Take Care of YOU - Dyslexia/LD
Take care of YOU - Self-Care for Those with Dyslexia/LD and for Those who love them
Self-care is important for individuals with dyslexia/LD and also for those who love them.
Taking the time to care for ourselves on a daily basis is a good investment in keeping healthy both physically and emotionally. One of the best ways we can do this is through reducing and learning how to more effectively manage the stress in our lives. Many of us with dyslexia/LD and those of us with loved ones with dyslexia/LD are not immune to the negative effects of stress in daily life. The continuous effects of negative stress can affect both our physical and emotional wellbeing. Therefore, it is important to exercise good self-care so we can be the best for ourselves and for those who love and depend upon us.
So how can we begin to reduce the level of stress in our lives? When it comes to managing stress, even small changes can yield big results and make a big difference in our outlook on life.
Some stress is positive but too much can be very draining. Positive stress, or eustress, is considered good stress. It is the stress that motivates us, and keeps us going to get things done in our lives. If we feel the effects of too much stress in our lives, however, we may feel out of balance, overwhelmed, and have difficulty managing.
Too much stress may produce physical symptoms. You may feel fatigued from working at your max on the job or preparing for the next IEP meeting, and may experience headaches, rapid heartbeat, shallow breathing and muscle tension. You may feel run down and prone to frequent colds and other ailments due to the effects of prolonged stress on your immune system.
Everyone handles stress differently. Some of us are able to let it run off our backs, to distract ourselves, work through it, and let it go, and some of us internalize this stress and bring it home with us. Perhaps we have difficulty sleeping at night. How do you handle the stress in your life?
Stress has an impact on your ability to function effectively in your personal and work relationships. You may be feeling a lack of support from your employer or from those you love. You may feel frustrated with yourself. You may find yourself making more mistakes on the job and feel overloaded and anxious about your abilities. You might experience anxiety or panic over work deadlines and your ability to meet them. You may feel disorganized and not able to “get it together” yet afraid to speak up and advocate for yourself.
You may experience a whole realm of emotions due to the stressors in your life. You may feel frustrated with yourself. You may feel lonely over not being understood. You may try to repress your feelings and keep them inside, or you may feel anger towards yourself and others and may lash out. You may feel guilty about lashing out at others and then experience feelings of self-loathing, sadness, and depression.
Are you unemployed and having difficulty initiating the job search because you feel defeated and overwhelmed with the process before you’ve even taken the first step to begin? You may ruminate and worry about your finances and the future. Are you really hard on yourself? Do you feel like you have more negatives than positives in your life? Does any of this resonate with you?
Some of the ineffective ways in which many people react to this accumulated stress is by self-soothing through binge eating or undereating, overworking, substance use or by shutting down, which may begin a vicious cycle of ineffective coping, poor physical health and self-loathing. A person may also become isolative, avoidant and afraid to share what’s going on inside them.
Are you interested in living a more full and meaningful life? Learn how to apply the science of Positive Psychology in your life through Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson's Positive Psychology course offered through Coursera (The course is free unless you'd like to pay a fee for a verified certificate): https://www.coursera.org/learn/positive-psychology
It makes good sense to take care of your physical and emotional needs so that you can build up your reserves to be your best self. Here are some additional suggestions on how you can begin to care for yourself. Deciding to start somewhere, through making healthier choices, will make a difference in your ability to deal with the negative effects of stress in your life.
Medical/Physical – If you have not done so this year, make sure to schedule your regular medical, dental, vision and other checkups including routine laboratory tests by age. Your doctor won’t come looking for your so it’s up to you to take the initiative and to communicate any concerns you may have about your health to obtain any needed care and support.
Emotional – If you are experiencing stress as a result of your dyslexia/LD, narrow down the causes. Are they work related? Are you comfortable speaking to your boss about this? Could it be time for a tweaking or change in accommodations you may be receiving in the workplace? Have you tried any new ways to improve your situation? Here is a good list on types of workplace accommodation from LDA: http://ldaamerica.org/job-accommodation-ideas-for-people-with-learning-disabilities/ . By openly speaking to your employer about your needs and concerns, you have the ability to work together by discussing ways to tackle any difficulties you might be having on the job. Read this informative booklet by Ask JAN (Job Accommodation Network), on how to request and re-negotiate accommodations with your employer: https://askjan.org/Eeguide/EeGuide.pdf
Is your stress relational? Are you feeling undo pressure or criticism on the job? Would you prefer to speak to someone impartial before going to your boss? Is there tension at home? Perhaps you might benefit from taking advantage of the counseling benefits of your EAP (Employee Assistance Program), with a professional who is familiar with helping those with learning disabilities. If your company doesn’t have an EAP, you might consider obtaining a private list of counselors/psychologists from your insurance company who can direct you to a provider who has experience working with adults on stress management and relationships, with an understanding of those living with dyslexia/LD.
