Learning that you have a disability can change your entire world. It can impact your plans, your career prospects, and possibly even your relationships. It’s easy to feel anxious about what’s to come. Here are five tips for accepting your disability and still living your fullest life:
1. Find your support system.
Having a disability often means that you need the right team by your side for physical and emotional support. Assessing your needs will help you find a strong support system. For example, if your condition limits your driving ability, but you still need to get to medical appointments, research your options. Is public transportation available? Does your insurance carrier provide free rides to and from doctor’s offices?
Furthermore, make sure you have people in your life who truly see and hear you. Who do you feel safe talking to about your new health challenges? Beware of the people who only want to commiserate about how hard everything is. Instead, seek those who support you and help you thrive in your new reality.
For example, one young girl with a hearing aid found a creative way to accept having to use a device often associated with older adults. She and her friends made a game using her hearing aid microphone to send secret messages. Choosing to associate with positive people can help you see the bright side of living with a health condition.
2. Test your limits.
Sometimes you simply cannot work up the necessary energy to do what you need to. However, that doesn’t mean that you have to make “I can’t” your default response — sometimes you can. Those moments when you are able to complete tasks deserve a celebration.
It’s OK to safely your limits from time to time. Don’t do anything that will make your symptoms flare too much, but saying “yes” to an outing with friends or a short, easy walk could help you feel strong and connected.
3. Find the right job for your health.
Working with a disability can be frustrating. In some ways, it’s less complex if your disability is visible. However, work life can quickly get hairy quickly when you have a disability that results in a mixture of seemingly “normal” days and days when you experience flare-ups.
Thankfully, more employers than ever are now willing to let employees work remotely. While many remote positions were once low-paying gigs that often provided no meaningful employment benefits, it’s now possible to find career positions that include medical care. A remote position can allow you to work from your bed on days when commuting to the office is out of the question.
4. Prioritize your health care needs.
When you have a disability, nothing matters more than caring for your health. If your mental wellbeing takes a turn for the worse, consider regularly seeing a therapist. Some therapists even specialize in chronic illnesses and disabilities, so they may be able to provide you with coping skills to help you work through your new diagnosis.
You may also need to change your diet if certain ways of eating help you manage your symptoms. For instance, eating more fatty fish and fiber-rich foods can help you manage inflammation. Making smart food decisions is also important because food sensitivities can mimic many chronic illness symptoms or even worsen them.
5. Embrace holistic therapies.
Receiving a disability diagnosis can take a long time — and you may not receive the care that you need. If you can’t access traditional medical care, see if holistic therapies would help you. Some people experience considerable pain relief from a regular yoga practice. Gentle yoga movement tones muscles and eases cramps and knots, and focusing on your breath calms your central nervous system. You may also find Reiki, herbal treatments, massage, acupuncture, biofeedback, cupping, silent meditation helpful. Keep trying different options until you find something that helps reduce or relieve your symptoms.
Receiving a disability diagnosis may make you feel alone, but you also have many opportunities to find out what will make you flourish. Follow these tips for living your fullest life with a disability. Embrace your new reality, and find the support you need to thrive.