On December 10, 2019 I took an independent poll which revealed that 92% of TBI survivors has experienced anxiety following a traumatic brain injury. Anxiety is something that all people will experience at some point in their lives however, with TBI, it seems to be a common denominator among almost all TBI survivors. With that said, with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), sudden onsets of anxiety are not unusual, and it can be difficult to recover comfortably with these awful feelings.
What Causes Anxiety With TBI?
Anxiety can be caused by a variety of factors, including vitamin and nutrition deficiency, over-stimulation, fear of the unknown, stress, and it could also be hereditary. However, for Traumatic Brain Injury sufferers, anxiety is almost inevitable. Usually, it can result from a combination of factors – most notably over-stim associated with senses, stressing about the change, and fearing whether or not they can care for themselves. During the recovery process of Traumatic Brain Injury, people undergo frustrating hypersensitivity – a complicated brain procedure where the injured brain cannot identify nor filter unnecessary information. Because of this, sounds, smells and touching are experienced differently, and thus can feel overwhelming. From this, anxiety is spiked that then goes on to cause panic attacks and nausea – not very pleasant feelings for someone trying to work through the recovery of TBI.
Following TBI, it’s also essential to not be deprived of important vitamin and nutrients. Deficiencies can further increase anxiety levels through varying hormones, a weak immune system, depression, weight increase (which has problems in itself), blood sugar instability and overall a negative mental state-of-mind.
Stress Complicates Anxiety After TBI
Experiencing stress after a traumatic brain injury is completely normal. You are flooded with new thoughts, emotions and different perspectives of senses – so naturally you would become stressed. It is important to remember that the healing process takes time – the brain is a complex organ and is made up of more than 100 billion nerves! Recuperating this back to a level where you feel comfortable will take time, but there are ways you can avoid anxiety and try to lead a happier, healthier life and recovery process.
How to Overcome Anxiety After TBI
There are various methods I have incorporated into my recovery to get my anxiety control, under most of which are relatively easy to do. I understand that anxiety after TBI is different for everybody, however, I believe that there value in sharing the various methods that helps me overcome anxiety with you. With that said, below are the various teqniques that I have incorporated into my recovery to overcome anxiety after TBI.
Create A Relaxing Environment
Transform your bedroom into a zen room. Soft lighting, plants, and minimal stimulation is a great environment to unwind and let go. Additionally, avoid putting yourself in an environment where you will feel anxious, such as large crowds, public speaking, or driving. Create a relaxing environment for yourself where you feel safe, reassured and able to regain control over your mind.
Increase Magnesium Intake
Magnesium is vital for the brain, and its benefits associated with reducing anxiety and stress are substantial. Most people are deficient in this essential mineral, but with a boosted intake, people with anxiety can experience reduced stress hormones, anti-inflammatory properties, increased brain plasticity, reduced depression, and many more benefits.
Yoga, Meditation, & Mindfulness
One way to take the teeth out of anxiety is to concentrate more of your attention on what is actually happening right now, in the present moment. The deliberate and structured approach to keeping your attention in the present moment is sometimes called mindfulness. Mindfulness is about observation without criticism; being compassionate with yourself. In essence, mindfulness allows you to catch negative thought patterns before they tip you into a downward spiral, which makes it a great practice for preventing anxiety or suppressing it when it happens. As a concept, mindfulness has been around for a long time. It’s often associated with Buddhism, which regards right mindfulness as one element of the Eightfold Path out of suffering, but it’s not necessarily a Buddhist or even religious. Rather, mindfulness is just something you can choose to do in the world. for our own purposes there’s no need to add any more baggage to life and the isea of mindfulness allows you to let it go. I practice guided mindfulness and I linked a sample video below, many more can be found on YouTube.