Diet - How is your diet? What are you eating and what is eating you? Sometimes stress may cause some people to eat for emotional reasons by binge eating or not eating at all. This may be also true of the Individual with Dyslexia/LD. Discussing your feelings surrounding your LD with a counselor might be helpful as he may suggest more effective coping techniques. Consulting with your physician or a nutritionist is a good idea too. Eating a variety of healthy foods in moderation and limiting your caffeine intake may also help you to feel calmer.
Exercise and Relaxation - In addition to keeping our bodies in shape, an exercise program may help to clear our minds and decrease our levels of stress. Exercise helps to increasing our endorphin and energy levels contributing to our emotional well-being. Including exercise into our daily lives does not have to be complicated. Walking is a low cost and effective way to release stress and strengthen your body. How about trying a Yoga video? Consider signing up for a dance class. Join a gym. Explore Tai-Chi and other types of movement activities. Want to relax? Try guided meditation. Would you like to try some breathing techniques? Try this new breathing app. My Calm Beat: https://www.mybrainsolutions.com/mycalmbeat . Trouble falling asleep? Try this app - Relax Melodies/Sleep and Yoga: http://www.ipnossoft.com/app/relax-melodies/.
Hobbies. At a loss? Think of something you would like to try. Get in touch with your creative side. Take a hands-on class in painting or work with ceramics. Woodworking? DIY projects at home? Getting your hands into something may help you to get out of your head if you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Switching gears and focusing on something totally different and pleasurable can help you to feel refreshed and ready to take on the next day. Like comedy? Visit a comedy club, or just watch funny videos with the family. Let yourself laugh and forget about some of the things that drag you down! Sometimes you just need to walk away from it all and give yourself permission to take a breather. It is often the small and simple things which provide the greatest pleasure.
Learning - Education occurs throughout the life span and is beneficial for your brain and self-esteem. Learning a new task or skill can help you to feel more accomplished and may help to raise your level of self worth. Take the time to explore something new that you’d like to try and avail yourself of the numerous low cost, free and open source courses online. EDx is one free option (unless you choose to pay for an official certificate of completion) - https://www.edx.org, Coursera is another https://www.coursera.org/. Udemy is a paid service - https://www.udemy.com/, but often offers discounts on course offerings. Learning new things helps to stretch your mind. This is a good thing, and as most courses are self-paced, you do not have to feel stressed out about rushing to get them completed.
Connection and Support Network: Your spouse or partner loves you. Your boss may like you, and many of your friends might think you are great, but they may not fully understand the challenges that you experience and what you are going through. This is where getting involved with a network of other adults with dyslexia/LD may provide that certain level of understanding which you desire. Feeling understood, like someone “gets you” for who you are, can make a big difference in your life. Do a Google search for local dyslexia/LD groups in your area for face to face support or consider forming and leading your own if there are none in your area.
Utilizing the many online Dyslexia/LD forums, organizations, Facebook groups and pages is another way to begin to connect with others, to share your thoughts and feelings, and to provide feedback to and feel validated by others. Headstrong Nation’s Facebook Page is a place where we hope you will feel welcomed and supported by other community members with dyslexia/LD: www.facebook.org/headstrongnation.
If you are a parent of a child with dyslexia/LD who needs support, your states local Decoding Dyslexia Chapter FB page or website can provide you with information on how to make contact with other parents: www.decodingdyslexia.net. Another great place to connect with other parents in a chat forum is through Learning Ally’s Parent Chat on FB, which is a closed, moderated chat: https://www.facebook.com/groups/LearningAllyParentChat .
Caring for your physical and emotional health will help you to deal with your stress to keep you at your best. So as you love and care for others, take the time to love and care for yourself too! You are worth it!