Mental Techniques That Aid Stroke Recovery

Stroke recovery involves using both your brain and your body. Knowing the right mental techniques can help to enhance your quality of life during stroke recovery and improve the outcomes of your rehabilitation efforts.

Stay Grounded In The Moment With Mindfulness

Mindfulness entails redirecting yourself back to the present moment when your thoughts drift to the past or the future. People can practice mindfulness in a variety of ways, from daily meditation to yoga to even finding mindful moments throughout your day. Potential mindfulness benefits for stroke survivors include:

  • Augmenting neuroplasticity, which is instrumental in rewiring your brain to repair damage caused by the stroke, especially those neural paths that dictate focus, memory and mood
  • Reducing spasticity (per a small pilot study of a structured two-week mindfulness program)
  • Reducing depression and mental fatigue (from a meta-analysis of mindfulness and acceptance interventions for stroke survivors)

Additionally, in general, mindfulness has demonstrated effectiveness in reducing depression and anxiety, fostering resilience, and managing stress, all of which are useful for life after stroke.

Use Visualization Techniques To Enhance Rehabilitation Outcomes

There is evidence that your brain believes that you are engaging in an activity when you are merely visualizing it. In fact, visualization is so powerful, that it can actually be useful in achieving physical rehabilitation goals for people with paralysis. Furthermore, visualization can help to foster optimism and counter the frustration that often crops up during the stroke rehabilitation progress. If you can imagine your post-stroke self with improved functioning, you stand a better chance of getting to that point. 

Foster Acceptance To Manage Post-Stroke Frustration

While visualization can help you to imagine what your future may hold, acceptance of your current circumstances can also be a useful tool in helping you manage any frustration and disappointment that you experience in the wake of your stroke. Accepting your “new normal” can help you make peace with it and move foward toward your goals. It’s important to note, however, that acceptance is not the same as resignation, which is the erroneous belief that you’ll never get better. Acceptance is just for today, not for forever. A type of psychotherapy known as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy can help stroke survivors to explore the idea of acceptance. Make sure that you are making the most of your mental approaches to stroke recovery. Talk to your providers about the strategies that will be most beneficial to you, and consider working with a psychotherapist who specializes in these techniques.