While the cornerstone of older concussion treatment protocols was rest, it is now recognized that in order for the nervous system to recover, a balance between rest and activity must be found. Therapeutic activity is an incredibly broad term that can be applied to diverse activities for various purposes.
Therapeutic activity can be any activity that has a positive psychological effect. The goals could be improving mood, reducing stress and anxiety, enhancing focus, or promoting a sense of calm or relaxation. Often when individuals experience concussion, they tend to avoid a lot of the activity that they typically find meaningful, or that makes them happy, for example, nights out with friends or playing sports. This can lead to patients feeling down or sad. Does it surprise you that the brain does not function as well when feeling like this? Therapeutic activity can be applied purposefully to combat this withdrawal. Psychological well-being is an essential component to recovery as it facilitates an advantageous neurological state for healing and performance. Therapeutic activity can be anything from engaging with a close friend to something relaxing like a warm bath or an adult colouring book.
This may come as a shock to many: What if we told you that for optimal performance rest must be included in your daily schedule…it’s not to be just reserved for bed time. Does that surprise you? Imagine your children not resting at all, from the time they get up until they go to bed…what kind of performance would you expect at school? What happens if fun, pleasurable activities ‘just for kicks’, were not part of their days? How do you think that would affect your children’s cognitive performance, energy and personality? Do you have a double-standard? Do you treat your children one way and you a different way?
Therapeutic activity can be specific activity applied purposefully with the goal of enhancing function or reducing concussion symptoms. For example, therapeutic activity may be listening to pleasant music at progressively louder volumes to reduce noise sensitivity, or it could be playing challenging board games to work on one’s problem solving abilities. Ultimately, withdrawing from activity can be harmful, instead, engaging in activity at the right level of challenge is a terrific way to promote recovery.
Therapeutic activity can be any activity you do that you feel is meaningful and that contributes to health and well-being. Often when we’re truly engaged in something, we experience that feeling of being in the zone, focus, and absorption in the activity. Many times, this experience can promote happiness and enjoyment, and these feelings do contribute to one’s well-being. Whether recovering from a concussion, or physically healthy, it’s the reason for the age-old advice to do the things that you enjoy.
Therapeutic activity can also be a rest strategy. Athletes are known to try to hone as much performance as possible from their neurological systems. Did you know that rookie athletes tend to equate rest with sleep but more seasoned athletes tend to have more variety in their rest and relaxation armementorium. Adopting multiple areas of interest and achievement guard against burnout that occurs from a single-minded obsession gone awry. For concussion patients, that obsession can be something as simple as recovering from an injury or getting back to your previous activities. Just like for high functioning athletes who want to perform better, they are often guided to think outside the box to get ahead. Don’t be surprised if it takes 3-4 weeks to start realizing the benefits, it happens to these athletes too.
Rest and relaxation serves many purposes:
- To store energy to prevent fatigue and exhaustion
- To help the body recuperate
- To be able to do more activities and to ensure adequate energy level for leisure
- To feel better overall and decrease fatigue signs
Do you sometimes feel that your life is dull since having this injury? Perhaps it is time to widen your list of activities. First, make a list of your current hobbies. Why not add those activities to your weekly planning? It can help to increase your energy level.
List of Possible Activities
|Artistic Activities||Photography, Music, Writing, Painting, Drawing, Listening to music, Acting, Going to a concert, Going to the movies, Seeing a play|
|Intellectual Activities||Reading the paper, Reading textbooks, Reading novels, Classes, Meetings, Computer, Scrabble, Crossword puzzles, Chess, Puzzles|
|Manual Activities||Gardening, Sewing, Landscaping, Crafts, Mechanics, Woodworking, Knitting, Cooking, Interior decorating|
|Physical Activities||Walking, Cycling, Skiing, Training, Swimming, Volleyball, Bowling, Tennis, Hockey, Baseball, Soccer|
|Social Activities||Card games, Monopoly, Bingo, Committees, Shopping, Dancing, Familial activities, Activities with friends or a group, Going out, Camping, Having friends for dinner, Visiting friends or family, Eating out|
|Entertainment||Watching TV, Watching a DVD, Listening to the radio, Video games|
|Other||Traveling, Religious/spiritual practices, Looking after a pet, Making/preparing Christmas gifts|
***Note: some of the above activities may not be recommended and will depend on your level of recovery. You should run any activities passed your treating team before adding them to your regimen.