With a disability you really need to know your limits, have balance in your life and set boundaries in relationships to others, personal as well as professional. It is something everyone needs in today’s life and stressors, but this can be particularly pertinent if you have a disability. Often the message we get is “just push through it,” especially those who do not have a disability. For those who are disabled this can also be the message to the point of almost overcoming disability. The cumulative effects and stress may follow you down the road eventually with negative repercussions such as depression/anxiety, sleep disorders, etc.
Self-Care is very important for everyone but especially those who are disabled whose health and well-being will not only have long-term effects but short-term effects in systems that do not necessarily consider different ways of being. Recognizing how to have a good life, a manageable life, recognizing what you can and cannot do, and realizing and accepting your boundaries is integral to self-care. Being able to realize what is important to you, in other words knowing your priorities, and knowing when taking a break such as a mental health day can be extremely beneficial. Knowing your limits doesn’t have to be a deficit or make you unproductive. It can be an invaluable tool for you to do your best work and recharge your battery. Setting boundaries and not shaping yourself on the expectations of what others think you should do is integral.
While I was in school, for example, I never pulled an all-nighter studying for exams because I knew sleep was more important. I would not have been able to function if I didn’t sleep. In contrast, many of my peers would cram all night to get the best grades. I had to find the way that worked better for me. Studies have shown that long term effects of chronic Sleep Deprivation include hypertension, heart attack and stroke, weight gain, diabetes, depression, anxiety, memory loss, and immune deficiency.
Overall, easier said than always done. This is especially true because in the systems we live in today in the United States and some other countries. The idea now is to get the most productivity out of employees while they are working. This is shown, for example, by now they are making toilets that are tilted so it hurts to sit for too long. I myself feel bad about not being productive every minute at work because I feel I have to be, not by anyone at work but just by a society that prizes and values someone who works every second and takes little or no breaks. We are also expected to be in a work mode past the regular work hours - with being in constant contact with emails and texts or even the idea that a good worker is always “on.” We have gotten the idea, too, that the most successful people are always working and that is the goal. This can also be matched by the fact that some people have to work more at one job or even more than one job to be able to afford the basics for existing. We have made work an end to a means instead of a means to an end. I strive to live a “good enough” life that is manageable for my needs. Work is important, but it is only one part. Allowing for relaxation and down time during a busy day is essential and restorative.
Accepting these things about myself is essential rather than fearing that I may be seen as lazy or not as capable. Finding the balance that works for me and listening to myself is key.
Founder of Jason’s Connection – an online resource for those with disabilities, mental health, aging and other needs. Jason was awarded an M.S. in Cultural Foundations of Education and Advanced Certificate in Disability Studies from Syracuse University. Jason is also a Project Coordinator and Research Associate at the Burton Blatt Institute, an international think tank for Disability Rights and Human Justice at Syracuse University. He regularly contributes to the blog in his own series called Jason’s View and travels the country consulting and speaking about disability issues and rights. To read more from Jason Harris, read Jason's View.