workers, woman in wheelchair listening to Forman

For Listening To Your Body

Written by Lisa Cox

Disabilities come in many forms. Some of them are easy to notice while others are so well-hidden, you can know someone intimately for years without ever learning that they have had limitations. In fact, as many as 20% of the population identify as having a disability, whether it’s physical or mental. This makes disabilities quite common despite the fact that the media has yet to give much of a spotlight to this sector of our society.

Self-care is important but sometimes you need to call in the big guns (like doctors or specialists). It can often be a balance between the two extremes and different situations obviously call for different interventions. In my own life, there have been times I’ve run to the doctor when all I really needed was a break from the computer screen. Other times, I’ve tried the “just relax” approach when I really needed to see a specialist. Hopefully, the below suggestions can help you navigate the nuances of life with disabilities and do what’s best for you.

1. Learn Your Body’s “Stop” and “Go” Signals

No two bodies are the same, that fact doesn’t change if you share a disability with another person, your limitations are unique even if your disability is not. For people who have acquired a disability later in life, learning what your new limitations are in terms of social interaction, work and productivity, adventure, and relaxation are completely new. It takes time to learn more or less how much to expect of yourself, your limitations are yet to be established so take it very slowly and learn your body’s “stop and “go” signals. Some people experience anxiety as a symptom of fatigue. Some people experience hunger as a symptom of exhaustion. As a person with a disability, you have to know when your body is asking for more - more activity, more mental stimulation, more relaxation and when it is asking for less - less stress, less in your schedule, less social interaction and so forth.

2. First Hear Your Body, Then, Hear Your Doctor (Living With A Disability)

Every disability is unique. It doesn’t matter who else shares your limitation and how similar the circumstances are, each person’s experience is different. That means there’s absolutely no textbook way to handle it. There might be generalised suggestions for dealing with the challenges, but you’re the only person who can hear your body’s unique needs and communicate them to the world. Often, the challenges that arise as a result of a disability are exacerbated because alongside the disability, there are other unmet needs. Ask your body: “What are your unmet needs?”

3. Clear The Clutter: Separate Expectations From Needs

There’s an unfortunate inherent low expectation of people with visible (and sometimes invisible) disabilities from the rest of society. This can make it difficult to find fulfilling employment or to be included in social events. Reversely, some people from your personal circle might feel you should be doing more than you are, especially if your disability is invisible. Consider this your personal invitation to toss all of those expectations in the proverbial garbage can. Ask yourself what you need in life to fulfil yourself? Do you want to do more? Do you want to scale back? Once you step into this mindset and discard society's assumptions, you’re able to define what you want from life and pursue it.

4. Give Your Body A Safe Space To Speak Up (Living With A Disability)

By creating a schedule that gives you regular opportunities to relax, your body is more likely to have the space to communicate with you. It’s easy to miss your body’s signals when you’re constantly trying to “get through” life. For some with high-functioning disorders, learning to slow down might be challenging. For others, having a mental break from stress is a challenge. Decide that you will not participate in activities that require self-discipline from you for a select time period on a regular basis, whether it’s daily or weekly. Taking the time for some peace and quiet on a regular basis might lead you to feel tired more often, or lead you to crave more excitement. These symptoms are messages from your body.

Living A Productive And Passionate Life With A Disability

We hear a great deal about self-care and how important is to ensure that we are never depleted because “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. For many people who live with visible or invisible limitations, self-care is potentially difficult to pin down and define. We’re often told that self-care involves bubble baths and wine but in actual fact, it has a lot more to do with managing your schedule in a manner that serves your well-being without compromising for the sake of society.

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