Staying Motivated After Stroke

From dietary changes to new medications and exercise regimens, stroke survivors receive countless lifestyle recommendations from their healthcare team. Survivors are often left confused about how to prioritize and implement this advice. They might not feel capable of additional routine changes if they are also adjusting to different physical abilities and difficult emotions following stroke.

Whether one is contemplating or committed to a health decision, understanding the psychology behind motivation can help remove obstacles in the path towards change.

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Factors Influencing Motivation to Make Healthy Changes:

  1. Health beliefs drive an individual's health decisions and behaviors. For example, a stroke survivor might not follow the doctor's advice to take medication consistently because they do not fully understand the consequences. They might percieve barriers to refilling the prescription as greater than the risks of not doing so. This individual would likely be more motivated to refill the prescription if their health beliefs were different or better-informed.
  • How to get stroke-savvy: Stay educated on staying healthy after stroke to ensure that you are performing a thorough cost-benefit analysis when making lifestyle decisions. Discuss your concerns with your healthcare providers if you are bogged down by barriers to their suggestions. They can work with you to come up with solutions or provide additional information that might make a difference in your motivation.

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  1. Self-confidence is considered the strongest predictor of behavioral change. However, self-image may be disrupted as a result of a stroke, especially if it results in changes to one’s body or mind. Stroke survivors may feel discouraged by thoughts of their previous performance before the stroke or comparisons to able-bodied peers. Lack of confidence might cause them to avoid the activity altogether.

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  1. Social Support is associated with better health outcomes throughout life. Stroke survivors often receive advice to build up social support networks alongside acute hospitalization or adjustment to disability, a time when it may seem difficult to reconnect with old contacts. Even with a network of personal contacts, stroke survivors may still feel alone in addressing their goals if they do not know others in their situation.
  • How to increase connections: Draw upon readily-available contacts by reaching out to those in your personal life for support and encouragement. The more individuals you notify of your desires to change, the more that will check-in about your progress. For stroke-specific connections, consider joining an in-person or online support group to learn and grow with like-minded survivors. You might feel more motivated to take on a new habit with the backing of your support network, and it will be easier to stick with it with them cheering you on!

Ultimately, motivation stems from both internal and external sources. When making or maintaining a change seems difficult, remember that building up yourself and turning to your social network can give you the answers, self-confidence, and support you need to achieve your goals!

Kelly, Robert B., et al. “Prediction of Motivation and Behavior Change Following Health Promotion: Role of Health Beliefs, Social Support, and Self-Efficacy.” Social Science & Medicine, vol. 32, no. 3, 1991, pp. 311–320., doi:10.1016/0277-9536(91)90109-p.

Hardcastle, Sarah J., et al. “Motivating the Unmotivated: How Can Health Behavior Be Changed in Those Unwilling to Change?” Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 6, 2015, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00835.

Simpson, Lisa A, et al. “Exercise Perceptions among People with Stroke: Barriers and Facilitators to Participation.” International Journal of Therapy and Rehabilitation, vol. 18, no. 9, 2011, pp. 520–529., doi:10.12968/ijtr.2011.18.9.520.

All information provided is for educational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for professional medical advice. All links to external entities beyond NEOFECT are for purposes of resource provision only and do not constitute paid or unpaid endorsements.

Alison Scarpa
Clinical Manager / Occupational Therapist

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