World Wellbeing Week
To mark the first World Wellbeing Week this week (June 24th -28th) Dr Hilary Jones offers advice to Diverse Minds readers on coping strategies to help after your wellbeing post injury. Wellbeing Week has been started by Wellbeing World in Jersey with the aim of promoting awareness of all aspects of wellbeing. This includes social, physical, emotional, financial, career, community and environmental.
The impact of injury
In my decades as a GP, I’ve met many patients who have suffered an injury. They want to know how they can heal the physical injury as quickly as possible, so they can ‘get back to normal’. However, the impact of injury is not just physical. There’s the trauma of sustaining an injury which inevitably has repercussions for your mind. This means that there are two strands to your recovery, the mental and the physical.
A new piece of research has shown the true extent of the negative impact on mental health that people can suffer after an accidental injury. This study of more than 1,000 people who had been injured in accidents found that 72 per cent experienced mental health symptoms afterwards. This ranged from stress, anxiety, sleep deprivation and depression.
The good news is that there are ways to help yourself through this difficult time in your life. Here are my three tips on how to make it through.
Coping Strategies to help your wellbeing post injury
1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
It may sound like a simple starting point, but reaching out for help can be an absolute lifeline for someone struggling after being injured. Your GP is there to help you and can talk to you in confidence about what you are experiencing. There is no need to be embarrassed or ashamed about the fact that you are struggling. GPs like me meet lots of patients who are in the same position as you, and we want to help.
Besides healthcare professionals, you might find it helpful to ask your family and friends for support. The simple act of talking to a trusted confidant about what happened to you will help you to process and cope with the experience. It might feel daunting to open up to anyone in the immediate aftermath of your accident. Please, let me assure you that this is entirely natural. Whether you want to talk about it on day one or day 100 after your accident it doesn’t matter. Your family and friends care about you and will be there to listen when you are ready to talk. If you’re not ready to answer their questions, then simply ask them to listen.
2. Start with small steps
The biggest challenges in life can sometimes feel insurmountable, and recovery from injury is no different. The first day after your accident, the road to recovery can feel long and unknown, which can be daunting. But breaking your recovery down into smaller steps will give you realistic goals to aim for.
If you are recovering from a leg injury, for example, an early goal may be to walk a few steps without the assistance of crutches. When you have achieved this, you could then work towards a goal of walking around the block unassisted. Setting and achieving a realistic goal will give you a sense of achievement and pride which will help to build you up mentally to help your continuing recovery.
3. Be kind to yourself
There will be days when you suffer setbacks and you might feel like it’s a case of one step forward, two steps back. But how you respond to these challenges can have a significant bearing on the long-term path of your recovery. The times when things don’t go as planned are the times when it is really important to be kind to yourself. You might feel frustrated, angry or downhearted, but keeping these feelings under control and re-framing them will ultimately help to keep your long-term recovery on track.
Try to remember that experiencing an injury can have unexpected repercussions on your mental health. You might feel anxious and worried about things which weren’t important to you before your accident. This is not uncommon and is nothing to worry about, but simply recognising that this can happen will help you to cope with it.
Most of all, remember that it’s natural to struggle after being injured, and that there is nothing wrong with seeking the help you need to get through it. For more information about coping strategies to help your wellbeing post injury the National Accident Helpline is a great resource.
This guest blog is written by Dr Hilary Jones, who has given advice on all areas of general health as a health expert on breakfast TV for 30 years.