Sometimes, a stroke affects the emotion center of the brain and creates emotional instability. However, sometimes, stroke recovery can also affect emotions simply due to the radically different lifestyle involved. This is why emotions like depression, anxiety, and grief are highly common after stroke.
Because emotions are difficult to deal with, the best thing a stroke survivor can do is minimize his/her reaction to them. And, the best way to do that is through self-understanding. So if you too suffer from mood swings after stroke (even if you weren’t necessarily a ‘moody’ person before), this blog is for you.
1. Cope with Grief
Not many survivors are aware that recovering from stroke also includes dealing with grief. Instead of resisting it or wishing that it would go away, try to surrender to it. Allow yourself to feel the emotions and cry if that’s what it takes to let grief and mood swings pass much more quickly.
You may feel ashamed of crying, but it’s a natural and healthy release of emotions. There is a scientific benefit to it. Hormones and toxins which build up during stress cycle are released when you cry emotional tears. The key is not holding it back. If you feel embarrassed to cry around your caregiver, excuse yourself to the bathroom or go outside. After discharging your emotions, you should be in a better position to know what is best for you at the moment – therapy or indulging in a relaxing hobby.
2. Opt for Therapy
Depression and anxiety are the biggest sources of mood swings after stroke. If depression was caused by a brain injury to the brain areas that are responsible for emotion (normally right-sided strokes), then medication may help.
Because mood swings may have a significant impact on the survivor’s well-being, the support of a mental health professional may be recommended. This is where counseling comes into play. Cognitive behavioral therapy, psychotherapy and mindfulness therapy are your options.
3. Stick to your stroke rehab
Sticking to your stroke rehab program can help you improve your mood, increase self-esteem, and improve sleep. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins. This helps you de-stress and get into a better mood.
Maintaining a schedule can be helpful as exercising at the same time every day (at least for some time) can help regulate emotional highs and lows.
4. Eat healthy
Nutrition is a vital component of mood management. Getting enough nutrients and avoiding excessive consumption of sugar, alcohol, and caffeine may help reduce the frequency of mood swings. Caffeine can interrupt your sleep and cause nervousness, anxiety, shakiness, and dehydration.
Notice how hunger affects your mood. If you don’t eat enough or skip a meal, watch if this affects your mood. Include a balance of carbohydrates, protein, fruits, and vegetables every day. Ensure that you’re eating regularly to avoid mood swings (if any) that are triggered by hunger.
5. Sleep well
Mood swings can also be caused by an overlooked side effect of recovery – exhaustion. During stroke rehab, your brain is using up a lot of your energy to heal itself. It certainly takes a toll on your energy levels. Sleep deprivation, which can affect appetite and energy level, can also contribute to sadness, irritability, outbursts, decreased patience and mood swings after stroke.
If you suffer from mood swings due to irritability, ask yourself if you are getting all the sleep that your body wants. Not to be repeated, a good 8-hour sleep improves mood and minimizes mood swings.
6. Talk about your emotions
While you may want to be left alone and avoid talking after stroke, it’s also important to spend time with friends to minimize mood swings. Everyone has one friend he/she can tell everything to. Talk to that friend and let him/her know how you are feeling. It can also help immensely to be surrounded by others who also deal with emotional challenges after stroke. For that, you may want to join a stroke support group.
7. Observe your thinking pattern
Tracking moods can help facilitate a greater understanding of shifts and changes in emotions. Journaling about moods may help you notice patterns in mood shifts as well as recognize potential triggers. While it’s good to write out confusing feelings, don’t make your journal all about negativity.
Make notes of outbursts, stresses, how much sleep you’re getting, and what you’re eating and drinking. Over time, you should be able to see patterns emerging. By knowing what your triggers are, you will be able to prepare for times when you are most vulnerable to mood swings. Consider writing about a pleasant experience too. This will move you closer to feeling more positive emotions.
This Blog is contributed by Dr. Deepak Kr. Nain. He is a certified therapist who specializes in the field of rehabilitation. Deepak possesses a clinical expertise in prescribing the best solutions to help people with neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, Stroke, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS).