May Community Meeting Recap: Chair Yoga with Kristina Borho

BY: JULIA RENAUD

During this sunny time of year, the days are long, the weather is warmer, and the flowers are wonderfully fragrant and in bloom. The true question is: do you take the time to smell the roses? Fortunately for us, Occupational Therapist, Yoga Tnstructor and the owner of Empowering Mind & BodyKristina Borho, brought her mindfulness and encouragement to lead May’s Community Meeting about chair yoga.

Kristina Borho

A whole lot of positive energy filled the room at this month’s meeting and Kristina’s passion and compassion kept the group intrigued and asking for more yoga therapy tips and techniques. She encouraged all of us to live in the moment and to engage with body, mind, and breath during the session, as well as in our daily lives.

Intention Setting

I was lucky enough to be one of the many participants at this very special community meeting and I am happy to share my experience with you!

One of the first things that Kristina told each person to do was to set an intention for the session. Intention setting, as I learned, is a very powerful way to gain perspective on how you’re feeling, and to recognize where you may need to focus your energy in order to feel better. Like Kristina, I decided that my intention for the following hour would be to find patience – something that I am slowly but surely learning – and definitely something that does not seem to come easily to me; allow me to digress.

I am known as a goal-setter and I have the ruthless determination to persevere to achieve any goal I set my sights upon, regardless of how much work it will take. Since my most recent concussion three years ago, I have had to face the fact that, while goal setting can be very helpful for some things, recovering from post-concussion syndrome (PCS) is not really one of them. PCS, like many brain injuries, is an unpredictable road that has its ups and downs and twists and turns much like a roller coaster. It also has the capacity to turn even the most realistic of goals on their head; hence my need to force goal-setting to take the back seat (as difficult as that is), and instead to persevere at being patient with the path that I’m on!

Chair Yoga Exercises

I believe I can speak for the group when I say we all need more yoga, chair or otherwise, in our lives! For this reason, I would like to share some of my favourite chair yoga poses that Kristina coached us through. I have given each of them a name so they’re easier to remember.

As you go through the poses, keep in mind our word of the night, elongated. What I mean by this is, for each pose, sit nice and tall, like there’s a string attached to the top of your head, pulling your head toward the sky and keeping your spine nice and long. Also, try to remember to think about the intention that you set earlier!

Down to Earth Neck Stretch:

  1. Sit tall in a chair with your feet flat on the ground, and your arms dangling at your side
  2. Breathe in while turning your head to look over your right shoulder
  3. Breathe out while tilting your head down to look at the floor while keeping your head turned to the right
  4. Switch sides

Shoulder Rolls:

  1. Sit tall in a chair, place your fingertips lightly on your shoulders
  2. Rotate your shoulders in backward circles
  3. Rotate your shoulders in forward circles
  4. Try to coordinate your breath if you can – breathe in when your shoulders rise, and out when they fall (this part can be tricky!)

Side-to-Side Slide:

  1. Sitting upright in your chair, place your right hand on your right hip, breath in
  2. As you breath out, side-bend your body to the left and toward the floor
  3. Inhale as you come back to centre
  4. Switch sides

 

Meditation

Kristina concluded the session with a brief body-scan meditation, thoughtfully conducted to take the mind away from all of the stressors of daily life, and instead to bring focus to various parts of the body, one by one. Doing a body scan is a great way to connect with how your body is feeling. I find it especially helpful in understanding the severity of my PCS symptoms and use it to check in with how my brain and body are handling the tasks that I am asking of them.

Generally, a simple way to compose a body-scan is to either go from head to toe, or the other way around. This helps to relax the mind while ensuring that you aren’t skipping over any important body parts that may require your attention. Your meditation can be as long or as short as you want, the key is to remember to remain relaxed and non-judgmental. If your mind drifts away to a thought unrelated to the task at hand, simply acknowledge that your attention has drifted, and regain focus on your body scan. At first this may seem really difficult, but try not to get discouraged!

With time and practice (in my case, a whole lot), you will begin to notice that your ability to keep your attention on the meditation will improve.

Collective Energy

I was able to feel how Kristina’s yoga therapy was able to change the energy in the room from buzzing and a bit chaotic, to happy and relaxed. By the end of the meeting, the group shared a true sense of togetherness, and isn’t that so important in brain injury recovery!

If you or someone you know is living with a brain injury, remember that these things can take time to heal, and you are never in this alone. So, take the days as they come and on your next walk or roll, don’t forget to take in that fresh air, and take the time to smell the roses!

Chair yoga - a group of 4 people sitting in a circle doing chair yoga, their arms stretched up

Next Community Meeting: Wednesday, June 27, 6 – 8 p.m.

TOPIC: Face Mapping with Occupational Therapist Amee Le

Everyone is welcome!


Julia Renaud is a very talkative ABI survivor with a passion for learning new things, trying new activities, and meeting new people – all of which have led her to writing this column. When not chatting someone’s ear off, Julia can be found outside walking her dog while occasionally talking to him, of course!   

 

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April 2018 Community Meeting Recap: Alternative Treatments to Heal a Brain Injury

BY: JULIA RENAUD

Spring has finally sprung which has hopefully brought you some pep in your step or zeal in your wheels to feel better during this chilly year! Bringing some extra encouragement to April’s BIST Community Meeting and to shed some light on alternative treatments that he used to heal his brain and body, was teacher, author, motivational speaker, and brain injury survivor, Anthony Aquan-Assee.

Anthony Aquan-Assee holds his book Rethink, Redo, Rewired in front of the BIST Office

Anthony’s Story

Anthony began by telling the harrowing story of his first brain injury. In 1997, Anthony was a middle school teacher and coach of the school football team. He was excited about his team qualifying for the city finals and was anxious to get to football practice to prepare them for their upcoming big game. On his ride to practice, Anthony, an avid motorcycle rider, was struck by a car, sending him and his motorcycle flying. This landed Anthony at the beginning of a long road to recovery.

The paramedics arrived at the scene of the accident to find Anthony unconscious and in a very grave state. He was then airlifted to St. Michael’s Hospital, where he would require numerous extensive surgeries, including: neurosurgery, heart, lung, general, vascular, knee, throat, and plastic surgery.

It was an emotional and trying time for his family and friends who were uncertain if Anthony would ever wake up from the coma that had kept him unresponsive for two weeks, and if he did, what his quality of life would be post-injury. His doctors were worried that Anthony could remain in a vegetative state for the rest of his life.

 Start doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.
Quote included in Anthony’s latest book, Rethink Redo Rewired

He started with opening his eyelids, and progressed from there, giving himself and his family hope with every gain, no matter how small. Anthony graduated to a rehabilitation centre where he worked tirelessly to regain control of his body and mind. Eventually, Anthony was able to return to work as a school teacher, but his brush with brain injury didn’t end there.

Sixteen years later, Anthony was struck in the head by a malfunctioning automatic gate which left him with a concussion. Fatigue, dizziness, brain fog, memory loss, and sleep problems were only a few of the symptoms that he dealt with on a daily basis. Unfortunately, these symptoms persisted bringing with them anxiety and frustration. When his doctors prescribed “drugs, drugs, and more drugs” to help, Anthony began to question whether there was a better method to spur his recovery.

Alternative Treatments Anthony Found Effective

*From the top, Anthony stressed that while these treatments worked for him, each person is different; therefore, everyone’s experience is different. Prior to trying any of the following alternative modalities, he encourages you to discuss any treatments that you are considering with your doctor.*

These techniques are described in more detail in Anthony’s fourth book, Rethink, Redo, Rewired: Using Alternative Treatments to Heal a Brain Injury

Anthony realized over the course of his recovery that, for him, the prescribed medications were only acting as a bandage solution rather than getting to the root cause of the problem. He disliked being on the same medications as he had been on previously, after his first brain injury, and felt that there must be a better way.

