Mild Traumatic Brain Injury/Concussion: your guide to recovery

Mood changes after concussion

A concussion can affect mood and change the way people feel. You may feel down, moody, irritable or fed up after a concussion. Some people may feel nervous, tense, worried and overwhelmed and have trouble coping with their concussion and other stressful things such work, school, relationships and money problems.

Psychological factors such as stress, anxiety and low mood can increase symptoms (headaches, dizziness, tiredness, problems sleeping, memory problems, trouble concentrating) and get in the way of doing things that will help you get better.

Learning to manage stress and taking time to relax is important.

What can I do?

Set up a daily routine and try to stick to it

  • Make a To Do List or use a calendar or journal to write down the things that you want to do each day. When the idea of remembering everything makes you more stressed, you can look back at your list.
  • Check things off when you have finished them. Looking at your list will remind you about all the things you have accomplished and can help you feel better.
  • Keep in mind that it may take you longer to do things after your injury. Remember to take breaks.
  • Don’t set too many goals at once and don’t overdo it. People get more emotional, irritable and frustrated when they are tired and overworked. Keeping track of your activity levels and mood symptoms can help you see patterns and triggers and do more with less symptoms. Learn more about using an activity log and mood tracking »

Talk to your family or close friends about your feelings

  • Family and friends are there to help and support you. They can sometimes help you feel better and might also help you see your problems in a new way.

  • Join a support group through your Brain Injury Association chapter. More information about Brain Injury Resources »

Do something that is fun and relaxing every day

Do things that you enjoy like going for a walk, calling a good friend, listening to music, watching a funny television show, playing with a pet, doing a hobby or anything that makes you feel happy.

Change things that stress you out

  • Think about things that cause you stress and figure out different ways of doing things. For example, if rush hour traffic makes you nervous, then take a different route.

  • Try to wait until you feel better before making major life decisions, such as changing jobs or moving.

  • When stress gets too much, think about doing less. Ask yourself: What can wait? What are my priorities? Is there someone that I can ask to help me? Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Break down big tasks or problems into smaller parts

  • If you have a big project at work or school or have a messy house to clean, break it down and do one part at a time, instead of dealing with everything at once.

  • Write out a list of steps and pick a place to start. Do one thing at a time.

  • Be proud of the things that you have done. If you feel yourself getting upset or overwhelmed, stop and take a break.

Try to stay positive

  • How you think can affect your mood and physical well-being. Negative thinking increases stress. Make a list of the positive things going on your life and the good things that happened each day.

  • Be gentle with yourself and don’t feel guilty about being temporarily able to do less than you used to. You are taking care of yourself and this is what you need to do to feel better.

Learn to relax and calm the tension in your mind and body

  • Try mindfulness meditation to help you cope with stressful thoughts and help you relax, focus and sleep better. There are many mindfulness apps available, and some apps, like Headspace, and Calm are free to download. You may also choose to join a mindfulness or meditation class or group.
  • Do deep breathing. Close your eyes and breathe in slowly through your nose for a count of two. Then, slowly breathe out through your mouth for four counts. Try to keep your shoulders down and relaxed, and place your hand on your stomach. Your stomach should rise as you breathe in and fall as you breathe out. Repeat a few times.
  • Do gentle stretches, yoga or Tai Chi. Check with your doctor before starting any form of exercise.
  • Learning to relax is not easy and takes practice. Remember that what works for someone else may not necessarily work for you.

When & how to get help

How do I know if I need help?

Remember, everyone feels sad sometimes. But if you start to feel worse and spend most of your day worrying, or if you feel down or sad and have trouble sleeping and getting on with your day because of your feelings, then you need to get help. You may also need help if you regularly use addictive substances such as alcohol, cigarettes or drugs to cope with stress or your feelings.

How do I get help?

Talk to your family doctor or health care provider. Emotional problems such as depression and anxiety can be treated in a number of ways such as medication and counseling. Never be embarrassed to say that you need help.

Find out about the treatment and help available. If you want to find out about services and supports in your community, talk to your family doctor or health care provider.

If you have suicidal thoughts, feel unsafe or are in crisis

Visit your local emergency department or call 911.

  • Contact a distress centre. The help line is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
  • If you live in Toronto or GTA call Toronto Distress Centres 416-408-4357 or 408-HELP.

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