Toolkit: Disability 101 - What is self-care, really?
What is disability? Are all disabilities obvious & do disabilities change over time? Is disability part of “diversity”? What is “self-care,” and how do I take care of myself when I have to work/study/socialize/function?
What is self-care, really?
Even if I identify as “disabled,” what exactly does self-care mean when I have to study full-time and/or work full or part-time too?
While some university disability services and/or human resources provide low or no cost resources/organizations for chronically ill and/or disabled students/employees, “self-care” is a practice developed over time with the goal of avoiding physical and/or emotional exhaustion (for example, pain “flare-ups” or the “pain cycle”). For my part, I learned and began practicing self-care when I became part of a small cohort of disabled students on my university campus. Unfortunately, “self-care” is often pejoratively conflated with “a day at the spa”—this is false and ableist! Rather, self-care is about learning how much energy is consumed by daily tasks (everything from putting on makeup to walking to lunch to studying/sitting/computing to socialization to driving).
For example, if driving is a pain trigger, too much time behind the wheel can result in difficulty staying seated during a lecture or at your desk, et cetera. What do you do? First, get your necessary disability accommodation to include frequent breaks, standing, and a height adjustable desk in class or lecture; two, arrange for ADA transportation and parking and/or carpooling (especially with another disabled peer), and more. In a country where people are encouraged to go to work while they are sick (for example, with acute, infectious illnesses like respiratory illness or flu), and, thereby, create public health issues for the sake of the economy, how can we really practice self-care? Disability community is easily the best way to reinforce the very real and necessary tools for self-care. If you aren’t comfortable with the disability community on your campus or in your workplace, there are countless accessible communities available online.
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