Brain Breaks for Concussion Finding Serious Leisure

February 1, 2022
The TBI Therapist Podcast with Dr. Jen Blanchette

Why a break is never a waste of time!

The Rutgers’s Business school found in an analysis of research on leisure that those who felt leisure was a waste of time had higher levels of depression, anxiety, and stress than those who placed value on those pursuits. Article is here.

The pandemic has reduced people’s sense of control and increased depression (already elevated in folks after ABI). I think that many things we used to do for leisure were eliminated or changed in the pandemic. I’ll add that layer for folks with a brain injury, they types of leisure that you enjoyed before may have also changed.

How to find leisure breaks in your day…

Know the benefits!

Benefits of leisure:

-reduced stress

-reduced depression

-lower cortisol

-lower anxiety

-increased productivity

Types of leisure:

-Fandom! Are you a fan of a sport, show, book series, band, type of music, craft, etc? For me my serious fandom resulted in becoming a Zumba instructor and even going to a Zumba convention with thousands of others (pre-pandemic). It was seriously SO much fun and I felt on top of the world.

My family also loves to travel, think and plan about trips. This was put on serious hold in the pandemic, but we took an epic trip to Yosemite this past summer.

Recently, I enjoyed watching the Australian Open (serious tennis fan here!!) I know I have several Australian listeners so shout out to Australia on their big wins with Ash Barty and in mens doubles. Of course, I had a serious fan moment when Raphael Nadal won his 21st major title. I was seriously happy for him! I took note of my feelings as I knew I’d be talking about it on the podcast!

In what ways can you engage in “serious leisure” by leaning into your fandom?

Remember research indicates that you should NOT feel guilty about the time it takes to engage in that activity!

Takeaway #1

We are likely not taking the breaks that we need. In fact, most likely in the pandemic you’re working more.

Takeaway #2

Taking a break to do a leisure activity like watching a favorite TV series or book has wonderful mental and physical health benefits. Can you do something with someone you love or find ways for movement through leisure. If so double win!

Takeaway #3

Allowing yourself to enjoy leisure vs. feeling guilty about the time you take ensures you get the most benefits from the activity. Taking a break is never a waste of time!

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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 injury.
Speaker 1 00:00:21 Hello, my wholehearted brain break crew. I don’t know if that’s the name you guys want to be called, but tell me. I love just different names and to create community. I wonder if we can come up with a name for the folks that listen to this podcast. So if you have an idea, send me a message. Uh, I’d love to hear more from you. Great. So this week on the podcast we’re gonna talk about serious leisure, how to engage in serious leisure. So before you go get your Coronas and your hammock, maybe we’ll dis <laugh> discuss some research, uh, but that is a form of serious leisure as well. But let’s, let’s dive in here. So I wanted to talk with you about how to take a better break, interesting research and let me pull that up.
Speaker 1 00:01:20 So I’m gonna take you back to being nostalgic about early pandemic life. I know that sounds weird that I have some nostalgia about early in the pandemic, but I do because I found that early in the pandemic, yes, we were stressed. Don’t get me wrong, we were in a state of shock and there was all this trauma that was going on that was all happening at the same time. But there was this also other thing happening where we were taking more time to relax. So at least I was a little bit more and my demands were less. So all of a sudden everything stopped and that was a shock. But it was also really nice to figure out, hmm, it’s nice to have this much, which this much time is a break. It’s nice to have this much time to think about my day. So after we were trying to figure out how to make our businesses work, find toilet paper and do zoom meetings, that novelty wore off pretty quick.
Speaker 1 00:02:26 And we’ve come to a place now where life is busier. And for me and my practice, I stopped seeing a lot of people. So when March, 2020 hit, I’m a therapist and a psychologist. So I have a clinical practice and I see people primarily in counseling. So I see people primarily in counseling and some of my people just didn’t come back to the office right away, or we were doing telehealth or we weren’t meeting as frequently. So I had a lot more time in my day and I really liked that come May, 2020, my phone was ringing off the hook and there was this kind of scarcity that I had to also pick up with that pace or keep up with that pace, Rather, I found myself working more pushing to meet the demands of the folks that were calling me. I really wanted to help them honestly, but there was a huge problem.
Speaker 1 00:03:27 My kids were out of school. I’m sure many parents, you understood that piece of it. We had kids at home, but our demands at work stayed the same or our demands at home stayed the same. If you’re homeschooling your kid and they had went to school before, even as a stay at home mom, let me back up. Not even as a stay at home mom, cuz hat’s off to the stay at home parents, moms or dads. I can’t do that. That is a hard job. But that’s what I was doing. So I was working also running the household holding space for clients, trying to be a good wife, the best wife I could be, right? A friend. And I was a fitness instructor. I am a fitness instructor Doing that in the gyms at the time, something had to give. And honestly, you would think as a therapist, I may know that my body gives me information about when to stop my body pretty much put the brakes on everything.
Speaker 1 00:04:29 So I developed driving anxiety, something I hadn’t experienced before and, uh, led to panic attacks. So I have been going through EMDR therapy myself and working on that with a fantastic therapist. Shout out to my therapist, you know who you are. I’m not gonna say her name on here, <laugh>, but she is wonderful and she’s been helping me work on that for really, um, well over a year now. So my clients are in therapy, I’m also in therapy, and I will stay in therapy as long as I’m a therapist. I just think it’s something that’s important. So I’d call what I was experiencing burnout among other things, and certainly depression. And I think burnout and depression can often look similar. So I always say if folks are dealing with burnout and for folks after a concussion or a brain injury, I find burnout often happens because there’s extreme stress.
Speaker 1 00:05:27 You’re trying to acclimate to your work life again, or your home life again. And things don’t work the way they did before. Either your brain doesn’t work or systems don’t work the way they did before, and job expectations may have changed. There may be a toxic work environment either before your injury or after that people are putting undue pressure on you to quote unquote get back to normal. Well, hey, I just wanna put <laugh> a public service announcement out there. We’re not going back to any kind of normal, The pre pandemic life is just a different life. And I think of this mirror of my clients always talking about, I just wanna get back to myself before injury. And if we really think about how we, our, our senses of self differ throughout our lives, I really don’t wanna be the same self that I was at 25.
Speaker 1 00:06:22 I don’t know about you. So if we think about that, that we’re not the same person we were back then as we are today, I find that’s a helpful mindset shift. I’m not saying it fixes everything. Yes, there’s certainly things after concussion or brain injury that are super difficult to deal with and no amount of mindset shifting is gonna take that away. So I take, take that with a grain of salt. But if you think about that sense of I wanna return back to normal, that that is just something that we tell ourselves. It isn’t very helpful. So I’m sharing with you a little bit about my burnout because I know I’ve seen it. Almost every single person I’ve worked with after brain injury has been struggling with some kind of burnout, either in their home life, their work life, or just in their recovery life.
Speaker 1 00:07:17 I’ve, I can understand this piece, they’re tired of their recovery, they’re tired of doctor’s appointments of appointments with me, <laugh>, even though I think I’m a funner appointment. But hey, I understand that they may not want to go to that many appointments and you’re sick of it and you’re burned out from it. And that makes so much sense to me that you’re burn up from your recovery. So I wanna talk a little bit about an article that I picked up from my Psychology Today magazine, and that’s a magazine for mental health professionals. So I was going to distill some of what I was taking from that article for you guys. And what they talked about that was really interesting was engaging in leisure. And so I think there was so many filters I wanted to put through this, the brain injury filter, but also the pandemic filter and what has changed after the pandemic.
Speaker 1 00:08:13 And also I think this hit me like a ton of bricks because I know I have guilt of arresting. And one of the big pieces of what I took out of that research was leisure feels relaxing if we don’t feel like it’s a waste of time or that we should be doing something else. So we have to unlearn that resting is bad. And I can understand for folks that maybe weren’t resting does feel like doing nothing or it feels like it’s counterproductive. But I think we really need to change and shift that paradigm for rest. The pandemic has forever changed the nature of work. For example, I will always have a telehealth in my clinical practice now because it’s here to stay. I think we’ve gone grown accustomed to liking the option and for some of my folks with a brain injury, it’s easier for them than to come all the way to my office to drive there, to deal with masks, to deal with all the other things.
Speaker 1 00:09:13 So I can see that as an option for a lot of folks to continue that. Other changes that people might have had in the pandemic with their work is possibly, you know, dealing with the Covid protocols or what hasn’t changed is our need for breaks. So the National Bureau of Economic Research reported that Americans are working 48 minutes more per day than before the pandemic, and there’s no evidence that we’re taking any more breaks. So what does that mean? We’re working more and potentially not taking the breaks we need. I think that my survivors aren’t doing that either. So if you’re working more and taking less breaks, what does that mean for your cognitive functioning? It means it’s not good. That’s what I can tell you. That’s the short answer. So if we’re not taking breaks, we’re reducing our productivity, we’re increasing stress and cortisol, all the things that impact cognitive functioning.
Speaker 1 00:10:17 So I am here to tell you that a break is never a waste of time. The Rutgers Business School found in an analysis of research on leisure that those who felt leisure was a waste of time, had higher levels of depression, anxiety, stress than those who placed value on those pursuits. I know the pandemic has reduced everyone’s sense of control and increased depression, and that was already elevated in people after brain injury. So if you add on top the layer of the pandemic, we can say that maybe it’s more than increased what people are experiencing with regard to depression. I think that many things have changed that we used to do for leisure or they were completely eliminated. And I’ll add another layer for my folks with brain injury. The types of leisure you might have enjoyed pre-injury could have changed. So the pandemic has changed leisure and also your brain injury might have changed what you enjoy with leisure.
Speaker 1 00:11:22 So I wanna talk with you about how to find some leisure breaks in your day. Let’s first talk about the benefits. So reduce stress, reduce depression, lower cortisol, that’s your stress hormone lowered anxiety and increased productivity. I didn’t add this, but I’m certainly thinking that’s going to improve cognitive functioning and improve your brain injury symptoms. So let’s talk about leisure. So leisure, if we know that people gain the most benefits, if they don’t have guilt over the time they spend in that activity, it’s important to know that this is an activity I’m doing and this activity is gonna be helpful to me, it’s gonna be helpful to my brain, helpful to my life. So one they talk about was fandom. So being a fan of a sport, a show, book, series, band type of music, craft, et cetera. I was gonna share some of my serious fandom that I’ve had over the years.
Speaker 1 00:12:28 One of those was going to Zumba classes. So when the Zumba movement started back in, I don’t even know when it started. Um, early two thousands, something like that. So the early two thousands I was going to Zumba classes and I even became a Zumba instructor. And I loved it so much that I went to a convention of thousands of Zumba instructors and danced for about five days. That was awesome. I felt on top of the world. It was seriously so much fun and it was an experience I was also sharing with these other people who had that similar passion and drive to want to do that. My family also loves to travel, think and plan about trips. I don’t really enjoy the planning. I’m not gonna lie, my husband does all that. I like to go on the trips. I love to relax on vacation and I like to think about where I’d like to go.
Speaker 1 00:13:21 So it’s kind of a fun thing that we like to do together as a couple to think about vacations, think about where we want to go. And then he’s like my travel planner. So that works for me. Recently, I mean, really recently over the, over the past weekend I watched the Australian Open. So any of my Australian podcast listeners out there, big ups to you all, Ash Bardi one, that title, and they men’s doubles team with Curios it’s, they called them double K. So it’s Curios and I can’t say the other name of the other guy. Anyway, they won the men’s doubles. I am a serious tennis player. I love tennis, I’ve loved tennis my whole life. So engaging in the sport by playing it is something I’ve gained so much enjoyment from and actually watching it. So there were times when I wasn’t even playing, but just to see some of my favorite players play and watch how they hit the ball and really attack different points or how their mindset is, I could feel it in my body.
Speaker 1 00:14:28 So like when I watched Nadal, when the Australian opened this weekend, when he fist pump, I was like, Yes, I’m feeling that too. So when we engage in that fandom or that fan based activity, we are getting positive mental health benefits from that. So whatever it is for you, if it’s a sport, if it’s you know, someone that you, you follow, they really look up to. I also love Naomi, Naomi Osaka. She’s just a wonderful role model and tennis pair. I was really rooting for her and the Australian as well. Uh, and I know she’ll be back. I know she’ll be back. Also talks a whole ton about mental health and so hats off to her. So I’m wondering what ways you can engage in serious leisure by leaning into your fandom and write me back about it. Send me a message. If you’re on my newsletter, you know, I’m sending the little question to you and I’m just really curious about how you can engage in the serious leisure and get the mental health benefits and not just mental health, all health, I should just say total health.
Speaker 1 00:15:35 So I know your brain is benefiting from that. I know your body benefits from that, and I know your relationships can benefit too. Remember, research indicates that you should not feel guilty about the time it takes to enjoy in that activity. Because if you do, you’re not going to feel as relaxed as in as joyful about that activity. So really think about how can I engage in this activity with zero guilt, carving that time out for yourself. Okay, let me know about how you’re gonna engage in serious leisure and take a fandom break, which is having your fan moment. Also, other ways you can have serious leisure, whether that be a book series that you listen to or read a show series. So it could just be a TV show that you’re really into. Maybe you learn some more about the characters. For example. Let me know what you think.
Speaker 2 00:16:31 Thank you for joining us 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.


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