You just hit rock bottom. What do you do now?
You have zero motivation. How do you take action?
You want to love living. But you don’t know where to begin…
Well, I know exactly how you feel. Exactly.
I felt like I was living at rock bottom for about 15 years of my life. Through that 15 struggle, I figured out how to flip my perspective, start taking action, and finally start turning my rock bottom into my breakthrough.
5 Ways to Persevere After Hitting Rock Bottom
Today’s post is in collaboration with my friend on YouTube Lena Elsborg. Lena also had a hemorrhagic stroke so we decided to do a video together talking about 10 Ways you can persevere to reach your goals.
I’m going to list my 5 in this post, so once you’ve watched, you can head over to Lena’s YouTube channel and listen to her 5.
Let me start by telling a bit of story. I had a hemorrhagic stroke back in 2008, just 3 months after my 14th birthday. The stroke was caused by an AVM rupture in my cerebellum which affected the left side of my cerebellum and the right side of my cortex. The injury left me with lack of control over the left side of my body as well as balance and coordination issues. For about 9 years post-stroke, I felt like I was living as a completely different person. But at 9 year mark that I finally got a chance to learn about what happen to me, talk about the negative thoughts in my head, and figure out how to persevere to reach my goals as a different Ella.
1) Where there’s a will, there’s a way (meaning you need to adapt, not quit)
Before my stroke I was an avid soccer player. I lived and breathed the sport, I played competitively, and I was obsessed with getting better with the hopes that I’d play in Europe one day. Then the stroke happened and the way I used to be able to play soccer changed — I couldn’t play the same way anymore and I felt like that meant I couldn’t play soccer at all.
But not anymore!
I realized that even though my physical ability had changed, I had the mental capability to figure out how to still play soccer. And that’s when I started to adapt and figure out a way.
I did 2 things:
#1 Because there was swelling in my head due to the stroke and I had missing piece of skull at the back of my head, I could no longer head the ball. So what I do now to find a way to play, is I tell the defender behind me before the game starts that if I ball is coming too high where I might need to head it, I will yell “it’s over me” and get out of the way so they can fill my spot. I also make sure the team knows I don’t crowd the 18 yard box on corner kicks, but I have improved my shot so if the ball does come outside that box, get out of the way because I’m going to be taking a shot.
#2 Because of the damage to the left of my cerebellum and the right of my cortex, the muscle on the left side of my body were affected – I had less control over using them to coordinate movements. That meant passes or shots with my left foot often turned into an embarrassing fail. To find a way to play in this regard, I started either playing the ball on the left side of the field so that I could cut it back onto my right foot, and then use my right foot to play. But if I couldn’t do that and had to play with my left, I follow through with my foot and try to be aware as possible as I am moving my leg to make sure that ball goes as close to the target as possible. It doesn’t always happen but I do my best to try.
See, even though I couldn’t play soccer the same way and I had to accept that I probably wouldn’t be playing professionally, I had a will and a want to play. So I used my capabilities and found a way to do that, challenge myself, and really just have fun.
2) Don’t attach yourself to one identity (meaning, it is possible to have many different “purposes” and goals)
After a brain injury it is very likely that you are no longer able to engage in the same hobbies, activities, or even the same career as you always had. As a result, you might feel like you identity was taken from you — I felt that way for almost a decade after my stroke.
Post-stroke, things like my cognitive processing time seemed to change in a very noticeable way which lead me to feel like my identity as an academic and an athlete were taken from me. So i I didn’t have those 2 identities, I honestly felt like a useless human.
But then I realized that our identities are self-imposed – we can create an identity out anything we work hard to succeed at. So once you feel like 1 identity might’ve been taken, you have to remember the world is at your finger tips and you can learn to create an identity in something else.
And the reason you can have such a fluid identity, is because your true core identity is being a human. Who you are is not what you do. So no longer consider myself a soccer player, but a person who plays soccer. And I no longer consider myself a brain injury survivor, but just a person who had a brain injury.
