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The Importance of Practicing Self-Care as a Disabled Person

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Self Care Quote 1

What exactly is self-care, you might ask?  Self-care is the active participation in enhancing the quality of your physical, mental, and emotional health.  Some people erroneously believe that nurturing the self is for those who are weak, fragile, or are slackers.  Self-care is something that everyone should practice regularly, and make time for.  Self-care is unique to each person because there are different activities that each of us can do that will allow us to “recharge” our batteries to be fully present and helpful to ourselves, our loved ones, and our obligations/responsibilities.

Realizing I Have Severely Neglected My Self-Care Practices:

Being a disabled advocate, social worker, caregiver, friend, & businesswoman, I have severely neglected my self-care regimen.  The downward self-care spiral started with the hearing aids battle I endured from a federally funded, state-agency that refused to provide assistance to me, though I qualified under their program.  This was a seven months battle that resulted in me contacting a federally-mandated agency at the Governor’s Office to become involved, and then finally getting approved for the hearing aids in June.  During this time, I went through a long period of mild depression that I did not realize until near the end of the episode.  The only thing that kept me going was focusing on RYV!, and brainstorming new projects and ideas for the second year of its existence.  The things that I enjoyed doing – reading, journaling, spending time with friends, taking on new artistic means of expression such as playing the guitar and painting – did not happen.  What took the place of my self-care activities was excessive sleeping.  Though I was “well-rested,” my “well of health” was bone dry.

Making Self-Care a Priority Again:

When I finally overcame the hearing aids battle by receiving my new “ears” early July, that was when I began to feel like my old self again, and started craving the simple pleasantries that brought joy into my life.  I began making plans to spend time with my friends, and being around those in my support system felt like a breath of fresh air.  I rebooted my interest in painting and guitar playing, which I plan to fully attack this month.  Scheduling the time to journal and read outside during my second favorite season has been fantastic.

One thing I noted during this self-care neglectfulness period – when I am not taking care of me, I cannot effectively care for my responsibilities or those I love.  When I am weak, drained, and stressed, everything is affected by the low energy I have.  When I am not at my best, it shows, no matter how hard I put on a smile to conceal my trial.

Why Self-Care is Important for Disabled Persons:

As a disabled person, I know that my health has the greatest potential to be negatively affected when I do not practice self-care on a daily or weekly basis.  We as disabled persons have to deal with challenges regarding our visible and/or invisible disabilities, along with the titles and roles we have (look back at the short list of titles I have at the beginning of the post).

Online, I see a great number of us struggling to find that self-care balance, which is due in part to our self-imposing guilt of taking time for ourselves.  Let me say this loud and clear:  NEVER feel guilty or ashamed to admit that you need some personal time, or “me time,” as I like to call it.  You are your star player, and that means putting your needs and health first.  Making time for yourself is not selfish; it is the responsible thing to do.  You are only ONE person with only so much stamina to get through the day.  You cannot be everything to everyone when you are not honing in on what matters to you.  Society has a grotesque way of making people with disabilities feel as if we are not doing “enough” with the viral inspirational porn images and videos that displays disabled persons doing ordinary, everyday tasks and dubbing their actions as “exceptional.”  That unsound play on one’s psyche can create feelings of inadequacy, which can manifest into one accepting that they will never be as good as everyone else, regardless of ability.  This self-defeating mentality has the potential to grow out and affect every aspect of that disabled person’s life, from their self-confidence to their interactions with the world around them.  Life as a disabled person is hard enough without taking on beliefs that making self-care important makes you inferior.

Making Self-Care Mandatory in Our Lives:

Self-care is not an option for healthy living; it is a requirement.  Every disabled person (and non-disabled person) have to figure out what activities/events that allows you to unwind and enter into that special place of serenity.  And when you are equipped with your self-care “to-do” list, implement it into your routine.

Over the weekend, I came across a self-care challenge that inspired this week’s post.  Greatist created a challenge for this month surrounding self-care.  For the next 31 days, Greatist outlined activities that can be done each day to allow us to relax, reflect, and reconnect to our star player – ourselves.  You can substitute activities to fit your specific lifestyle and ability, but the overall goal is to begin practicing self-care, and being aware of how its effects can benefit you, inside and out.

Image of August 2014 Self-Care Challenge calendar.  Calendar lists activities that promote self-care throughout the month of August.
Click the link to view & print the PDF version of the challenge:
Greatist’s August 2014 Self-Care Challenge

Along with the monthly challenge, this nifty self-care checklist is a great way to pinpoint behaviors/actions that are harming you, and replacing them with activities that will replenish you physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Image of a self-care checklist, divided into 2 columns.  Column on the left details activities that are harmful or negative, and the right column outlines positive, self-care activities one can undertake to be healthy.


Final Thoughts about Self-Care:

Self-care is significant, and until we as a community, and society, see it as such, we will continue to disregard this vital lifeline.

Tell me, RYV! readers, how do you practice good self-care?  What activities allows you to separate yourself from the hecticness of the world, and focus on your needs?

(Featured headlining images:  Courtesy of Pinterest & Greatist.)

About Vilissa Thompson, LMSW

Vilissa is the Founder & CEO of Ramp Your Voice!, an organization she created to establish herself as a Disability Rights Consultant & Advocate. Ramp Your Voice! is a prime example of how macro-minded Vilissa truly is, and her determination to leave a giant "tire track mark" on the world.

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