The physical pain of an injury is one thing. The emotional trauma and mental anguish that comes with not being able to participate in normal activities is another. When you suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI), you experience pain on each of these levels. And when it comes to returning to work, there are many things you need to think about.
5 Tips for Returning to Work
A TBI occurs when someone suffers a blow to the head or experiences an incident where an object penetrates the skull. There are an estimated 1.7 million TBI incidents in the U.S. annually, with 75 percent of these classified as mild concussions.
As Davis, Saperstein & Solomon, P.C. explains, the most common causes of TBI-related injuries and death include falls, motor vehicle accidents, slips and falls, sports and recreation incidents, workplace accidents, and defective products.
Every TBI is different. Some people are ready to return to work in just a matter of days, while others requires months of rehabilitation. Assuming doctors have given you the green light to return, here are some tips to help make the process smoother and safer:
- Be Open and Honest
Hopefully you’ve been in regular communication with your employer and/or clients during your TBI recovery. Staying in touch is one of the most important parts of a smooth reintegration into the workplace. But even after returning, you need to ensure you have open and honest communication with your employer and superiors.
Your TBI may limit what you’re able to do – even preventing you from performing tasks that you once handled with ease. Be up front with your boss about this and try to come up with solutions to these new issues before they become highly problematic.
- Start Part-Time
Transitioning from not working at all to working full-time can be a shock, both mentally and physically. Instead of going pedal to the metal upon your return, think about easing into things. Starting off with a part-time schedule could be a smart idea.
- Avoid Multitasking
Multitasking limits the focus and effectiveness of a normal functioning brain. Trying to multitask while recovering from a TBI is even more challenging. While it’s sometimes hard to block out distractions and stay focused when you have multiple responsibilities on your plate, do your best to avoid multitasking in the first few weeks after your return. This will enhance both your brain functioning and level of output.
- Get Plenty of Rest
Outside of work, you need to make sure you’re getting enough sleep – which is arguably the most important factor in your continued recovery.
According to a study of 30 patients hospitalized for moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries, sleep quality and brain function improve in tandem. Inadequate sleep can prevent you from fully recovering, whereas quality sleep can positively impact brain functioning in the short-term and long-term.
- Accept New Shortcomings
High personal expectations will end up weighing you down more than motivating you to succeed. Depending on the extent of your TBI and the lasting effects, you may face new challenges that didn’t previously exist. Your long-term health and happiness in the workplace is dependent on your ability to accept these shortcomings and work around them (rather than trying to accomplish something you simply can’t do).
Don’t Rush Into Anything
Whether it’s a minor concussion or a serious incident that caused permanent damage to a portion of your brain, it’s important that you avoid rushing back into things. Only return to work when you’ve been cleared by doctors and feel comfortable with your ability to perform job-related tasks.