Looking for activities or things to do at home?
Whether you are reading this during the era of physical distancing brought on by the spread of COVID-19 (a form of coronavirus) or if you or a loved one are at home following brain injury looking for activities to stimulate the brain, you've come to the right place!
There are many obstacles individuals living with brain injury and their families face in the process of rehabilitation. Some obstacles make going out into the community challenging (transportation, locations, care levels, scheduling, etc.). So somethings it takes being creative and looking around your immediate environment for activities, things to do, and ways to get your therapies in or work on your skills.
Here are just a few ways that you can keep active and involved after a brain injury.. Be sure to let us know in the comments anything else you are doing to keep busy or work on special skills.
1. Look around your space
Find some activities that engage you with your surroundings. This can be fun and pass time but also work on visual scanning & processing, memory, and movement. When we are in our day-to-day, we may not really take in and notice all that is around us.
Take some photos or draw pictures
- Create or find scenes of objects or nature in your home, backyard, patio, etc. Give yourself certain prompts to test yourself or get you to find new things.If you don't have a camera, try drawing what you see. For example:
- Capture to the color yellow.
- Capture the feeling of happiness (this could be a person being happy or something that makes you happy).
- Capture something that has a story or is special because of what it means to you.
- Capture something alive (plant, animal, person, etc.).
- Capture objects that are opposites (i.e. ground/sky, spoon/fork, etc.)
Have a nature walk
- Get out into nature to have some fresh air, exercise, and ground yourself to the earth. Use your eyes, binoculars, or even glue two toilet paper rolls together to make binoculars. You can do this casually to be in nature or make it an active game.
- See how many items you can find (i.e. rock, flower, bee, tree).
- Give specific points for each item (for example, 1 point for flowers, 2 for bugs, 3 for animals).
- If you know the local trees, print out what they might look like and identify what you see.
- Gather us different types of rocks or nature to use in a collage, paint, or use in a masterpiece.
Have a scavenger hunt
- This can be the most fun but may require some planning. If you'd prefer to be more spontaneous, make it more of an "I Spy" game or "Twenty Questions."
- Play "I Spy" by looking in your surroundings and selecting an object. Then say "I spy something..." and say what color the object is. The group then needs to guess what object you are referring to. Try not to give it away by looking at it too often! Whoever gets it right, gets to choose the next object.
- For "Twenty Questions" you can pick a person, place, or thing. Then the other person has twenty questions to guess what the object is. Try to asked yes or no questions or ones that have two answers (for example, is it alive or dead). If you have trouble with memory, be sure to write down the object or questions asked.
- For a proper scavenger hunt, try and think of specific items that are in your living space or neighborhood (you can plant items around if you want as well). Write these down and give to the person(s) doing the hunt.
- You could also just pick a color and ask to find as many objects that are that colors (for example. red, yellow, green, blue, etc.)
- You could select a category of items or a letter that everything starts with. This can help for individuals that have difficulty naming objects after brain injury. For example, find as many things as you can that begin with the letter, A. Then you can take a break, and try for all the objects with the letter B, and so forth.
- Keep track of how many things are spotted and maybe next time you play try to beat your score!
2. Set a schedule or start a routine
If you don't have many routines, this could be the perfect time to start. Routines can help with memory, attention, confusion, and frustration. You may want to hit the ground running, but try to start with one new change at a time. Trying to take on too much may make it harder to keep up with the habit. Plus, if you're looking to make changes for certain results (better hygiene, mood, behavior, etc.), you may not be able to identify what is making the difference. Make a checklist or have a calendar to help keep you or your loved one accountable.
Wake up and go to bed at the same time each day
- Try to wake up and go to bed at the same time each day. Having a morning & evening routine can help prepare your body & brain for the day/night (washing your face, brushing teeth, getting dressed, etc.). Some things to keep in mind:
- If naps or rest time help prevent brain fatigue, try to schedule those the same time each day and limiting their length.
- Phones, TVs, video games, and anything with a screen could impact your sleep - try to limit late night usage or invest in blue light glasses.
