How to Mentally Cope with Knowing Your Life Has Changed After a Spinal Cord Injury


Experiencing a spinal cord injury is one of the most difficult things any human can go through. Many people say it's like dying and being reborn again because life is so different afterwards. Depression, anxiety and trying to find your place in the world post-injury commonly occur. This huge change is not easy to get used to, however, but fortunately, there are several things you can do to make the transition easier. We've compiled some of the best advice from spinal cord injury survivors below.

Take It Day by Day

As the old adage goes, "Time heals," and many people with spinal cord injuries, reiterate this often. Many believe that it takes around 2 years to finally feel at peace with their new life or to at least feel hopeful again. For others, this can come earlier or later. The best advice we can give is to take it day by day. Mentally dealing with such a massive change as paralysis is not easy. By taking it day by day, you're giving yourself time and permission to heal while knowing that with time and patience, you will inevitably feel better.

Accept Old Life Is Over & Must Build New One

Many people with paralysis suggest looking at the days after a spinal cord injury as a fresh start. While it is natural to mourn your old life, it's a good idea to accept many things about your old life will never be the same and to focus on building a new life in which you can participate fully. This may involve changing jobs, partners or even where you live. Mentally thinking about your injury as a new chapter forces you to continue writing the new chapter, ie, and building a new life.


Stretching is often suggested as a solution for many problems, from back pain to helping through mental blocks. And lo and behold, it should come as no surprise that stretching can also help with mentally coping with the overwhelming changes a spinal cord brings. The science behind stretching is simple - it helps your muscles and blood flow, helping you feel better and therefore feels mentally better. Many people like to start their day with stretching, or yoga. Range of motion is another highly important method of stretching you should do twice a day.

Join Clubs

One of the best things you can do to mentally cope with a new spinal cord injury is to keep your brain active, and a great way to do this is to join clubs or groups around interests that you love. Maybe this is a car group or a gaming group. Whatever the group or club, we suggest finding one and attending even if it's over Zoom. Not thinking 24/7 about your injury is a very good thing, and a club can make this happen. 

Sunshine & Fresh Air

Never underestimate the power of simply getting outside and taking in the fresh air. You read this often in books about years gone by when people would go outside to take in the air on a daily basis. The theory behind it is quite simple - fresh air and sunshine are huge influencers on mental health. It can ground you, helping you become mentally sound and strong. Even if you live in a big city, rolling your wheelchair around the block each day can be a good thing.

Adaptive Sports & Daily Exercise

You hear it over in over again because it's true, adaptive sports like wheelchair basketball, adaptive rowing, sit-skiing, you name it, the adaptive sport has changed someone's life with paralysis. Many people at first shrug off adaptive sports thinking it’s simply not for them, but once they try it they realize it's much more than just a sport, it's about being around others who understand you and being part of a team. And don't forget the power of exercise. Studies have shown over and over again the benefits of exercise on mental health. If you can, try to exercise at least three times a week.

Believe You’re Here For a Reason

If you’re an atheist, then this next tip may not be for you but for everyone else, try to believe you’re here for a reason. Many people firmly believe their injury may have been one of the worst things in their life, but believe they’re here for reason, whether it is to teach others about disabilities or the masses on the power of resiliency. Many people think that their injury occurred as a lesson not for them but for others.


Don't forget the power of letting it all out, ie, venting, but make sure you vent to the right person. Holding all your frustrations in about how your life is so vastly different is never a good idea. Instead, try to find a mental health professional. Or if you have a family member or friend who can listen, try them. Either way, don't fold in your emotions about how much your life has changed. This will only become toxic and make you feel worse.

Try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT, known as cognitive behavioural therapy, is a popular form of talk therapy that helps change the way you may think or believe about certain things in life, which can help immensely after a spinal cord injury, such as having negative perceptions about living with paralysis. CBT typically helps with depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Work Hard to Pursue the Same Goals as Before Injury

And last but not least is working towards the same goals you had before your spinal cord injury if it’s still possible. Do not let your injury take away your hopes and dreams if those goals are important to you. Many people try incredibly hard to pursue the same goals they had pre-injury, such as becoming a medical doctor, and they still complete them after their injury. This can give you a huge sense of accomplishment and greatly help you mentally with the massive life changes after a spinal cord injury.


Do not try to deal with the massive life change of a spinal cord injury alone. We hope our suggestions helped and please reach out to a mental health professional if you feel you are severely struggling.

Topics: Accept Old Life Is Over & Must Build New One, Stretch, Sunshine & Fresh Air, Work Hard to Pursue the Same Goals, Take It Day by Day, Believe You’re Here For a Reason, Vent, Try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

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