This is when he turned his attention to alternative strategies and treatments, which, as he would learn, had the power to get to the root cause of the problem rather than masking it. Furthermore, alternative strategies “provided the necessary conditions for the body to heal itself”, and, as an added bonus, they came with no side effects!

The following is a list of techniques that Anthony found effective in his recovery that he thought might be helpful to share:

  • Neurofeedback
  • Laser Therapy
  • Kangen Water

Fun, Brain-Training Resources

For those of you dealing with a brain injury and looking for a way to train your brain, Anthony has included links to a bunch of online activities and games ranging from math, to art, to optical illusions on his website.

Next Community Meeting:
Wednesday, May 30th 6 – 8 p.m.
TOPIC: Chair Yoga with Occupational Therapist & Yoga Instructor, Kristina Borho 

Everyone is welcome!


 Julia Renaud is a very talkative ABI survivor with a passion for learning new things, trying new activities, and meeting new people – all of which have led her to writing this column. When not chatting someone’s ear off, Julia can be found outside walking her dog while occasionally talking to him, of course!   

How you can help a low cost physiotherapy program stay affordable

BIST members had the opportunity to learn about Team Theraputix’s ODSP Program – which allows people on fixed incomes to receive physiotherapy for just $50 a month – at a Community Meeting last fall.

At our meeting, many of us were amazed at the generosity of the program, which was created to ensure people who would otherwise not be able to afford crucial physiotherapy services, access the support they need. Many of Team Theraputix’s clients have brain injuries.

Like any private physiotherapy clinic, Team Theraputix is a business, they need to watch their bottom line in order to survive. But their ODSP Program literally puts people before profits. How often do you see a business do that?

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Victoria Tolmatshov (L) poses with Team Theraputix’s ‘Therapy Bear’ with BIST programs coordinator, Julie Notto (R) at our November 2016 Community Meeting

Now Team Theraputix needs your help – they are being forced to raise the cost of their ODSP program due to financial constraints. They don’t want to. As many of us know too well, when you’re on a fixed income, literally every penny counts. 

You can help Team Theraputix by attending and making a donation at their Barbecue on Saturday August 5th, at the Team Theraputix Office or by sending an e-transfer to: info@teamtheraputix.ca

And you can read why and how Victoria Tolmatshov, owner of Team Theraputix, decided to start the ODSP Program, below. Let’s do what we can to keep this amazing program going.

BY: VICTORIA TOLMATSHOV

Imagine, for a moment, that you or your loved one have sustained a traumatic injury. Imagine getting that phone call from the hospital or being rushed there. Imagine that your family is in a state of crisis, but doing everything to keep it together. Imagine that conversation with the doctor when you are told that your life will never be the same again.

Fast forward to the discharge from the hospital. There is nothing else they can help you with. You take a few days to settle into your new life. You start making phone calls. You realize that OHIP will not take you very far. You realize that your journey will be very difficult.

You finally find a private rehabilitation centre which can offer you assistance in your recovery process. You become hopeful. Now, imagine seeing how much this new hope will cost you and suddenly your heart drops into the pit of your stomach. You realize that you do not have that kind of money. Imagine feeling that disappointment while pushing back tears.

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Team Theraputix in action (Photo courtesy of Victoria Tolmatshov)

I have sat across the table from too many individuals to count who are in that very situation. My heart broke watching them leave my clinic knowing that there was nothing I could do to help. Constantly reminding myself that this is a business and there was a fee for services- just like everywhere else. I stayed awake at night thinking about these people. Rehabilitation is just one of many things a person with a traumatic injury has to deal with and there weren’t any options available to make the process easier.

In January of 2014, after another meeting with a family unable to pay for our program, I decided that it would be the last time I ever disappointed someone in need of help.

I started doing my research and found that most people who were unable to afford private therapy were receiving Ontario Disability Support. I was shocked to find out that the maximum funding was just over $1100.00 per month. I realized that we live in a society where many people in a vulnerable situation just fall through the cracks and do not receive adequate support from the government.

