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Hospital Bed Homework For My Dad: Applying Mind Body Training to Stroke Recovery

Hey Dad,

I know very little about strokes but I know loads about brain and movement science. So. if it were me in your strong, fit and pliable brain-ed shoes. Here are five things that I would do every day to train my mind to create new neural pathways. When you are feeling ready and motivated you can -

  1. Notice, Please take a minute a day to mentally scan your body. Your body schema is going to be a little unbalanced for a while. Parts of your brain that used to register your right arm and leg aren’t working right now. You need to start creating a new body schema so that your very clever and adaptive brain can create new pathways - and bypass the area that is busy focussing on healing.

  2. To reinforce your body schema you need daily massage and touch - especially in the areas that are not clear to you. Let the sensory organs in and around your muscles send messages to the brain telling them that your arm and leg are still here.

  3. Mentally practice moving your right arm and leg. The stats vary but mental practice is still innervating nerves at least 10% and activates the motor cortex at 30%. Even if your limbs aren’t moving, your brain will in some way register them as moving and will reinforce a clearer sense of these body parts. When you can move them again - you need to really move them again. You’ll need to make up for lost time and recreate the strong pathways that you once had for this side of your body.

  4. A positive mindset is really useful when healing. Your brain is more mentally active when you are feeling things strongly. To keep positive you may need some external help. You may need to play some good music (Louis Armstrong’s ‘What a Wonderful World’ might be a good start; I also have ‘Feeling Good’ by Nina Simone and ‘This is Me’ by Kesha on my ‘feel better’ playlist). Another technique is to think of your favourite food or to imagine being cuddled by all of your grandchildren. Really indulge in the memories and sensations, this is a long journey you are going on and the stronger your mental health is the faster you will heal. Please let your care professionals know that they need to frame everything in positive terms. Your brain is creating neurotags for this experience and the more positive it is the faster you will heal (use the sign below).

  5. We know your healing will take time. This is a task that you are equipped to deal with. You have incredible coping mechanisms. You will need to keep telling yourself this and you will need to recognise your daily progress, your monthly progress and your yearly progress. This healing will need a whole lot of perspective and big picture thinking. Video tape each step so that you can see how far you are progressing. Compare Day Two Tony to Day One Tony NOT Pre-Stroke Tony.

The ability to heal is inside you it is inside your body and your brain and you can do it.

I love you.



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