Mindset for Stroke Recovery


Learning what kind of mindset a stroke survivor needs when on the arduous journey of recovery.

I ran across a post of someone asking others what they might do differently in therapy if they knew then what they know now about stroke and recovery. It got me thinking. My immediate answer (and the one I typed back) was that I would change my mindset. I needed someone who had been through a stroke to help me cope. I did not understand a stroke nor the recovery process. I wish I had had someone to work with me who knew how frustrating therapy and stroke recovery can be.

Different Types of Mindsets

Our mindset around anything and everything determines our thoughts, beliefs, and actions towards everything. The definition of mindset is an established attitude held by someone. There are two different mindsets. A fixed mindset and a growth mindset.

Fixed Mindset

A fixed mindset says that we believe that our intelligence, character, and creative ability are static things that cannot be changed. A fixed mindset believes your success is based on these inherent qualities.

Growth Mindset

A growth mindset will try to broaden their capabilities, intelligence, character, and creative ability. Someone with a growth mindset believes your mindset will develop at an early age and will affect our behaviors and our relationships with success and failure. Our mindset, including our thoughts, beliefs, and expectations, will organize any information from an experience into our individual perspective and response. Our choices will reflect this perspective. The main difference being someone with a growth mindset believes individual improvement is possible in all areas and in our inherent qualities.

My Mindset

When I awoke after a two-week coma to find out I was in a terrible car accident and could not use my body, I was shocked. The broken bones made getting up to try and walk impossible. I was in the ICU for over two months and an occupational therapist did not come to work on my left hand. I went to a nursing home for nine months after that and never saw an OT there either. My experience shaped my mindset, and I believed whatever came back was what I would get. I did not understand that I could do therapy to help. I was depressed and asked very few questions, if any. I was left to have a fixed mindset based on my experience.

Because I did not receive any information about stroke recovery nor saw an occupational therapist for my hand, I was led to the assumption improvements were not possible and had this fixed mindset for the first 5-6 years after my stroke. I did not know there were things I could do to help get more functional movement from my hand.

However, about 6 years after my stroke I saw in some Facebook groups that others were having improvement in their hands. I was so inspired! I learned we could work on our deficits; we could gain improvement and I wanted to believe that it was possible for myself.

I started to change my thoughts and expectations. I started forming a growth mindset about my stroke recovery. Just because we think one way doesn’t mean we can’t change our thoughts.

How to Help Our Mindset

Stroke recovery is a slow process, unfortunately. Many times, we give up right before we are about to make a breakthrough.

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time. “

-Thomas Edison

This applies to everything in life. With our recovery we need to be receptive, determined, resilient, persistent, among other things. It is hard to be strong and all these things every day but if we can embody these things on most days and apply it to our therapy, there will always be a chance at improvements. Just as Thomas Edison said, we must try again.

What I did

I wanted a do-over. But, I had no idea where to start so I talked to my neurologist and asked if I could get into occupational therapy. She agreed. It was there my occupational therapist first taught me about electrical stimulation. She gave me exercises. I was told the exercises must be done consistently; so despite frustration we must keep doing them. Our brain needs to find a new connection from point A to point B. The repetitions have the neurons checking any new pathways to see which one can make the movement happen.

I got the basics behind therapy for stroke patients and the rest of it sounded like strength training. So often my therapist would say something, and I thought “Oh, I do something like that in my workouts.” I started relating all the things my therapist said to all the exercises I had been doing. Going to therapy was helpful. It was a start. They gave me the tools I didn’t know I needed and now I figure out the exercises that I can do to help specific motions happen. From here it is just consistency in my therapy exercises.

What has helped me with a positive mindset are Facebook groups, other survivors, and exercise. I also find music helpful to get me in a positive mindset. In the beginning, it was people on Facebook who were sharing what they were doing that changed my mindset. This is one of the reasons the Stroke Sweat Squad Facebook group was created. It is a positive space where survivors can share their experiences, be encouraged, and encourage others.

If you want to talk about your experiences, your recovery, or anything else, feel free to email me at michelle@strokestrength.support

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