The Power of Resilience in Stroke Recovery

Post Stroke Resiliency

Dipika Aggarwal, MD, of the University of Kansas Hospital presents “The Power of Resilience in Stroke Recovery”.

Resiliency After Stroke

What is Resilience?

  • Resilience is the ability to adapt, bounce back and thrive in the face of adversity, trauma, or significant challenges
  • Resilience plays a crucial role in stroke recovery
  • Resilience and recovery are related however, they have distinct meanings and implications
  • Resilience in the context of a stroke
    • Enables to adapt to changes after stroke
    • Promotes maintenance of independence
    • Promotes engagement in rehabilitation
    • Provides psychological and emotional foundation
    • Helps find new sources of joy and purpose in life.

What is a Stroke?

Stroke is a life-threatening condition that damages the brain. It is also the leading cause of disability in the United States. It is estimated that 800,000 people experience a stroke each year. This is equivalent to one stroke every 40 seconds. The fifth most common cause of death in the US is Stroke with someone dying every 3 minutes and 14 seconds.


 Stroke is…

  • Preventable
  • Treatable
  • Recovery is NOT limited.

Stroke recovery has NO EXPIRATION DATE

Keep hope, stay strong and never give up!!

How Resilience Impacts Stroke Survivors

It can also help stroke survivors maintain a positive mindset, improve self-advocacy, enhance quality of life, give meaning and purpose to life, and empowers self-care.


Building Emotional Resilience

To build emotional resilience, try acknowledging and expressing your emotions openly, seeking professional mental health support, joining a support group, practicing mindfulness and meditation, developing coping strategies, and celebrating even small wins.


Mindfulness means paying full attention to what is happening right now, without thinking about the past or worrying about the future. You can practice mindfulness through breathing exercises, meditation, mantras, yoga, or tai chi. Helps you to slow down thoughts, release negativity, and calm mind and body.

Resources for Mindfulness

Here are some mindfulness apps that you can download:

  • Mindfulness coach
  • Insight timer
  • Breathing app
  • Calm
  • Headspace

YouTube Resources for Mindfulness

You can also go to YouTube and search “Tamara Levitt” or “mindfulness for sleep.”


Research shows that meditation can physically change the brain and help:

  • Increase ability to process information
  • Slow cognitive effects of aging
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Support immune system
  • Reduce menopause symptoms
  • Control brain’s pain response
  • Improve sleep

Finding a Counselor, Therapist, or Psychologist

To find a counselor/ therapist/ psychologist you can go to, type in your city or zip code and it will show you providers around you!

Physical Resilience

Physical Resilience

What can you do to build physical resilience?

  • Occupational, physical and speech therapy
  • Regular activities like walking, swimming, or seated exercises
  • Use of rehabilitation equipment: canes, walkers, or wheelchair
  • Home modifications: grab bars, ramps, non-slip flooring etc.
  • Strengthening exercises: resistance bands, light weights, or body weights
  • Stretching exercises- VERY important for stroke survivor
  • You can also use a foam pad or balance board to work on balance exercises, engage in coordination exercises (tossing a ball, video games)

Cognitive Resilience & Brain Plasticity

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to adapt and reorganize through the formation of new neural connections. It allows you to adjust to learning, recover from injuries, and adapt to changes. Cognitive resilience and brain plasticity play the MOST IMPORTANT ROLE in stroke recovery.


Neuroplasticity is the creation of new neurons. This occurs throughout your life and increases after there is an injury to the brain.

Promoting Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity can be promoted through:

  • Occupational, physical and speech therapy
  • Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy (CIMIT): using the affected limb
  • Mirror therapy
  • Mental practice and visualization
  • Aerobic exercise
  • Sensory Stimulation: massage, hot/cold therapy, or textured materials.

You can promote neuroplasticity by:

  • Staying socially engaged
  • Using assistive devices
  • Being consistent and patient
  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle
  • Focus on emotional well-being

The key to promoting neuroplasticity is regular and purposeful practice, combined with patience and a positive outlook on recovery.

Social Connections & Learning

  • Building social connections can help improve your mood
  • Listen to others, it can help validate your feelings/symptoms

There are endless resources out there for you but, go to reliable and authentic ones! There are a few examples on the next slides…