I decided to make a difference. I created a low cost physiotherapy program for those receiving ODSP. The program offers one on one physiotherapy two to three times per week (eight to twelve per month) for $50.00* per month.

Team Therapeutix Therapy Bear shows physiotherapy treatment on owner Victoria Tolmatshov
Therapy Bear demonstrates physiotherapy treatment on Victoria Tolmatshov

I am unbelievably proud of this program and all of our clients who have made amazing progress finally getting the help they need and deserve.

I am happy to know that we can now offer people options and I am overjoyed knowing that I will never have to disappoint someone in need of my help again.

*Victoria wrote this piece before needing to change the fee structure of the program.

Victoria Tolmatshov is the owner of Team Theraputix

Support The Team Theraputix OSDP Program!

Barbecue – Saturday, August 5th, 12-4 pm, Register HERE

send an e-transfer to: info@teamtheraputix.ca

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Boosting our energy at the February community meeting

February’s community meeting featured guest speaker, naturopathic doctor Dr. Anne Hussain, ND who gave a talk about using natural methods to boost our energy and get better sleep.

Before Dr. Hussain’s talk, BIST member and author Shireen Jeejeebhoy spoke about updating her book, Concussion is Brain Injury. For more information on why Shireen has chosen to update her book, and how you can support her, go HERE.

boosting energy
Dr. Anne Hussain, ND, with BIST member Mary Lou

Dr. Hussain began her talk by reminding us that our energy level and mood are connected. You can not talk about boosting your mood without talking about your energy, and vice versa. Factors that can affect your energy include being low on Vitamin B12 and iron. Your blood needs iron to move oxygen around your body, while B12 helps in the maintenance of your body’s blood and nerve cells. Meanwhile, hormones, such as serotonin, are largely produced in the digestive system, which help us feel good. Not having a healthy digestive system can therefore have an impact on your mood.

A trauma such as brain injury changes our neurological wiring, Dr. Hussain said, and recovering from that takes a very long time. Here are some techniques Dr. Hussain shared to help recover from trauma, and boost energy and mood.

STAY HYDRATED

Dr. Hussain said that not being hydrated (during the day, your urine should be pale in colour, if its dark yellow, it means you’re not drinking enough) leads to our blood not having enough water, which can make us feel un-well. How much you need to drink depends on your activity level, the weather, the foods you eat and how much salt, caffeine and alcohol you consume. So pay attention to your body and drink enough.

Woman drinking water
photo credit: Reverse Osmosis & Tangled Hair via photopin (license)

BREATHE

The act of breathing moves oxygen through your whole body,  including your brain, which boosts your energy. If you’re feeling down, focusing on your breath with a quick, 30 second or one minute breathing exercise can boost your mood and increase your energy.

DEEP BREATHING EXERCISE 

  • Place one hand on your chest, and the other hand on your belly
  • You want to make your hand that’s on your belly move out as much as possible by taking deep breaths
  • It’s best to breathe through your nose and out your mouth, but if this is uncomfortable, breathe whatever way feels right to you

4-SECOND BREATHING SQUARE*

This exercise is great for stress relief, shifting focus and returning to the present. It’s a great exercise to do before falling asleep, if you find that your mind races at bedtime.

Follow a square with your eyes for 16 seconds (four seconds for each side of the square). The square can be anywhere – a window in a room you’re in, or something on the wall. Break up your breathing process into four components to coincide with each side of the square.

  • As you go along the horizontal length of the square for four seconds, breathe in
  • Hold your breath at the top for the next four seconds as you go down the vertical side of the square
  • Exhale for the next 4 seconds as you go along the second horizontal length of the square
  • Hold your breath at the bottom for the last four seconds as you go up the last vertical side of the square
  • Repeat as many times as you like

4 second breathing square

THE STIMULATING BREATH (BELLOWS BREATH)*

The Stimulating Breath is adapted from the yogic Breath of Fire. It’s great for early morning or if you are feeling tired and need an energy boost.

