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Expert Insight: Emotional First Aid for Physical Injury

With Meg Waldron

Coach Meg  Waldron

Meg Waldron has a Masters in Sport Psychology and works with youth, collegiate, and post-collegiate athletes. In high school she was an All-American in track and field and one of the top recruits in the US.


During college Meg experienced setbacks and injuries that contributed to a feeling of isolation and loss of identity.


She also witnessed the same happening with teammates around her, but with no specific support systems in place to ease the mental bruises. As a former school teacher and running coach, it makes Meg happy to devote her life to helping athletes rediscover joy and express their agency through sport.


Emotional First Aid for Physical Injury


The darkest days of an injury can be the hardest. Besides the physical pain, navigating next steps in your care and the uncertainty of return-to-action can feel overwhelming. But let’s face it, not being able to do your sport is like having your heart broken. Sadness and depression can follow as you grieve the loss of something that made you happy, including your sense of self.

Meg Waldron Running

By understanding the brain’s happy chemicals and how to spark them, individuals recovering from injury can ride the emotional waves each day surfing above (not submerging under) the weight of their disappointment. These happy hormones–Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, and Endorphin–are stimulated in your brain by different experiences. When you cope better with an injury, you sleep better. Better sleep accelerates wound healing, bone repair, and muscle growth, so it’s a win-win.


Many of these actions listed below actually fire-up multiple happy hormones at once, but this is the gist. See how many work for you.



Dopamine

The habit-maker.

Do something nice for yourself such as get your nails done or your hair cut, treat yourself to delicious food, talk to an MS or Dr. of Sport Psychology or therapist, learn an instrument, make art, celebrate rehab gains. Be careful about relying on dopamine-promoting sources such as coffee/alcohol, social media, or screen time. These can be harmful in excess.

Example:

A client felt more empowered after writing a Confidence Resume. Like a job resume, a Confidence Resume is a chronological record of your successful performances, the times you navigated challenges or developed strengths like leadership and patience. Take it year by year for the past 4 years or so. You’ll feel a lot better reminding yourself of your awesomeness.


Oxytocin

The hug hormone.

These are actions that help you feel connected to others. Play with your dog or cat, hold a baby, hold hands, hug, make romance, get a massage, text or call a Warm Line (look it up), have a movie watch party, give someone a compliment or high five at physical therapy.

Example:

A cyclist client post-knee surgery took a day to craft thank you emails to

everyone who had been bringing meals. During stress fracture recovery, a running client created an anonymous injury blog to chart her journey and connect with others.


Serotonin

The mood regulator.

Meditate, sit in the sun, do yoga, sauna, hot tub, swim, take a nap, be in nature, listen to relaxing music, get a foot rub, burn incense or diffuse lavender oil.

Example:

A ballet dancer recovering from ankle injury began spending time in a

nearby park, which re-awakened her love of nature. She was able to gain perspective about the bigger picture of life and her identity. She realised the parts of her that had been put on hold to pursue dancing. She no longer felt trapped by injury, but that she had choices.


Endorphin

The natural pain killer.

Seek out funny experiences that cause deep belly laughs (comedies, silly social media reels, time with friends), cross train, eat dark chocolate, try cold-plunging or an icy shower, smell an essential oil like peppermint, sing karaoke, dance any way you can, watch an exciting sports game, or rock-out at a concert.

Example:

A swimmer recovering from shoulder surgery found that challenging herself

daily with a cold shower helped stimulate an invigorating feeling of positivity and

fortitude.



As we all know, there is no universal magic kiss to make injuries better. After all, we’re human, and our lives have been interrupted. Look for the upside of that penny. Between all of your PT sessions, small happy-hormone-sparking acts are key.


Your brain will thank you.



Thank you Meg for this fascinating insight into the way our brains work! If you'd like to learn more about Meg and the Mental Performance Coaching she offers, you can find out more on her website here.


Want to read Recovery Stories from people going who've been through the rehabilitation process? Click here to read about Matthews's Recovery Journey!



Download the free Brace Community Rehabilitation Mobile App today from our Home Page to empower your recovery journey!


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