You were given the gift of a brain, and even though it might be injured it still exists and it wants to be used. And that leads me to my next point …
3) Take advantage of new opportunities (meaning, you could use the after-effects if a stroke to do something you’ve never done.)
For example, I’ve always been a very emotional person, even before my stroke. Now with a stroke in the cerebellum, emotions tend me come on quicker and stronger than before, but they also leave just as quick. It’s like riding the fastest roller-coaster ever. It’s like a Tesla roller-coaster.
But now I realize that my “overly-emotional state” is not a bad thing, but it is actually a gift. Firstly being so emotional allows me to be empathetic. So I can offer someone an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on or even just the question of “is everything okay” when others might not be able to recognize that.
Secondly, being so emotional has allowed me to practice my patience, especially when I feel an argument with someone coming on.
And third, being emotional has given me the opportunity to become more aware of where my feelings come from so that I can address any problems I might be having internally.
I also want to say, please don’t think you can’t do something simply because of your brain injury. Try it, adapt to it, then make a judgment call. One of dear friends on Instagram, Maddi Niebanck, @maddiniebanck had a stroke in May 2017 and even though she is left side hemiplegia (semi-paralysis), she is doing all the Tik Tok dances out there and she is moving her body as a type of therapy! (Follow her @moneyinniebanck) Maddi is such a trooper and she actually wrote and published a book after her stroke called Fast FWD: the fully recovered mindset. You can purchase her motivational and inspiring book here!
There are so many possibilities at our finger tips with new activities and jobs being invented all the time. Dabble in a few different new things, pick one you like the most, and run with it.
4) Take care of your mental health (meaning, you can’t persevere unless you have good mental health)
Burn out is real. In fact I experienced it back in 2017 and I had to take time away from work and from school.
The reason I burnt out is because (1) I pushed myself to the point where I didn’t give myself rest, (2) I tried to avoid negativity instead of being resilient to it so every time negativity popped up I thought I was doing something wrong, and (3) I never learned the importance of talking about my negative thoughts and how to implement self-care.
I learned the hard way that strong mental health endurance is the driver when it comes to persevering and pushing forward toward your goals.
To help stay consistent with my self-care, I’ve figured out a few things that work for me:
#1 Whether I say yes or no to someone else, I always have to be saying yes to myself.
#2 Recognize that if I feel overwhelmed, that’s probably because I am. So I don’t take on any new projects until I have more time.
#3 I leave room in my day for things I want to do instead of just scheduling things i have to do.
If you want to know more about how you can build your mental health endurance then make sure you check-out this video right here.
By the way if you guys are finding this post helpful so far, make sure you take a screenshot/picture and post it to your IG story. Don’t forget to tag me @ellasssofia so I can share your story, and don’t forget to #RetrainYourBrain
5) Be willing to take action before you believe in yourself (meaning, “action is the result of motivation but it is also the cause of it” – Mark Manson)
I get the question all the time, “Ella, how did you just start taking action? How did get motivated to change my life?”
The answer is, I didn’t. At least not at first.
After I burnt out, I went to go see a psychologist (almost reluctantly). The psychologist asked the right questions and she pointed out that I need to start taking better care of my well-being instead of just the perception others had of me being a high-performer.
She gave me lot’s of self-care exercises and although I did not want to do them at the time, I figured, i these exercises actually improve my well being and help me love living, then they’re worth doing. So I gave ’em a shot and got clarity on who I wanted to be in the world. My action is what caused me to get motivated, and that motivation created more action. Eventually my action created momentum and my momentum turned into habit. And here I am now 26 years old and happier than ever to be alive.
Motivation is going to come and go, but you can always take some sort of action.
You have to be willing to be your best even when you feel your worst, because those are those most crucial moments in your personal growth and during recovery after a brain injury.
I hope you all enjoyed these 5 tips, if you learned something today don’t forget to share this post with 1 friend.
I hope you all have a great day and don’t forget to make this the year of you!
Disclaimer: I am not a medical or mental health professional. Any information and content on my website is not a substitute for professional health advice.