The Role of Self-Efficacy in Recovery

Health & Wellness
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Recovery from a stroke or other life-changing illness or injury can be physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting and overwhelming. However, self-efficacy can go a long way in improving your outlook.

In the most basic sense, it is the belief in yourself. Our own beliefs in our ability to succeed plays a huge role in how we think, act and feel about our place in this world. It also determines what goals we choose to pursue, the actions we choose to meet our goals and how we handle challenges along the way.

Traits of High Self-Efficacy:

  • Able to overcome challenges and setbacks
  • Stronger commitment to achieving goals
  • Believe that your actions can impact your outcomes

Traits of Low Self-Efficacy

  • Avoid challenging tasks
  • Believe things are happening to you, not for you
  • Focus on failures and negative outcomes
  • Low confidence

How It Can Benefit You In Your Recovery

If you have had a stroke or other illness or injury, you may experience frustration, anger, depression and hopelessness at certain phases of the recovery process.

This negative emotional experience and persistence of challenges can lower motivation. The lower the motivation, the more difficult the recovery becomes. Recovery does not happen overnight, and there is often not a “cure.”

Because recovery is long term, you may feel you are in recovery for a lifetime. Therefore, it is essential for you to actively participate in your recovery. Setting clear goals and having a strong self-efficacy could improve your chances for a better and more sustained recovery. In addition, it is linked to positive health outcomes, including:

  • Better mobility
  • Greater independence in daily living activities
  • Better quality of life
  • Reduced symptoms with chronic medical conditions
  • Overcoming negative thoughts
  • Higher level of well-being
  • More confidence
  • Higher self-goals and stronger commitment to achieving them
  • More effective solutions and strategies to be applied in the recovery process
  • Negatively linked to depression

10 Strategies to Increase Self-Efficacy

  1. Watch your words. Language has a profound impact on our brain. Negative words mobilize the fear center of the brain while positive words activate the rational brain, producing a general sense of well-being.
  2. Be optimistic. Optimism is a sophisticated and wise positivity based upon previous outcomes. Try to recall previous successes and use some of that strength to tackle current challenges.
  3. Celebrate even the small victories. Celebration tells your brain that a behavior was beneficial and it will look for more opportunities to engage in it.
  4. Set goals: Goal setting impacts performance by increasing motivation and directs attention towards goal-relevant activities. Writing down your goals, sharing with a friend and having an accountability partner can increase your chance of meeting your goal up to 76%.
  5. Use positive affirmation. Positive affirmations can motivate you to execute your goals, change negative thinking, enhance confidence and make you feel better. Start with a short affirmation, such as “I am a survivor” or “I am getting healthier and stronger” and repeat it several times a day.
  6. Spend time outside in nature. Being in nature reduces fear, stress and anger. It can make you feel better, both emotionally and physically.
  7. Journaling. Provides an opportunity for positive self-talk. It also helps to gain self-confidence, find inspiration, reduce stress/anxiety and track progress and growth.
  8. Visualization. By merely visualizing yourself doing something, you actually strengthen the same neuro-pathways without having to actually physically perform an activity. Regular visualization helps to focus your mind on what you want.
  9. Gratitude: Expressing gratitude improves mental, physical and relational well-being. Notice the good things, express your gratitude to yourself, thank someone, write a note, keep a daily gratitude journal, accept each day as a gift, and see the beauty in others.
  10. Talking to a friend. Studies have shown that simply talking about our problems can be profoundly healing by reducing stress, strengthening our immune system and allowing us to learn about ourselves. Friends can help you celebrate the good times and provide support during the tough times.

Nicole Link is the lead speech therapist at Mount Carmel Rehabilitation Hospital. She has a deep passion for instilling the belief in her patients that they can and will recover during their time in inpatient rehabilitation and onward. At the root of her work, she recognizes that all patients need to be seen, heard and feel like they matter.


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