  • Rapidly inhale through your nose and exhale while keeping your mouth shut (not tightly, but relaxed). Your inhales should be equal in duration but short and slightly forceful. You are inhaling the air into your belly and using abdominal recoil to push the air out.
  • A short period of time – for example 30 seconds, is actually a sufficient amount of time for the stimulating breath to be effective; however, it is prudent that you start at 15 seconds and then work you way up to a full minute.

NUTRITION

We need food to live, and eating regularly is important in order to maintain our energy levels. When we overeat, our body uses too much energy on digestion, which makes us tired. As such, Dr. Hussain asked us to consider:

  • do you have lots of gas?
  • are you always sick, is your immune system down?

If so, it’s likely making changes to your diet will help.

FATS, FIBER AND PROTEIN

Dr. Hussain recommends focusing on plant-based foods, being mindful of fats, proteins and fiber. Examples of nutrient-rich, energy boostings foods that have all three:

  • Legumes (chickpeas, lentils, fava beans)
  • Nuts (almonds, peanuts, cashews)
  • Seeds (sesame, sunflower, pumpkin)
a plate of nuts
photo credit: Mixed Nuts via photopin (license)

B12 AND IRON

Foods which are high in B12, as mentioned, also help boost energy levels. In her experience, Dr Hussain finds that most people are low in B12. Foods which are high in B12 include:

  • Fermented foods such as yogurt, kimchi and sauerkraut
  • Meats, especially red meat

Iron is easy to get through leafy greens, such as kale and spinach. Tofu is also high in iron.

MAGNESIUM

Magnesium might not be at the top of your list when it comes to thinking about a healthy diet, but Dr. Hussain says that most of us have low magnesium levels, mostly due to our soils being low in the mineral. Magnesium is responsible for neuro transmitter functions, and increasing your intake can help if you tend to wake up a lot at night.. In addition, taking magnesium citrate can help with constipation.The best foods to boost your magnesium levels are:

  • Black beans
  • Leafy greens
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

And for those of you who love your bathtime, epsom salts are magnesium salts and soaking in these salts can also increase your magnesium levels.

Magnesium is not toxic, and taking too much will result in diarrhea, but do no other harm. Dr. Hussain says that low magnesium levels are so common, doctors generally do not test for them, but it’s always important to check with your doctor before taking supplements to see if you are on any medications which may interfere.

HERBAL TEAS

Dr. Hussain reccomends teas as a natural way to boost your energy and your health. Dr. Hussain said that teas are generally safe no matter who you are because they are not concentrated. Here are some of the teas she recommends:

  • Chamomile and lemon balm tea – for sleep, reducing stress and anxiety
  • Licorice tea – not good for high pressure, as it may interact with medication – otherwise good for sore throats, and your digestion
  • Holy Basil tea – for sleep, blood sugar control and cognition
two cups of tea
photo credit: 20140517_May Food_033.jpg via photopin (license)

EXERCISE

The bad news for the couch potatoes out there: exercise is important, and there’s nothing you can do to replace the benefits we get from staying active. But Dr. Hussain stressed that exercise can be anything, and you can get benefits from doing whatever you are able to do. Even making changes like standing, not sitting, in front of the TV can help. Add in exercise to your daily routine, take two flights of stairs instead of one – just get moving!

BEDTIME

Do you have a good bedtime routine? Dr. Hussain recommends starting a regular, hour-long routine before your head hits the pillow. Drink tea, stretch, brush your teeth and ditch stimulants like TV, your computer and your phone an hour before you go to bed. And when you goes to bed counts too, every hour of sleep you get before midnight, is twice as restful as the sleep you get after midnight.

