Brain Breaks for Concussion and ABI Wrap Up

February 15, 2022
The TBI Therapist Podcast with Dr. Jen Blanchette

Have you ever struggled with how to take the best break after your brain injury? This week on the podcast, I dig into some of the best ways that we can rest and restore. I find that it is often very tempting to look at our phones instead of a restorative break. After all, it’s right in our pockets!

There is a better way my friends 🙂

Pandemic Changes to Breaks

Speaker 1 00:00:02 Hi everyone. Welcome to the TBI Therapist podcast. I’m your host, Dr. Jen Blin shot where we explore the heart of brain
Speaker 0 00:00:13 Injury.
Speaker 1 00:00:21 Hello everyone. I hope that you are having a great Valentine’s Day. It’s going to be the day after when you hear this, but I hope you’re enjoying some moments of self love or enjoying the people that you care for in your lives. So I wanted to wrap up this series on brain breaks. So I started the series as really a goal to think about taking better breaks in your life. I find after brain injury we need a lot more breaks. So my folks that often talk with me need more time in their life to figure out how to rest their brain cognitively and also they feel more physiological fatigue. So just finding better ways to rest is important. So I went to continue the theme. So last time I talked about leisure and the importance of leisure. So if you didn’t go back, go back to that episode and think about how you can find new ways to engage and rest and leisure in your life.
Speaker 1 00:01:30 So this week I really wanna focus on taking a better break. There’s pretty good research that indicates what type of breaks are best for our brains and our bodies as well because it’s all a body, it’s all connected. I think a lot of the times in this brain injury world, people hear, What can I do for my brain? What can I do for my brain? And I’m like, Well, your body is is in brain or connected. So we’re thinking of them as one unit, not as separate entities. So thinking about the whole nervous system because it’s all connected is key. One of the best ways I find is to connect with nature. So there’s been multiple research studies on green spaces and blue spaces and how our brains really enjoy being in places that are green. Um, that could be the forest, that could be somewhere at a park.
Speaker 1 00:02:25 And also blue spaces, which could be interaction with the ocean or nature the lake. Even going to a pool can be really restorative if it’s not too loud or uh, maybe it’s a good time of day to go to the pool, right? Or if you have your own pool, I know a lot of folks have their own pools so that down in, not in Maine so much where I live, but maybe down in Florida or other parts of the world where you have access to a pool year round, that could be definitely something. So seeking nature. So throughout every day think about how can I engage with nature? So it’s winter here, so it’s definitely more challenging for me when it’s 20 degrees outside and there’s not fresh snow. It’s really icy outside. But just thinking about can I spend 10 minutes at a time letting the sun come on my face?
Speaker 1 00:03:20 And this past weekend it was a lot warmer. So I did spend some time on a walk just enjoying sunshine and breathing in listening to more birds cuz they were waking up. So really feeling that sense of relaxation that happens in the body when we engage with nature, when we notice nature and really when we’re using the five senses. So I find that having a full sensory experience in nature is really helpful to calming our brain. Interestingly, there is some research that suggests even looking at pictures of nature can, we can associate with feelings of calm and relaxation. So maybe that’s a place you’ve been for me. I was gonna share a little bit about a recent trip to California. So my family took a big trip to California this year and we went to many of the national parks in the state. One of my favorite experiences was going in outside of San Francisco to mere woods.
Speaker 1 00:04:25 I can’t even describe the smell that I smelled in that place. I think it’s just particular to that forest. So it was a redwood forest and it just, the air just smelled pure and clean and the redwoods are huge and I think that also brought an experience of awe and wonder of being next to these really tall trees that I just felt really connected to nature in that moment. And maybe you can think of a place in your own life where you feel that sense of connection with nature, with yourself and uh, being kind of having that connection. So I also wanted you to think about the role of daydreaming and boredom. Oftentimes we don’t let ourselves become bored at all. So we’re constantly scheduled. We’re not doing much in the way of daydreaming or doodling or just kind of letting time pass. And a lot of great cognitive things happen when we daydream. So you might try just sitting alone and starting off with a five minute doodle time or daydreaming time and just letting your brain kind of wonder. What I find with this is that often we get insights or we find a deep sense of calm and things that we hadn’t thought about can come really to the surface.
Speaker 1 00:06:04 In this article that I mentioned before from Psychology today, they talk about exercising the eyes. So our eyes are bearing the burden of much of our daily life. We are looking at our phones, we are looking at computer screens for most of us, for more time than we ever have. So practicing every 20 minutes staring at something 20 yards away, 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This type of break can be restorative to our eyes that it re because it requires flow to the brain areas that are not related to sustained attention. So we’re not asking our eyes to really sustain the attention of looking at the phone or looking at a computer. It gives our eyes a little bit of a restorative break. So think about fi. I really like people to actually think about a, a window or something off in the distance they can look at in their environment. It can be in your indoor environment, but I like to think about can you go to a window and look out at a tree that might be 20 feet away or maybe spring is happening where you are, Maybe you’re looking at a flowering bush. Whatever it is, something is really interesting in your environment.
