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10 Ways People With Disabilities Can Practice Resilience

Emotional adjustment and coping with a physical disability can be influenced by a person’s life experiences, personality, and how they prefer to handle issues they encounter. Most people however would not have to deal with something as crucial and challenging as a disability. Having a chronic illness could really test an individual’s patience, energy, motivation and their overall mood.

That being said, developing resilience is a process that takes time and it may not happen immediately. Everyone’s path is different and there is no strict timeline or expectation for how quickly people adjust to their new life circumstances. Resilience is the process and outcome of successfully adapting to difficult or challenging life experiences, especially through mental, emotional, and behavioural flexibility

Here are some strategies for people with disabilities who are interested in building their resilience.


1. Acceptance

It's easier said than done, but accepting yourself for who you are is very important in moving forward in life.

Acceptance does not mean giving up hope in your current self and your future self. It means making peace with your current place on the unpredictable map of life.

2. Focus on what you can control

Nothing frustrates us more than trying to change something we cannot control. You may not be able to walk up the stairs, walk by yourself without mobility aids, or walk at all. This can evoke a lot of difficult emotions and can lead to feeling stuck and hopeless. Instead of focusing on what you can't do, which can be demoralising and discouraging, try to focus on what you can control.

Are you able to dress, bathe, or feed yourself? If none of the above is possible at this point, how would you like a caregiver or support worker to help you? Drawing your attention to what you can do is key for maintaining your sense of self

3. Challenge negative thoughts and beliefs

It is normal to be down on yourself sometimes, especially when you are trying to learn something new or work on a skill. Try to manage negative thoughts and beliefs

Think of a list of points that don’t fit with that thought and replace it with something more balanced that reflects positive tones. For example: “This is hard right now but I can keep improving with practice over time”

4. Remember your strengths

Use these strengths, even in an adapted way. For example, let’s say you are a great cook but cannot use a stove safely at this time. Maybe you can describe to a loved one step-by-step how to make one of your favourite recipes. They will try to create a version that satisfies your taste test!

5. Lean on your social network

You know who you can count on. Connect with the people you can count on, within your family, friends, and others close to you in your social network when you need a boost, listening ear, or general help.

If you would like professional help that is beyond your social network, reach out to a counsellor or therapist to discuss your concerns, and see how they can help.

6. Understand your problem-solving skills

Whether you are a parent, student, working, volunteering, or fulfilling multiple roles at the same time, use the problem-solving skills you have available to you based on your personal, work, and life experience.

Thinking through the issues you are dealing with, taking it as far as you can based on your problem-solving skills, and being open to ask for help from others whose skills complement yours will assist you along your way towards resolving difficult matters.

7. Be optimistic

Instead of automatically thinking negatively about something that’s going to happen in the future (e.g., your medical appointment results, your transition to another home setting, your social outing, etc.), put an optimistic view on it and point your thoughts in a positive direction.

Approaching a situation this way, with careful problem solving as noted above, you may notice that the outcome is not as challenging as originally thought.

8. Practice self-compassion

Self-compassion is also known as self-care. Be kind to yourself through the ups and downs and give yourself a break when you need to rest. Self-care is important for building healthy coping skills and resilience in broader terms.

9. Find purpose and meaning

If you have a new physical disability, you may not be able to do the same job or activities you did before depending on how independent you are now in your ability to take care of yourself and manage different life moments (e.g. personal care, work, school, family, extra-curricular, recreation, etc.).

Once you are medically stable, settled in at home, and able to focus your attention, put deeper thought into how you would like to spend your time. Would you like to go back to work full time or part-time? Can your employer modify your duties and hours to accommodate your physical needs and changing energy levels?

It’s a matter of figuring out what you are passionate about. Start there. Narrow down ideas to your top goals, develop a clear plan, work out a schedule, and everything will flow from there.

10. Practice gratitude

Reflecting on and honouring what you are grateful for can increase your sense of peace and calm. Try thinking about 3 things you are grateful for each day. They can be little or big things based on your terms (and sometimes the little things are the big things!).

For example: being able to get yourself out of bed this morning; talking with a friend on the phone; going outside for a few minutes for some fresh air; watching the sunset in the sky, and etc. Having a positive mindset from practising gratitude can help prepare you for challenges and difficulties in your journey ahead.


For more information about our award-winning, globally-recognised empathy workshop, please email or WhatsApp +6018 296 8828. Photo by Maxim Tolchinskiy on Unsplash.

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