*INFORMATION TAKEN  FROM HANDOUTS PROVIDED AT DR. HUSSAIN’S PRESENTATION


Next community meeting: Monday, March 21st, 6 – 8 p.m.
(one week earlier due to Easter)
TOPIC: Making Music Together

 

 

January Community Meeting: Art Therapy

BIST members expressed their creativity in a big way at our January community meeting, where clinical social worker Lynne Harford, MSW, RSW showed us the benefits of art therapy post-brain injury.

pictures from our art therapy community meeting
Rob shows off his art work, entitled ‘Release the Qi’ (top left); Some art supplies we used at the meeting (top right); a BIST member creates ‘Magic Beads’ (bottom left); Our presenter Lynne Harford (bottom right)

Lynne shared that she works with many clients who have brain injuries.

“I recognize that [living with the effects of brain injury] is a journey,” Lynne said. “I am honoured to hear and bear witness to the stories of my clients.”

Engaging in art can change a person’s physiology, reduce stress and lead to deep relaxation. Lynne said that these changes can be seen on a person’s brain wave patterns. Art can alter our perception of the world, change how we perceive pain and cope with various challenges. This is why art therapy can be so beneficial.

Lynne Harford shows off BIST members' art work
Lynne Harford shows off BIST members’ art work

There are certain myths about art and creativity, including that creativity can not be learned, and that art should only be created by ‘real’ artists. But Lynne stressed that creativity is for all of us. As kids, most of us thought we were great, creative artists, but we lose that confidence as we age.

Tips for getting your creativity on

  • Let go of any negative judgments you have about your own creativity
  • Jump into the process – forget about the final product
  • Don’t over-think your art
  • Don’t compare your work with your neighbour’s – this is about expressing something within yourself
  • Remember, you are your own unique and creative being
Sara shows her clay masterpiece (top); Sara working on her art (bottom left); Some more art supplies
Sara shows her clay masterpiece (top); Sara working on her art (bottom left); Some more art supplies

BIST members had the opportunity to work with pencil crayons, clay, paint, beads and pastels. After, Lynne held up everyone’s work, and asked members to describe their piece. As can be seen by some of these samples, we created a diversity of amazing art in a very short time!

BIST member shows off her work, 'We Are One' (left); 'Blob' (top right); ''York University Student Excited to Learn the Patois Curriculum (bottom left)
BIST member shows off her work, ‘We Are One’ (left); ‘Blob’ (top right); ”York University Student Excited to Learn the Patois Curriculum (bottom left)

Art Therapy Community MeetingArt Therapy Community Meeting

Our next community meeting will be on February 22nd, 6-8 p.m.
TOPIC: How to get better sleep and boost your energy with naturopathic doctor, Dr. Anne Hussaine, ND.

November community meeting: managing emotions

The emotional aspects of living with a brain injury often get lost in all the other challenges, which occur following an ABI. Which is why Melissa Cutler, neurorehabilitation social worker at Bridgepoint Active Healthcare came to our November community meeting to talk about managing emotions after brain injury.

Melissa Cutler
Melissa Cutler poses with BIST member Neil after her talk

Melissa began her talk by acknowledging that everyone has a different story, and that we are all the experts of our own situation. As such, much of Melissa’s discussion involved input from BIST members.

Since the emotional aspects and challenges of living with brain injury can so often be neglected, we began with a discussion about why we should talk about our emotions after brain injury in the first place. Here are some of the things BIST members discussed:

  • Talking leads to accceptance, and acknowledging how I’m different post-ABI
  • Sometimes I get agitated, and I want to leave the situation
  • My emotions are more on the surface after a brain injury
  • There’s less patience, more frustration post-ABI

Eat well, sleep well, feel better

We all have a certain amount of energy. When we are tired, we don’t have the same cognitive abilities as when we are energized. Our ‘filter’ – what keeps us from bluring out anything and everything that’s on our mind- isn’t there to the same extent, and our compulsiveness increases.

All of these traits can be related to brain injury, but factors such as being hungry or being in physical pain can also effect our emotions. When we’re well slept and well nourished it’s easier to manage our emotions. This is something to be mindful of.

