Temporary disability and what it’s teaching me about life
Guest post from Amanda Bouch
Recently I had an accident on my bicycle and as a result, I’m laid up with my right leg in a brace and unable to put weight on it for 8 weeks. I’m just over two weeks into this temporary disability and already it is teaching me quite a few life lessons.
These fall into three main topics, which I would like to share with you and would welcome your thoughts and comments:
- Be grateful not complacent
- What is equality in disability?
- Develop self-reliance AND accept the kindness of others
Be grateful not complacent
That first shower after 7 days – bliss! This is one simple example of something that I’ve not really thought about and therefore not valued properly. But when you don’t have it, you appreciate how much you take for granted. Little everyday things we are complacent about until they are taken away from us. As I am being reintroduced to these everyday things, I am so grateful for each one and I plan to sustain this gratitude.
As I write this, I am grateful to my own body for its ability to heal. So far today I have not taken any painkillers and I’m feeling ok. I believe that your mental attitude does influence the body functions, so I will daily thank my body for the work it is doing to heal and encourage it to do more. I’ll take good progress as evidence that it works (and, of course, I’ll do the physio exercises diligently too!)
What is equality in disability?
Fully able, mentally and physically, is not the same set of conditions as partially able and it seems to me that equality of opportunity for each cannot be the same. I may be only temporarily disabled, but this experience is teaching me that I can’t do the same things as I could when fully able. It takes more effort and time to do some of the simplest tasks. It takes more grit, determination and time to complete more complex tasks. I have a higher need for rest breaks and sleep to deal with the disability and can do less in a day.
I was coaching a client on how to manage her employer’s expectations. They knew that she was under a lot of physical and mental stress while her mother was slowly dying and agreed to reduce her days from four to three days a week. However, their expectations of what she should be capable of were still greater than her capacity. As a result, she felt even more stressed. My client was worried about the impact on her performance review. Yet she was working as hard as she could in the time at work.
What do we have to do to get through to managers what is a reasonable expectation?
Stress and mental ill-health can be invisible
We can see that an individual has a broken arm and therefore we don’t expect them to work as fast on the computer, for example. But we can’t see mental brokenness, so continue to expect full capacity, when the individual needs some slack. The stigma associated with mental ill-health means that people find it difficult to own up to any issues. Also, often managers are not trained in recognising the signs or in how to support an individual with mental health issues.
Individual and group awareness and responsibility
Education is the fundamental answer to resolve these challenges and create greater equality, especially for those with invisible conditions. Companies can provide employee education and create the right conditions so that people feel able to speak up when they have issues.
Leaders and managers are responsible for creating an open, non-judgmental, no-blame culture, where people feel safe to speak up – this benefits everyone. When you feel safe to speak, you will raise concerns, share ideas, offer to help and be willing to ask for help. These are all healthy behaviours that encourage creativity and high performance as well as supporting those who need support.
Who would not want to work in such an open and inclusive culture?
Develop self-reliance AND accept the kindness of others
Each knock-back you receive is an opportunity to develop greater resilience. Resilience is learnt through working through life experiences. With each one you deepen your knowledge that you can cope and that gives you strength to deal with the next knock-back. This gives you confidence in your own self-reliance, which is a strength. However, I’ve also learnt that it’s important not to be so self-reliant that you put up a barrier to the kindness of others.
Giving help stimulates positive hormones in the brain and makes you feel good, that alone is a good reason to let yourself be a little vulnerable and accept help.
There are many other reasons to say ‘Yes, please’. You probably need the help, as the offer is for something you can't do for yourself at the moment. You both benefit from the social contact and both feel good about it. Say ‘Yes please’ with a smile when people offer help.
Lessons for life
It took the repercussions of an accident to teach me these lessons. The ongoing lesson is to be more mindful of what is happening and to be grateful for the little (and the big) things in
life. What are your life lessons?
Guest Contribution from Amanda Bouch. International Women's Day 2020
Amanda is an Executive Coach and supports leaders and managers to step fully and confidently into their role. Whatever is holding you back, Amanda helps you to resolve it and develop strategies and tactics that work for you, so you can fulfil your potential.
Image credits: Pixabay and Amanda Bouch