Meditation helps overcome anxiety after TBI because it can remove stress and replace it with a dose of inner peace. Meditation is one of the one of the best tools for my TBI recovery because it helps me balance my emotions, deal with sensory overload, be at peace with physical and psychological distress, and promote a better sense of well-being in the present moment. It can be tough to meditate without a teacher or guide. Meditating on your own requires some effort, experience, and direction. With that said, when my TBI anxiety hits, and I need help diverting my attention, I use guided meditation videos on YouTube. I enjoy guided meditations because they walk you through a meditation pattern and help you find a calm and peaceful state—one step at a time. Below is a sample video I use for guided meditation.
Diffusion – A meditation technique
Diffusion is a mindfulness technique that changes your relationship with your mind and thoughts. Instead of fusing with painful cognitions and getting caught in long chains of fearful or depressing thoughts, diffusion helps you catch and let go of even the most disturbing mental chatter. The practice of observing your mind and releasing thoughts helps you detatch from the sourrce of anxiety and relax.
Deep Breathing Techniques
Practicing deep breathing techniques – an important part of yoga and meditation – will help you to become more aware, attentive, mindful, and relaxed. Yoga will help tone your body and mind while increasing your flexibility. Meditation will encourage you to focus on your breath and embrace calm thoughts. Mindfulness will train your awareness and mental clarity. The combination of all three contributes to relieve stress, lower blood pressure, improve sleep, reduce chronic pain, and will help with a range of other ailments.
CBD (Cannabidiol) is famed in this generation as a powerful aid for relaxation. Research has found that it potentially reduces social anxiety, and it is considered an alternative treatment for anxiety sufferers. Furthermore, CBD, and marijuana, helps many TBI survivors and their testimonies are below.
“I use CBD every day and have for 3 years now. I have chronic anxiety and its really extremely bad so ganja really helps take the edge off and im able to breathe a little better. I would highly recommend a CBD strain for anxiety.” -Anne Weston
“CBD raises serotonin, which helps boost your mood. Indica is high in CBD.. Indica is best. You can buy CBD oil from hemp, same plant just super low THC (under 3%), works great for anxiety and depression.” -Sarah Osuburn
“I discovered after taking it for a week or so, my anxiety levels dropped. I honestly did not realize how on high alert I was constantly until I started taking the tincture.” –Bernard Hughes
When you experience anxiety, there are a handful of essential oils for combating anxiety. Aromatherapy has been found to induce a state of relaxation and relieve anxiety by gently invigorating the senses, overall uplifting a beautiful, aromatic atmosphere perfect for those who seek a tranquil space.
- Rose Oil
- Balsam Fir
- Vetiver Oil
- Ylang Ylang Oil
- Geranium Oil
- Jasmine Oil
Pets, dogs and cats, in particular, have shown to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, loneliness, and owning one can encourage playfulness and exercise. A pet is more than just an animal – they are cherished companions and often provide people with much-needed value and social interaction.
Dogs, specifically therapy dogs, can help alleviate your stress, anxiety, depression and may even assist people who often experience panic/anxiety attacks. These dogs usually anticipate the attack before it is going to happen, and some can even retrieve medication and water to aid the person.
These are just some of the many ways you can help overcome your anxiety following TBI. Trying one or a combination of them will help make rehabilitation easier for yourself and others around you. You can enjoy reduced stress levels, more awareness, a happier outlook on life, and, therefore, a decrease in your anxiety levels.
Unplug From Social Media to Relieve TBI Anxiety
Gigen Mammoser said, “Studies have linked the use of social media to depression, anxiety, poorer sleep quality, lower self-esteem, inattention, and hyperactivity — often in teens and adolescents.” Too much time on social media, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, gives me anxiety. From my personal experience it is the overstimulation and too much time staring at a blank screen that gives me anxiety. Social media posts give me Zaidi because of how fast I can encounter them and then the likes that come along with them and chasing all the interactions can take a mental toll on me in addition to everyday stresses. What works for me is to schedule my posts so that my posting is automated. With this strategy I can still share my social media posts and prevent sensory overload related anxiety.