BIST members make cards
BIST members make coping cards at our community meeting

What do emotions feel like after an ABI?

BIST members shared their physical and mental feelings associated with emotions:

  • Tension builds up, and it’s visible on my face
  • My veins pop out
  • I begin asking people to repeat themselves
  • I get a buzzing feeling in my head
  • Dizzy
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Foggy
  • Can’t find my ‘stop’ button
  • Fear – you don’t know what to do or how to deal with it

Members also discussed that brain injury can lead to a lack of emotion. Some emotions, such as sadness, can be particularly hard to feel. Knowing you ‘should’ feel a certain emotion during a specific situation, but that you’re unable to, can be very frustrating.

This is similar to being stuck in a certain emotional space – whether it’s negative or postive. Melissa discussed the need for balance. Negative emotions, she said, are a part of life, but they need to be balanced with positive feelings as well.

BIST members shared that they tend to struggle with the following emotions:

  • Discouragement
  • Feeling withdrawn
  • Feeling a range of emotions, and not being stuck is difficult

What works?

We discussed the following tips to help manage emotions after brain injury:

  • Talking about our emotions can get them out of our system
  • Try not to let negative comments from others get you down
  • Avoid ‘energy pirates’ who rob us of our energy
  • Activities such as yoga, meditation, playing cards, bingo, curling, computer games etc. can give us pleasure and lead to a sense of accomplishment
  • Sticking to a routine
  • Asking for and receiving help
  • Getting out and socializing
  • Not being alone, not dwelling on the brain injury
  • Exercising mind and body
  • Helping others can also make you feel good
  • Playing and listening to music
BIST members at our managing emotions community meeting
BIST members make coping cards

Time management and emotions

Many ABI survivors can have a lot of time on their hands, which is something to get used to. Too much time can be a bad thing, and as such, it’s important to keep track of your time and not let it slip away. Members shared that they can feel nervous when they wake up in the morning, not knowing how they’re going to spend their day. Incoporating structure into your daily routine, can not only help you get stuff done, but can also help you emotionally. Knowing what’s expected of you each day can also help with initiation problems which many people living with ABI experience. Here are some tips:

  • Mark down your activities for the day, week or month ahead
  • Find activities that are meaningful to you (art, exercise, being with an animal)
  • It can be help to make an activity list with someone else
  • Your list should be specific, for example if you write ‘clean room’ write which room you are cleaning

Importantly, the way you coped before the brain injury may not be accessible or possible right now.

You may have read for hours to escape into a book, or jogged everyday to work out your stress, which are activities that can be impacted by ABI. When brain injury takes away our previous coping mechanisms, it’s important to find new and healthy ones to replace them.

Build our tool box ‘coping cards’

Melissa showed us one way to deal with our emotions, through coping cards. These are simple, portable and personalized to your situation. They are a toolkit to remind ourselves ways to cope when we experience challenging situations and emotions. You can download a sample card HERE, and also see the examples below so you can create your own.

1

2

 

Next community meeting: January 25th, 2016
Topic: Art Therapy and ABI

Community meeting: technology and ABI

It’s an understatement to say that assistive technology has grown exponentially over the years, and at our October community meeting guest speakers Tracy Milner and Heather Condello, both registered occupational therapists at Complex Injury Rehab Inc, gave us the scoop on how technology can help in the everyday lives of people living with brain injury.

smart phone
PHOTO: NDIPAT.ORG

At the meeting, we discussed:

  • how to keep up with all the devices and apps that are available
  • which devices and apps are best suited to meet the needs of ABI survivors

Smartphones

Smartphones are like computers, and have more functionality than regular cellphones. They have the capacity for:

  • email, contacts, calendars
  • web browsing
  • document management, reminders, notes
  • pictures, videos
  • apps
  • social networking (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn etc.)
  • WiFi
  • data plans
person using smartphone
PHOTO: GOVTECH.COM

Data plans

Data plans cover Internet use on your device, allowing you to do things such as check email, use social media (Facebook, Twitter etc.) and download things when you’re not connected to WiFi. When using data, it is important to be mindful of overage charges (going over your monthly data plan will result in extra charges) and roaming charges (depending on your plan, you may pay extra for data if you are out of town). Accessing WiFi (from home, or a library, coffee shop) does not use any of your data – so it’s best to to download apps or check email when you’re on WiFi. Data plan options include: 3G/4G/LTE and WiFi only (no data plan.) Flex plans and pay-as-you use are also available.

