- Trust your instincts. Be patient and honest with yourself.
- Be patient with other people; they may not always have the best reaction, timing, or insight into what you’re experiencing.
- Manage your expectations with a physical to-do list and conversations with your colleagues at work.
- Sometimes it’s okay to step away from problems.
Finding your new normal after hospital discharge
After experiencing a sudden cardiac arrest, getting back to a new routine and your new normal of day-to-day activities can take some time. This includes returning to preferred social settings and work. Depending on the severity of your brain injury from cardiac arrest, it can definitely take some time to reintegrate, but it is possible. It may not be a completely straight path, so take it slow, and give yourself time to ease back into it.
You may feel frustrated or overwhelmed in social settings. Things like repeating your story or feeling like people don’t understand what you’ve been through can be tough to navigate.
It can also feel like an obligation to educate people about the difference between cardiac arrest and a heart attack; constantly repeating this information can feel like a big task.
It’s okay to be selective about when you share your personal story and who you share it with. It’s also okay to limit the details that you share as well. It’s not your responsibility to educate everyone about what happened to you.
Understand that most of them want to support you, but for some people, it might be difficult to take in this information. They may not know exactly how to react or what to say. Be patient with them.
It’s also okay to listen to yourself and set limits for social interactions. You may not feel as comfortable as you once did in a room full of people. It may also seem frustrating if situations that used to energize you now feel draining. It’s hard to experience this change in your reactions to social situations, but It doesn’t mean you will feel this way forever. Allow yourself to spend smaller amounts of time in large groups if needed. When you need to leave, it’s okay to leave.
Planning social activities, planning trips, or focusing on tasks that were once easy for you may now seem overwhelming. It can be challenging to prioritize tasks or wrap your head around a big to-do list in your head.
It can be helpful to physically write out the tasks that you have to do in a day, in a week, in a month, and in a year. After writing them out, assign them to yourself on different dates. This technique gets them out of your head and down on paper so you know they aren’t forgotten. You can come back to them later.
Don’t be afraid to confide in those closest to you and to let them know where you’re at. You can ask for a bit of extra help completing tasks or some extra time to get things done. Sometimes it might feel like a burden to ask those close to you for help, but this is not the truth. Oftentimes, those around you want to be of help but don’t know how. Reaching out to ask them to listen is a gift you can give each other.
If you can take some time off after your hospital discharge, consider it. Even one day of rest can help you reflect on changes to your body, your thoughts, and your approach to navigating different spaces. Of course, everyone’s situation is different, and you may have to go back to work immediately for financial reasons.
In a work setting, it’s crucial to keep honest, open communication with colleagues who you work closely with. If possible, when coming back to work, have a discussion with your supervisor to set expectations. Make a plan to help you reintegrate so you can get up to speed and achieve peak performance. Discussions on expectations are as beneficial to your supervisor and colleagues as they are to you. Regardless of any physical changes (e.g., decreased strength, walking) or cognitive changes (e.g., memory, ability to use a computer or planning ability), it is important to acknowledge life does not continue exactly as it was before the cardiac arrest.
Try not to compare yourself now to yourself before the cardiac arrest. Take life and your recovery one step at a time and one day at a time. See if you can set up a more flexible work arrangement where you can take short breaks to recenter yourself or step away from overwhelming tasks. Remember that changes to your workload may take time, and your work day may look a little different than it did before. That’s okay.
Always trust your instincts, and be open and honest with yourself, too. If something doesn’t feel right, speak with someone you trust or confide in. It’s important to voice your concerns, whether verbally or written on paper, to help you work through the concerns and figure out if the issue is solvable. If it is not, sometimes it’s okay to step away and give yourself permission not to solve every problem you come across.
You may also feel sad and discouraged that you don’t immediately feel the same about a job that may have once brought you joy and fulfillment. It can be scary to feel this and wonder if you’ll ever be able to go back to how you were. Remember, this may be short-term in some cases. There is no reason that, with time, you won’t be able to reintegrate back into your work life – possibly in a new way – and feel even more professionally fulfilled than you were before. Don’t lose hope. Take it one day at a time, one step at a time.
Thank you to our contributors
Katrysha Gellis & Danielle Rojas
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