I’ve experienced a total of 4 concussions through out my life; the first was a ski accident when I was 16, and the most recent when I was cycling when I was 30. The most recent one left me feeling dizzy, disoriented and with a massive headache. I was in grad school at the time and had been on my way to meet a friend to study. After that, reading was difficult, my concentration (normally very keen) was non-existent, and the light from my computer felt like daggers at the backs of my eyes. I had no energy. Luckily, I was able to go home, rest and take a couple of days off from school to recover. By the following week, I was back at school and back into my regular routine for the most part.
While I am fortunate that the majority of my symptoms from concussion (or my mild Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI)) disappeared, a subset of this population experience post-concussion syndrome (PCS); where their symptoms persist months even years after injury. The brain creates a sort of negative feedback loop. As one can imagine, this can lead to major disruptions in everyday life with symptoms ranging from cognitive, physical, psychiatric and emotional dysregulation.
One of the biggest challenges to concussion recovery is the individuality of injury. Each person responds differently. Unlike a deep cut or a broken bone, where the path to recovery is straight forward for nearly everyone (stitches and a cast), the brain is much more complex. For years, the primary focus for mTBI recovery was on the physical symptoms. Fortunately, doctors and researchers are beginning to realize how important mental-emotional healing is for sustainable long-term recovery.
That’s where meditation comes into play.
One can imagine how a life altering injury leaving you unable to do the things you know and love could affect you.
People get stuck focused on the past and a sense of loss of the future; focusing on the person that they used to be and comparing that person to who they are now. That can create a dangerous negative loop
that exacerbates these feelings, further decreasing your mood. No matter which style of meditation you practice, focusing on the present moment, feelings, emotions and sensations allows you to re-train their mindset on what’s happening to you. This helps you make peace with your experience. It allows you to let go of the past and the future.
Neurologically speaking, when a person gets a concussion, their brain goes through a series of metabolic disruptions that totally throw it out of sync. This can lead to the emotional and physical dysregulation that are key contributors to mTBI symptoms.
Research has found that meditation increases gray matter in areas of the brain that are associated with attention, emotional regulation and mental flexibility. In other words- all areas of the brain from where concussion symptoms stem.
Amazing, isn’t it? It’s almost as if meditation was designed to help with concussion and neurological recovery.
While the acute symptoms from my concussion disappeared, there is one persistent symptom that I’ve struggled with- depression. Fortunately, meditation has been my remedy for that. I had meditated off and on over the years but when I committed to making a daily practice; that is when I really noticed the difference. My daily mindfulness practice helps support my mood by keeping me grounded, present and grateful for all the things I have going on in my life. I started with just 10 minutes a day. If ten minutes is a stretch, then start with five, or even three. Any amount of time that allows you to take a moment and focus on your breath and be present is enough time. All it takes is breathing in, and breathing out to see just how your body and mind respond.