Illness or injury can happen to any one of us, often when we least expect it. These setbacks can be incredibly frustrating, halting our plans and daily routines. Recovery brings physical challenges, but the mental and emotional toll is equally real. Feeling down, stressed or anxious during this period is understandable.
However, if left unaddressed, struggles with mental health can impede the healing process. There are many who underestimate the psychological impacts of rehabilitation. But protecting emotional wellbeing is vital. This article offers guidance on safeguarding mental health after sickness or trauma.
Understanding common psychological reactions
It’s common to experience depression after major setbacks like injury or illness, with feelings of intense sadness, emptiness, worthlessness and hopelessness often occurring. Appetite changes, sleep problems, loss of interest in normal activities and suicidal thoughts may also happen with depression.
Constant worrying, panic attacks, fears of relapse or re-injury can manifest, and the uncertainty of healing can cause tremendous stress. Coping with lifestyle changes and loss of independence is also immensely challenging. Many also struggle with their sense of self and identity throughout recovery.
This is because your normal social roles, abilities and routines are often disrupted, leading to profound feelings of isolation and loss. It’s important to recognise that you are not alone in these psychological reactions during convalescence. Remember that while difficult, these feelings are normal and don’t mean you are weak.
Seeking professional help
Seeking professional mental health support can be invaluable when recovering from illness or injury. Counselling provides a judgement-free space to process emotions while psychotherapy can help manage conditions like depression or anxiety.
Talking to a professional enables you to voice struggles you may not express to loved ones. Therapists are trained in techniques to improve mental wellbeing. CBT, mindfulness, art therapy and more can be explored. To find a suitable therapist, ask your GP for a referral. Research credentials and specialties of counsellors in your area. Look for those experienced in issues around grief, trauma, chronic conditions and meet with potential therapists to ascertain if your personalities align.
Trust your instincts when deciding on the best fit. Don’t get discouraged if it takes trial and error. The right counsellor can provide vital support on the path to mental health. Professional help can also extend to supporting you financially if your injury resulted from an accident, negligence or conditions at work, consider seeking legal advice about making a personal injury claim. Compensation can ease financial stress during recovery.
Building your support network
Don’t underestimate the power of community when recovering from illness or injury. Seek out both in-person and online support groups related to your condition as connecting with others facing similar challenges can ease isolation. Support groups allow you to share struggles and advice without judgement. They provide a safe space to vent fears and frustrations.
Leaning on loved ones is also crucial. Let family and friends know specific ways they can help day-to-day and try to communicate openly when you need more support emotionally. For example, loved ones may want to help but not know how.
Don’t neglect nurturing these relationships amidst recovery. Letting people in takes courage but combats loneliness. Support networks remind you of your inherent worth when self-confidence wanes. You need not walk this road alone. Reach out and allow others to lift some of the burden during this challenging chapter.
Developing coping strategies
Actively developing coping strategies is imperative to preserving your mental health when recovering from illness or injury. Keeping a journal helps process emotions and track your progress – set aside some time each day to write freely without judging yourself.
Practising mindfulness can alleviate anxiety and centre your mind, with apps like Headspace providing accessible guided meditations to follow. Focusing on small wins and milestones are great ways to boost your motivation and help you stick with your recovery. Celebrate accomplishments like finishing therapy or walking unaided.
Set manageable goals to help you experience achievement. Adjusting expectations for yourself can reduce unnecessary stress. Let go of internal and external pressures to instantly “bounce back” and learn to forgive yourself for having down days – they are totally normal.
Visualisation techniques build mental resilience over time – picture yourself confidently facing challenges or fears. Such coping mechanisms require commitment but offer a sense of control amidst uncertainty. Rely on these skills to take positive action for your mental wellbeing daily. Connecting with others also provides support. Sharing your experiences can comfort and inspire. Even seemingly insignificant and everyday actions can help, for example, humour relieves tension and even eating nourishing foods will lift your mood.
Making lifestyle changes
Focus on self-care basics like healthy eating, gentle exercise and quality sleep. Eat nutritious meals, stay hydrated and aim for 8 hours of sleep per night. Reduce alcohol intake which can worsen mood. Spend time outdoors or bring nature indoors with plants – let sunlight and fresh air energise you.
Recognise progress may be slow and non-linear, and adjust your goals to be realistic for your situation and recovery path. Be patient and compassionate with yourself through ups and downs, learning to say no to tasks that drain you. Incorporate relaxation techniques like yoga, deep breathing or calming music.
Recovery can open doors to new sources of purpose, joy and community, if you approach it with an open mind. Seek out small daily moments of gratitude, spiritual connection and self-care, and try to let go of worries about the past or future in order to be present each day. Instead, focus on emotional healing, not just physical recovery. Surround yourself with positive influences – people, activities, media – that uplift your spirit.
Explore new hobbies or skills that bring you satisfaction. If able, share your gifts with others through volunteering. Consider joining a local group for social connection, or learn about NHS mental health services for additional support. You need not walk this road alone when challenges arise.
Moving forward with hope
The psychological impacts of injury and illness are real and profound, therefore, it is vital yet challenging to protect mental health amidst physical recovery. Using coping strategies like journaling and mindfulness, building a support network and making lifestyle changes can help safeguard emotional wellbeing.
Professional help is also available for those in need of support for their mental wellbeing, and highly recommended. Maintaining mental strength is essential on the road to full rehabilitation. With compassion for oneself and utilisation of resources, emotional resilience is possible.