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Leisure and Recreation after Stroke

Engaging in activities that you enjoy can help structure your day after stroke. Leisure activities refresh the mind, the body and the spirit. Leisure can help you increase your independence and give you a greater feeling of self-confidence all while engaging in activities that bring you joy!

Written by: Jannick Thériault, CTRS, Stroke Navigator

What is Leisure?

Leisure is your free time, away from work or duties, where you have the ability to spend it how you would like. Leisure activities tend to be more intrinsic in nature with a focus on perceived freedom, feelings of satisfaction, enjoyment, and gratitude.

Example of leisure activities can include; walking/hiking, watching a movie, drawing/colouring, reading, knitting, listening to music, games, meditating, etc.

What is Recreation?

Recreation is defined as “…the experience that results from freely chosen participation in physical, social, intellectual, creative and spiritual pursuits that enhance individual and community wellbeing.” These are the activities that you may engage in during your free time to bring you a sense of enjoyment, accomplishment, balance, and physical fitness.

Example of recreation activities can include; sports, hiking, going to the gym, fishing, biking, travel, etc.

What are the Benefits of Leisure/Recreation?

What you choose to do with your free time can have a great impact of your overall well-being. Engaging in leisure activities adds therapeutic benefit to your rehabilitation goals. Now, let’s take a look at why leisure and recreation are so important.

  • Promotes overall quality of life

  • Provides satisfaction, enjoyment and pleasure

  • Enhances belonging in a community

  • Promotes skills development

  • Increases self-esteem and self-confidence

  • Promotes self-management and self-efficacy

  • Reduces stress

  • Provides social engagement

  • Allows personal and spiritual growth

Ways to Engage in Leisure Activities after a Stroke

Think about the meaning and the role of leisure in your life

First, reflect on what leisure means to you? What importance does it hold in your day to day? Try looking at what brought you joy before your stroke and how you can engage in activities that give you the same feelings.

Identify your current activities and interests in leisure

Reflect on the things you like to do in your spare time. Think about the activities you enjoy, the activities that you do, the activities you used to do before your stroke and the sense of pleasure you gain from engaging in such activities.

Who can help you re-engage in your leisure activities?

Your family and friends are a great support network and people who can help you re-engage in leisure activities. Make sure you are ready and ask for help if needed. If your family or friends feel overwhelmed or are unsure where to begin they can reach out to occupational therapists, physiotherapists, social workers, recreation therapists and/or psychologists, these health professionals are all able to help you resume your leisure activities.

Adapting some of your leisure

It is possible for you to return to your previous leisure pursuits after a stroke. Depending on the severity and outcomes of your stroke, you may need to adapt some of your past leisure activities. Doing things you enjoy and connecting with others can boost your mood, and relieve stress.

For example: If you find yourself unable to hold/read a book there are ways you can still enjoy reading. Some of the options available include; book holders, large print books, electronic readers and audiobooks.

A health professional such as an Occupational Therapist or a Recreation Therapist can help you find ways to adapt your leisure post-stroke. These can include assistive devices, modified equipment or finding a suitable location to accommodate your leisure needs.

Look at your leisure from a different perspective

Get creative and adventurous! Seek new activities that are meaningful to you. Learn to look at things in a different lens. Let’s say you were someone who loved to walk in the woods and observe birds but are unable to at this current time, there are alternative ways to bring yourself the same sense of enjoyment but in a different way. You could view documentaries on birds, you could read a book, view a YouTube video of birds, place a bird feeder in your yard or go on a virtual walk in the woods all from the comfort of your own home capturing the same essence and value of this activity and what it brings to you.

Lastly, don’t give up! With a positive mindset and perseverance you will learn to enjoy your leisure and recreation after a stroke. Finding the time to enjoy and participate in activities that are meaningful to you play an important role in your overall quality of life.

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