Risks with smartphones

  • losing your device – to protect yourself, download a lost phone finder 
  • breaking your device
  • using your phone impulsively

Complex Rehab Inc. has a smartphone selection worksheet to help you decide on which smartphone to buy. They have also created a ‘Day in the life with a smartphone‘ document to demonstrate how using a smartphone can help you with many daily activities when you’re living with a brain injury.

veteran using iPad app to relax
PHOTO: CBC via AP

Tablets

In general, tablets are a larger version of the smartphone. They can be purchased without a data plan, or 3G/4G/LTE options. iPad and Android are the most common type of tablets, but others are available, including e-readers. In general, tablets:

  • have larger screens than smart phones, from five to 13 inches wide
  • have similar capability as smartphones for apps
  • are lighter than laptops, and are easier to carry around
  • are a more mainstream compensatory strategy

Having said that, tablets also come with some risks. They can be broken or lost (though there are apps to help you find a lost tablet), and some may need support to set up and maintain their tablet. Their screens may also be diffiicult for some to use.

Therapeutic considerations

When choosing a device, it’s important to keep in mind the following:

  • size and weight of the device
  • touch screen sensitivity
  • if typing on a touch screen is difficult, keyboards for tablets can be purchased and are faily low cost
  • other accessories which can help with accessibility include stylus options, gloves, switch access and tongue drive systems
  • accessibility features include visual and hearing aids, voice control and physical access options such as mounting
  • battery life – a good battery is important so you can use your device on the go
  • consider where you’ll use the device (wheelchair, bed, table) and make sure the tablet you choose can be used comfortably in these locations
  • swing arm mounts can also be helpful
TYPES OF SMART WACHES; PHOTO
TYPES OF SMART WACHES; PHOTO: EXTREMETECH.COM

Choosing apps

There are about a zillion apps to chose from – and several kinds which can help with living with the effects of brain injury (see below.)  Here are some things to consider when choosing an app:

  • look at reviews and screen shots of apps before you download
  • once you select an app for download, a password is required
  • on an iPhone, you can download multiple apps with one password input over a certain amount of time, but use caution as many apps cost money and you don’t want to be inadvertently charged
  • downloading apps is faster when done on WiFi
  • pay attention to third-party software – which adds features to already downloaded apps but can also cost money
  • Free apps can contain a lot of ads, these can be distracting and are easy to accidentally click on
  • Not all apps are available across all devices

YOU CAN FIND A LIST OF APPS RECOMMENDED FOR BRAIN INJURY VIA BRAILINE HERE

a list of types of app to help people with ABI

Other kinds of technology

There are lots of other technological options than smartphones and tablets, here are some:

Smart homeshave environmental controls such as lighting, home devices, alarm, door, video,  and AV controls

SmartTVs – TVs with Internet connectivity

Gaming Consoles – Wii, Xbox, PS4

Roomba – the robot vacuum

Electronic door openers

Remote control blinds and shades

Smart watches (think of a watch with smartphone capabilities) and smart rings (which are not available in the mass market, but are available through pre-orders if you’re tempted)

Google Glass – wearable glasses with smartphone like abilities and natural language voice command

Sleep monitoring – devices that keep track of how much you’ve slept


Adapted from Tracy Milner’s and Heather Condello’s presentation at the BIST community meeting on October 26th, 2015

OUR NEXT COMMUNITY MEETING WILL BE ON NOVEMBER 23rd; TOPIC: MANAGING EMOTIONS AFTER BRAIN INJURY