.

The power of the list lies in the making of it and the recalling of it, rather than the list itself. -- Peter Evans #Stroke #Emotions #MentalHealth Click To Tweet

Peter’s Power Thoughts (March 2019)

  • I don’t have to use the wheelchair any more when we walk our dog, Geronimo!
  • I can take a shower whenever I want without having to use the shower chair!
  • My skull is completely healed and closed up, and my head is round again!
  • I don’t have to wear my helmet anymore!
  • I’m able to write an email without getting completely lost on the computer.
  • Don’t forget: You are a miracle!
  • Remember: Keep working it, and it will keep on getting better!

Ask yourself: does the thought feel good? Yes? Then, it goes on the list. Keep your Power Thoughts List close to hand so you can pull it out whenever your emotions begin to close in on you and thwart your efforts to get better rather than empower you.

Running gently over your Power Thoughts List after laying your head down to sleep is also a great way to relax and quiet down after a long day, all while reinforcing a positive, helpful mindset. Calling to mind your Power Thoughts List when the temperature is beginning to rise and you’re starting to feel frustrated or irritable.

Spend some time developing your list of Power Thoughts. Don’t force it, just go easy, and you’ll be paid back with a surplus of peace of mind.

BDOL (Breathe, Disengage, Observe and Let it go)

Power Thoughts should be like shiny objects you can jingle in front of your own nose to break you out of an irritation trap, or disarm the defensive lunge you’re about to pounce into, or to cut off another retreat into your personal depression cave. Remember to pull out your list and BDOL — Breathe, Disengage, Observe, and Let it go. Avoid the temptation to get worked up or go into retreat. Stay present and be kind to yourself and to the person whose head you’re about to bite off. You’ll both be so much happier that you did!

Start a mental Power Thoughts List today and observe how you feel as you recall your mini moments of triumph in therapy or at being able to open a cupboard for the first time, remembering what you had for dinner, or that time you stepped back from a powder keg moment and kept the peace! Make it a game, have fun, and feel good! You’ll be glad you did.

Read more from Peter Evans here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *