Most people who have experienced an injury that took them away from work would agree that their injury did not only affect them physically but emotionally as well. Following a physical injury that takes us away from work, there are numerous changes to our routines and daily activities that cause a domino effect—touching everything from our eating habits to our finances. Indeed, it is the sum of many small changes that can start to wreak havoc on our sleep, energy level, and motivation (among other things) that can contribute to changes in our emotional well-being. Difficulty adjusting to life with an injury and subsequent inability to work are some of the most common reasons for people to seek help from a mental health provider following a work-related injury.
A Work Injury Can Affect You Physically and Emotionally: Because the brain plays a role in our difficulties—and recovery—following an injury.
A major brain-related issue that affects many is sleep. There are alterations in our sleep cycle, either directly due to our injury or following changes in our sleep habits, that can accompany an injury. Most of us know that pain is a major contributor to sleep disturbance—it can be difficult to find a comfortable position and we might feel increased fatigue due to our pain. But stress, whether it be from worries (about the future, money, our families, etc.), difficulty adjusting to extra hours at home with little to do, and any number of other concerns have been shown to contribute to problems achieving quality sleep. And lack of sleep can contribute to so many difficulties! Difficulty concentrating, poor decision-making, unsafe driving, irritability, depression, and even increased pain can be consequences of missing out on precious hours of sleep.
Our sleep habits are so easy to overlook—yet so crucial to our health and well-being!
There are a few simple changes that may help you on the road to better sleep—and faster recovery. For example, even though you may not have to wake up at 6 a.m. for work anymore, your brain would still like you to! The sleep areas of our brain LOVE routines. So, whenever possible, maintaining the same sleep and wake-up time is a basic, yet powerful way to achieve better quality sleep. Another quick tip regarding sleep: Turn off your phone, television, tablet, and any other screens once you get into bed. Even better: Stop using electronic screens for at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Your brain will thank you!
Following a head injury, there can be microscopic damage to brain cells that can contribute to various physical, cognitive, and emotional difficulties.
Another role the brain plays in our recovery following an injury applies specifically to those workers who have experienced a head injury. Head injuries, often referred to as concussions or traumatic brain injuries (TBI), vary in intensity from person to person, so it is always important to discuss your injury and any brain-related symptoms, such as headaches, sensitivity to light and/or sounds, a “cloudy” or “foggy” feeling, dizziness, nausea, balance problems, difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, fatigue, irritability, anger, and increased emotional feelings with your physician. Adding an accurate diagnosis of a mild traumatic brain injury, or concussion, is a crucial step toward getting the help you need and deserve.
If you believe that you may have experienced a brain injury following a workplace incident, we are here to help. Our physicians can help you manage your claim and connect you with the appropriate treatments, such as evaluation and treatment by a neuropsychologist. The same can be said for those who may be experiencing difficulty adjusting to life after a work-related injury of any kind; our team of psychologists and mental healthcare providers is available to support you through the complexities of your injury.
Regardless of the type or intensity of your injury, all workers deserve prompt and appropriate, compassionate care. Access to providers who will listen to your concerns and advocate for your needs is what we strive to provide at Northwest Return to Work. Contact Us to learn more.
Written by Jillian Moore, Ph.D.
Neuropsychologist at Northwest Return to Work