Return to activities

Leisure/recreational activities play an important part in brain injury recovery. They are great ways to let go of stress, learn new skills and pick up old hobbies. Recreational and leisure activities are also a great way to improve your overall quality of life and level of happiness. There is even such a thing as recreational therapy. This is when you use activities you love as a rehabilitation tool, setting goals to increase your independence as much as possible while also becoming more integrated with your community and creating more purpose. If you would like to find a recreational therapist, reach out to your healthcare team and ask if they have any information or recommendations for recreational therapy. You can also reach out your local brain injury association to find existing local resources.

You may find that because of your brain injury, you may not be able to participate in activities – at least not right away. Your lifestyle and abilities may have been impacted by cognitive, behavioural and physical changes. Some challenges you may face include:

  • Lack of access to accessible recreational resources  (for example, a recreation centre, programs, or adaptive equipment)
  • Reduced concentration, attention, motivation, planning and problem-solving skills
  • Reduced social and communication skills, which make some leisure and recreational activities harder
  • Ongoing or persistent symptoms, such as headache, neck pain or dizziness

It may take time to recover, and the key is to progress slowly. There are plenty of activities for people with acquired brain injury that can be done in short amounts of time, with little or no equipment, and independently or with others. View our idea list of activities.

When you do begin to engage in recreational and leisure activities again, you should make sure to take the following steps:

Take care of your health
Taking care of your health is a big part of brain injury recovery. This means eating well, drinking enough water, creating a good sleep routine, and getting safe exercise. When you feel your best, you’ll enjoy your recreational/leisure activities more.

Monitor symptoms & track your activities and progress
As you begin to engage in more activities, it’s important to track your symptoms and monitor how you are feeling. Use a notebook or a voice recording application or ask a caregiver to help you write down:

  • What activity you did
  • How long you did it
  • At what intensity did you do it
  • How you felt (during and afterwards)

Ask yourself questions such as:

  • Did you notice any symptoms of your brain injury while you were doing the activity?
  • Did they get worse after a while?
  • Did you have any new symptoms?
  • Did you have to rest after the activity?

By answering questions like these, you’ll be able to determine how long you can do an activity before symptoms appear/get worse, and how long you will need to rest. This makes scheduling your day easier, and it will also track your progress – specifically your ability to do activities for longer periods of time.

Most importantly, make sure to ask yourself whether you like the new activities you try. Your recreation and leisure time should be filled with activities you enjoy.

Start gradually
When you do start doing recreational and leisure activities again, it’s important to start slowly. You won’t be able to do things at the same level you did before the brain injury – at least not right away. Start with a small increment of time and a lower level of effort and see how you feel over the next 24 hours. Gradually over time you can build up your time or intensity, or add more activities to your schedule.
Wait for medical clearance from a licensed medical professional
Some activities require a lot of mental and physical energy. You may not be ready to return to these kinds of activities for a while, and you should only start doing them again after you have clearance from your doctor.

If at any time you’re concerned about returning to an activity, make sure to ask your healthcare team any questions you may have.