Healthline.com says, “Mental health conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder and PTSD can also trigger sensory overload. Anticipation, fatigue, and stress can all contribute to a sensory overload experience.” When I am around large crowds where there are different facets of stimulation, sounds, smells, visuals, my TBI related anxiety is at risk of being triggered. Whenever I am forced into these situations, holiday parties for example, I tried to sit away from common areas and surround myself with people who understand my condition of sensory overload due to my TBI. In addition to trying to remove myself from as much stimulus as possible, pack a dose of anxiety medication with me as an added precaution.
Sources of Sensory Overload
- Video games or Apps when I am tired
- To much muti-tasking
- Problem solving
- All of my senses being overly used at once
Affirmations for Anxiety After TBI
Most of us do no realize how powerful words are and how they impact our lives. Affirmations re-train your brain to see the good in in everything and detach from negative energy. Essentially, affirmations have a positive placebo affect on your attitude, which is the foundation of your existence. When I am having anxiety attack I just want to know everything will be alright and affirmations comfort me and help me keep my anxiety under control after TBI. Below is an example of a guided affirmation that I listen to, many more can be found on YouTube.
Medication for TBI Anxiety
Ativan: When I experience intense anxiety attacks, hard to breathe, nausea, exhausted, I was prescribed Ativan to take as needed. I live a lifestyle that has all of the above methods edit to prevent anxiety attacks however, they still happen sometimes. With that said, I do my best to prevent anxiety attacks to happen but in the worst case scenario, I do have an emergency medication to help me.
Celexa: Celexa is an antidepressant however it helps maintain a stable baseline for keeping anxiety under control as well, the reason why Celexa was specifically prescribed is because it helps rewire the brain. From what I was told from the doctors, anxiety and depression are closely linked together so by prescribing an antidepressant you are not only becoming proactive on keeping depression under control, you are suppressing anxiety as well by taking Celexa.
Sleep and Rest to Overcome Anxiety After TBI
When I have anxiety and my favorite thing to do is to go to sleep and disconnect from the world. And resting really helps my anxiety and I will try and sleep as long as possible until my anxiety goes away. Sometimes when I have anxiety I temporarily delete all of my social media accounts and get completely disconnected from the world and all I do is worry about my well-being and get some rest. It really helps knowing that I am completely detached from the world and it helps my anxiety go down a lot because it’s only me in the world because I am disconnected from everything else. Sometimes my anxiety is because I am overtired and I cannot think straight and the best solution for me is to sleep.
Music and Sounds
From the moment I came out of the coma, audio was a very important part of my recovery. I used a number of audio sources to comfort me when I have anxiety after TBI. Music is said to have healing properties so I documented everything that has helped me with my anxiety after TBI. Below are resources to what I find beneficial.
Binaural beat therapy is a form of sound wave therapy and has shown to help TBI victims with anxiety. The tones are at frequencies lower than 1,000 hertz, in which the brain detects the binaural beat. This perceived beat is the frequency difference between the waves entering the left and right ear. The right and left ear each receive a unique frequency tone that is different from one another, yet the brain perceives and synchronizes them as one tone. Binaural beat therapy utilizes this fact as its treatment for anxiety. In particular, “delta” beats have shown to help calm the mind for calmness, reduced anxiety, and sleep after TBI. These beats operate at a frequency of 0.5-4 hertz. There was even a study where people who received this frequency during sleep entered an even deeper stage of sleep. It’s definitely worth a try – you can find many binaural beat tracks on YouTube and other platforms.
White Noise for Anxiety After TBI
White noise, in the simplest terms, refers to sounds that essentially “mask” other sounds that might also occur naturally in the environment or surroundings. White noise comes in a variety of forms, including the ocean, which is something many people enjoy listening to. Other examples include streams, rain, machinery, the wind in the trees, or even footsteps on leaves. White noise contains “all frequencies,” and is thus used to mask other sounds frequently. You can also find some white noise tracks on YouTube and the internet, my favorite is beach sounds when it is raining.