- What you drink and eat can impact your sleep - avoid caffeine, alcohol, or sugar late at night.
- Guided imagery, meditation, sleep stories, and ambient sounds (i.e. white noise or nature) are all used to help quiet inner-chatter that makes it more challenging to get to sleep.
- Even if you don't have much planned for the day, getting up at the same time, getting dressed, and following your routine can help prepare your body and brain for productivity and help with motivation.
Plan out your week ahead of time
- Plan out your week with activities, chores, or phone calls to friends and loved ones.
- Put at least one activity or reward at the end of the week to look forward to (watching your favorite show, having your favorite meal, etc.).
- Have a physical calendar or app to keep track of activities. some apps allow for alerts to remind you and keep you on track if you have difficulty with memory.
- Keeping a similar structure each day can help with confusion and keep a person motivated throughout the day. That doesn't necessarily mean doing the same thing each day unless that is what helps you or your loved one the most. You can divide the day into blocks of time (working on skills, meal time, etc.) including breaks to help manage expectations for the day.
Set and keep track of your goals
- Assess where you started, where you want to be, and what steps will it take in between. Be realistic, start small, set benchmarks, and expect frustration.
- Write down your goals and what it will take to get there, even a timeline if that will be helpful. Writing things down can be a way of making something abstract or difficult to grasp and make it more tangible or concrete.
- Assess how far you've come with check-in's each week. This can keep you on task. You can even schedule in some rewards once you reach a certain benchmark.
- Seek out others to help you with your goal, maybe people to achieve them with you or help remind you to go out and exercise or work on your communication skills or reading with you.
- Create mantras (or phrases of hope and inspiration) to tell yourself when things get challenging or to push you through difficult times. Put these phrases or motivating images around your living space to help remind you to keep up your goals.
4. Get creative and learn something new
Everyone learns differently and may be at different levels in their rehabilitation. Normal chores or activities can actually be working on skills that translate to other activities! Take this time to work on skills & learn something new. Projects can let out creativity to soothe the mind, work on fine motor skills, and more.
- Sometimes all the thoughts in our heads can get jumbled and confusing. Writing it out in a list, story, random thoughts, or in a thought journal can help concentrate your ideas.
- You can use a journal or piece of paper and pen to write your thoughts or type them out on the computer/phone for personal reflection or creative story telling.
- You can also write for public views in a blog, an article for a magazine, or a news channel. This can be a way to tell your story as well as helping others to process their individual journey.
- Some people find video blogs or social media pages with live streams as rewarding ways to help others. This can be a very large task with a lot of moving parts, so be sure to seek advice or assistance as needed before taking this route.
Let out some creativity
- Being able to express yourself can be vital in releasing stress and creating something from nothing. You often learn something new with every project and can work on certain skills like hand movements (drawing, or coloring), processing numbers (like with baking or measuring), and more.
- Some ways you can be creative include crafting, woodworking, sewing, quilting, coloring, painting, drawing, or anything to express yourself! If you have difficulty with planning or motivations, there are blogs or websites like Pinterest that can help give you ideas on things to create or steps to create them.
- Be sure to assess any issues with safety before starting a project (i.e. cutting wood, heating things up, etc.). Not to say this should prevent you from doing the project, but it there is someone to help or ways to prevent harm, be sure to put these in place first.
- Ask a friend or family member to help you or create a plan if you have an idea but are not sure how to achieve it.
Figure out new ways for organization
- Think of some new ways for organization of your space. A new refreshed space can really improve your mood and make your surrounding feel new, even without buying new furniture or decor.
- See if there are decor pieces that can be used differently or ones that you can create if you are crafty.
- Take time to declutter (remove items you may not use frequently). Try donating items that are still in good condition so you don't feel wasteful. Sometimes the more stuff you have, the harder it is to find things and keep track of what you own.
- Determine the best place for items to be (i.e. like items with each other or closest to the place they are used). Sometimes you can put things in spaces "for now" but then never get around to putting them in a more logical spot. This may be different for each person, like where the drink mugs should be placed in the kitchen. Ask yourself is it more important to have things that are similar together because they are easier to find, or to have items where they are most used).
- Try labeling or color-coding objects or drawers with like-items to help with memory and confusion (for example, "silverwear," "pots & pans," etc.).
5. Connect with others
You don't have to feel like you're going through this alone. There are groups in your community or online to connect to. Others may also have ideas on how to get through difficult times, connecting to resources or services, and how to advocate for yourself.
Connect or reconnect with people
- Send a text message, email, phone call, or video call. You can even set a reminder to check-in with them. Just make sure to check off the reminder once you've called so you don't accidentally call them multiple times.
- Some common video call services might be FaceTime (for Apple users), Zoom, Google Meet, Skype, or others! Be sure to check their pricing and options during social distancing. Send the link or invitation to people you know and be aware of any spammers.
- Find a game to play with friends while on a video call or virtually throughout the day. If you have the same app, it can be a way of connecting while playing (games like Words with Friends).
- Have a few questions to ask if you have trouble coming up with conversation. For example:
- What have you been doing with your time?
- Have you been watching anything interesting?
- What is the thing you are looking forward to most?
- Is there anything you can do to help during a tough time?
- Be smart about who you are connecting with and make sure the interest is mutual. There are some people in our lives that may not be the best for us if they take advantage of your friendship or kindness. Be aware of exploitation or manipulation. Learn more about developing positive relationships.
Seek out online or virtual activities
- There are many organizations, events, and businesses offering online or virtual activities, groups, meetings, or therapies. Check to see what you can get involved in. You may be able to connect with new people to relate to based on an interest or experience.
- Some social options to connect with others living with brain injury include:
- Some apps have threads or communities within them to connect with others (playing games, mental health-related, physical heath-related, nutrition-specific, etc.).
6. Be flexible, kind to yourself, & check in
You're basically creating a new routine and a new way to live. You may feel stressed, scared, confused, or angry at times. Check in with your feelings and what might be causing them rather than taking them out on others. Try to find ways to be flexible and kind to yourself.
- Stretching, yoga, walking, dancing, and weights are some ways to workout. Most workouts can be modified or scaled to fit you. Consult with your doctor or a physical/occupational therapist for specific exercises and to address any health risks.
- Seek out modified exercise ideas if needed, everything can be modified depending on skill level. For example, to do an air squat, Keep your feet at shoulder width apart and pointed straight ahead. When squatting, your hips will move down and back, descending lower than your knees. To scale this movement, you can squat or sit to a chair or couch. For examples and ideas, check out this website: Modified Fitness or Shepherd Center: Developing an Adaptive Fitness Routine
- Cans, gallons of liquid, or other household objects can be used as weights to increase difficulty or resistance. Stairs are great cardio (use with caution), chairs for dips or step ups, the bathroom sink or countertop for inclined pushups, or loading a backpack for walks (to increase intensity). Use caution depending on your physical needs (difficulty with balance, strength, movement, spasticity, etc.). Here are some more ideas!
- Find online exercises, like with the American Heart Association Move More, Love Your Brain Yoga, or Planet Fitness.
Take Care of your Health
- Avoid putting yourself at risk for getting sick, wash your hands frequently for 20 seconds each time, and take your medications or therapies as prescribed.
- Keep up to date on COVID-19 resources and updates at NC DHHS and CDC websites.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick and stay home if you are feeling sick.
- Take your medications as prescribed. Contact your doctor if you have any questions about your medications, side effects, immune system function, or if you are more susceptible to types of infections.
Make Healthy Food Choices
- Ever heard "You are what you eat"?What you put into your body can have a direct relationship with your mood, activity, sleep, and more.
- If there are more unhealthy options surrounding you, you might be more likely to indulge. Try starting right by getting healthier snacks (i.e. less processed, low sugar).
- Increase the amount of fruits & vegetables you eat.
- Avoid late night eating or drinking that might impact your sleep.
- For handouts, recipes, and strategies, visit Nutrition.gov or Choose My Plate.
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Activities At Home Video
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