Listening: How Recovering from a Concussion Forced Me to Develop New Self-Care Habits

This concussion has been the worst injury I have ever sustained in my entire life. I’ve been sad, lonely, hurting, foggy, lazy, and most of all, BORED. So that’s why this blog post is going up so late—I finally have an almost fully functioning brain again.

What made it even worse was that the story of how I got the concussion was lame and there were no bruises to symbolize the pain I was in! Basically, I slipped and fell out of the shower, hitting my ribs, shoulder, and neck on the right side of my body. Everything hurt for days, but no bruises ever showed up. Yet when I scratched my arm on a dumpster, the cut turned red and angry, even though it barely hurt. I don’t understand human bodies…

After this event, most of my self-care strategies were out the window, at least temporarily. No reading, journaling, making art, showering, listening to loud music, playing instruments, watching Netflix/YouTube, writing creatively, and even cooking healthier meals that require more planning. All gone from my repertoire for two and a half weeks.

So what I want to do here is list the new self-care strategies I’ve discovered or tried again with success, to help anyone out there who struggles with brain fog, migraines, concussions, and/or mental illnesses that cause or exacerbate any of these things.

IMG_0745

Face masks look stupid but feel great.

  1. Listen.

Listen to audiobooks, podcasts, soft music, ASMR Harry Potter rooms. Close your eyes and listen to booktube or other YouTube videos that you would normally watch. Sit outside and listen to water or birds. (Bonus tip: if you sit outside and have a snack, you can also feed the squirrels!) Listening was the one thing I could still do well that involved concentration, so I did a lot of it. Sometimes I had to listen to something that didn’t take a lot of brainpower, sometimes I could listen to something with a little more meat to it, but listening to something interesting or relaxing was the main way I passed the time while my brain was foggy.

  1. Baths and skin care.

IMG_0612I used to strongly dislike baths. Since I started showering in, like, middle school, I’ve always found showers more relaxing than baths. But then I fell in the shower. And showers make me ever so slightly anxious at the moment, even with a bath mat that is supposed to keep me from slipping again. So I bought bath bombs, face masks, and bath tea made of essential oils. I put on a swimsuit (because I dislike being in the bath for so long naked; it’s a weird thing that bothers me) and played music or an audiobook. Then I just sat and soaked in warm water, which after a couple of temperature tries, has become quite relaxing. When everything was sore, the warmth helped soothe my muscles. It’s just nice to sit and do nothing but still feel like you are taking care of yourself.

  1. Candles.

This one isn’t really new for me, but along with the bath scents and fresh air smell, I found that lighting candles (or making tea), closing my eyes, and just letting myself enjoy the scent was quite relaxing. This didn’t take up too much time, but if I ever got bored with audiobooks or just listening, adding a candle to the experience helped make things more bearable.

  1. Naps.

Naps are another self-care thing that I usually don’t like doing, but when I am sick, I recognize that my body needs more rest than normal. While sick or concussed, I try to allow myself naptime without saying that I’m wasting time. I don’t fight the tiredness like I would on a normal day and instead listen to what my body needs. This is a habit I want to get into more, just in general, with sleep, food, exercise, and socializing. I need to listen to my body, even if it’s not always on my side.

  1. Snuggles.

FIND FLUFFY ANIMAL. SNUGGLE. (This can also work with friends, stuffed animals, orIMG_9974 significant others. But I love snuggling with my dog.)

  1. Change scenery.

Whenever I got depressed or sad about being cooped up inside, I would just walk to another place that I could find easily. A coffee shop, a bookstore with tables, a fountain, a park, etc. These are great places to just be around other people and not sit in the same spot, even if you’re doing the same things there that you would be doing at home. People gave me some weird looks when I was just sniffing my tea and staring at nothing, but I would’ve done the same thing at home! Plus, if you sit by a window or outside, you can people watch, which is always amusing.

  1. Ask for help.

This one is hard for me. Not because I don’t think I deserve help, but because I don’t like inconveniencing other people. But I had to bite the bullet. I asked my parents to spend time with me and come visit so I wouldn’t be alone. I asked people at work to cover some of my shifts. I asked my writing group to let me go back on a promise to have something written for them the next time we met. I even had to “ask” Tylenol for help with the brain pain (which I rhymed on purpose… *pats self on back*). I still don’t know if I’m any better at asking for help when I need it, but at least I know I can do it.

  1. Go easy on yourself.

Oof, this is a difficult one, too. I am so hard on myself. And when I wasn’t able to read or write or overachieve at work or learn new songs, I felt lazy and bored and unproductive. I had to tell myself OFTEN  that it was okay to be lazy and bored and unproductive while IMG_0582letting my brain heal. It’s okay to be those things when letting your emotions heal. It’s okay to be those things when you just need time. I’m working on this one!

  1. Talk to your fish.

If you have one. Or your pet. Or your stuffed animals or posters or phone voice memos. You’ll look crazy, but it will give you something to do! I would even talk to myself and make up stories when I couldn’t really write.

  1. Phone calls.

This goes along with asking for help and listening. Phone calls normally make me uncomfortable, so there were only a few people I would call when I got bored or lonely—my parents, my aunt, my sister, and my friend. I would participate in the conversation if I could, or I would just let the other person talk. I learned a lot about what was going on in these people’s lives because I could only focus on one thing at a time, so while I was having a conversation, my brain was in the conversation and not off in la-la land as usual.

I hope you never have a concussion or a migraine or brain fog, but I do know these are common, so I hope these tips help. I’m luckily able to read and write practically like normal after two and a half weeks, but I do not do well with boredom, so I hope these skills will help me out in the future when I am bored or hard on myself. And hopefully my shower doesn’t try to kill me again!

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