Speaker 1 00:07:26 An interesting article from the monitor on psychology was discussing the role that zoom fatigue can have on our eyes in our brains. The interesting piece related to Zoom is that we often see ourselves in conversation. I was reflecting on the fact that in normal life we don’t look at ourselves while we’re in a meeting, we look at other people. So one of the suggestions they had was to hide your self view when you’re in a Zoom meeting or in whatever kind of platform you’re in. So that can be one way to kind of reduce some of the fatigue that can happen with Zoom. Another way that you could do that as well is to have a screen break. So turn your monitor completely off. A lot of people won’t do that and just listen to the audio. I find that if you don’t turn your monitor completely off, then you still tend to look at the screen.
Speaker 1 00:08:33 So if you can completely turn off the monitor and just do, let’s just listen to the auditory versus the visual components via Zoom. Another great way we can have a break is through laughter. So engaging in something that we find funny or humorous. So that could be a podcast. I don’t know if I’m the funniest podcast out there <laugh>, but I’m sure there’s a comedy podcast that you like or a TV show or something that could give you just that break that you need. Sometimes for people it’s watching dog videos or cat videos. I know I wanna get you away from watching videos, but if it’s something that makes you chuckle and laugh, then I’m okay with that as long as you’re reducing screen time at other points in your day. But generally thinking about trying to get laughter in your day somewhere. One of my guests on the previous podcast episode, uh, with the TBI nutrition expert I worked with Crystal Merrill talked about laughing throughout your day.
Speaker 1 00:09:40 So there’s great brain research on laughter. So that would include increasing dopamine and lessening stress for older people, improvement on memory tests. So there is pretty nice data on comedy and laughter and how that can improve our day. Okay, another great way to take a break, and I cannot say this enough, is exercise. So I know that many of you may have some exercise and tolerance or difficulty with exercising in ways that you used to, but it’s really, really important more so than other areas to work through this issue. Whether that’s connecting with a physical therapist that can help you through that intolerance or finding other ways to find movement that you can do. So, um, I’m a fitness instructor as well, so I’m often, you know, encouraging people to move in ways that are helpful for you. Interesting research on movement I found was that our brains do like the type of movement we enjoy most.
Speaker 1 00:10:50 So if you asked me to run on a treadmill for an hour, I would, I wouldn’t like you very much and I wouldn’t wanna do it and I probably would not get the same mood boosting qualities as someone who loves running as an avid runner. For me exercise has always been tennis and dance and some kind of way that is not, is like tricking me into exercise for other folks that might be something else. Oh, I forgot weight lifting. So I do love lifting weights and doing yoga as well. So think about for yourself, where is somewhere that you can add? And really it does not have to be very long. So even less than 10 minutes of exercise burst have been shown to have really positive effects on mood. So if that’s taking a short walk a few times a day, walking is a great form of exercise.
Speaker 1 00:11:46 It is often discounted, but it’s a great form of exercise. So walking, weight, lifting, doing some yoga, whatever you can do and incorporate that into your life. So gimme some feedback. Let me know what you think is the best way to take a brain break. I hope that you like this series. So if you can listen back, there’s a couple of episodes before this. Those will be the brain breaks episodes. The first one I talked about grounding. So grounding skills are things that you can do that incorporate your senses and help you reset your brain and your body. The last one I did, the previous brain break was on leisure. So finding ways to engage in deep leisure and rest. So for me, typically throughout my week that looks like playing tennis. That looks like doing a yoga class. And really I’m, some of my guilty pleasures are, you know, eating popcorn and watching my favorite show as well.
Speaker 1 00:12:50 Doing that is really restorative for me and if I can get a good walk in, that’s also great. So think about those, those ways you can engage in deep leisure. And then this episode was really kind of that wrap up of ways to take better breaks throughout your day. And you guys might have ideas on how you do it and what works best for you. So write me back, uh, certainly sign up for my email list while I give you updates and even more little tips on brain injury and mental health and total health as well. So I’m going to be taking a break from the podcast for next week. I’m going to be on vacation in March. I have three wonderful guests for you and I’m also gonna start a new series. So I’m still toying around with what you guys wanna hear about that I can speak into your lives right now.
Speaker 1 00:13:49 I’ve thought about covering boundaries after brain injury. So if you’d like to hear boundaries, then certainly rate me back and say, yes, I could really use some tools and tips on that. Lastly, if you could rate and review this podcast on Apple Podcasts or on Spotify, I would be so appreciative. The ratings and reviews are really helpful. They tell the podcast player that basically this is a podcast worth listening to. So if you are enjoying what you’re hearing, please write me a rating and review. If you love the podcast, if you don’t love the podcast, then you’re probably not listening this long to it <laugh>, I would imagine. But really, I hope you’re getting something useful out of, um, the things I’m sharing and just write to me about what you’d like to hear more of. I’m happy to do that. Have a great one. Thank you for
Speaker 2 00:14:50 Joining today on the TBI Therapist podcast. Please visit tbi for more information on brain injury, concussion and mental health. The information shared on today’s podcast is intended to provide information, awareness, and discussion on the topic. It is not clinical or medical advice. If you need mental health or medical advice, please seek a professional.


Sign up with your email address to receive the latest on the podcast and my offerings