APU Health & Fitness

Top Five Tips for Mental Recovery

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By Dr. Jessica Sapp
Associate Professor, School of Health Sciences at American Public University

Our mental health is just as important as our physical health. However, we tend not to “work out” our minds like our bodies.

During my ACL recovery, I faced challenges with mental recovery. I started doing five things to improve my mental health. These five tips can be used regularly as part of your mental health “exercise routine.”

Keep a bullet journal: There are many articles about journaling, but I think bullet journaling for ACL mental recovery is the best. Bullet journaling is simply jotting down a few words per item on a list of activities.

This method is great because you don’t write long, involved sentences or paragraphs. It takes less time and effort, and it puts your progress and emotions on paper in a therapeutic way.

Bullet journaling does have specific techniques, but you can keep it simple. I just write the date and list my progress or how I am feeling.

Throw out timelines: I was doing well soon after surgery, but I ended up backsliding in my recovery. Now, at five months, I still can’t run or go downstairs easily. So I have thrown out timelines and I now pay attention to where I am today.

Focus on today: I can’t change yesterday and I don’t know what will happen tomorrow. I just focus on today and my daily progress.

I don’t compare my progress to others, only to myself. When I had a setback due to overexertion, I became discouraged. Now I reset my baseline and improve daily.

Listen to your body: Around the ninth week after my surgery, I felt a sharp pain in my kneecap. This was after I had already started doing advanced exercises in physical therapy (PT).

But after four weeks of cortisone patches and modified exercises, there was no improvement. My surgeon told me to stop PT and quit wearing my brace. He said my muscle weakness was putting pressure on my kneecap, but that pain would subside as my muscles got stronger.

You know your own body better than anyone. So listen to it when you feel pain and do what is best for you.

Be thankful: ACL recovery involves a lot of physical pain and mental anguish. It is easy to get consumed by negative thoughts.

I believe it helps to be positive. I become positive when I visualize what I’m thankful for. Be thankful for the good things in your life.

Read more about my physical and mental recovery from ACL surgery.

About the Author

Dr. Jessica Sapp is an associate professor within the School of Health Sciences at APU. She has over 12 years of experience in public health, working in various environments including government, hospitals, health insurance, community, international, corporate and academia. Jessica earned her D.P.H. in Health Policy and Management at Georgia Southern University and an M.P.H. in Health Promotion, Education and Behavior at the University of South Carolina. She also has a B.S. in Health Science Education from the University of Florida.

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