Everyone copes with stress in their lives, but not everyone must deal with a disabling impairment. According to a 2010 survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have a disability (Americans with Disabilities, 2010). More than half of the adults reporting an impairment indicate that it is severe, with trouble concentrating or coping with stress being one predictor of severity (Id.). The report also showed Americans with severe disabilities are less likely to be employed and more likely to experience persistent poverty (Id.).
Adjusting to a severe disability is a long-term process, and the stress of the situation can become difficult to manage. A severe medical impairment can prevent you from finding or maintaining employment, and the lack of income affects your entire household. You may even lose your home in the process, and be financially forced to move. Often, the pain and strain of dealing with a disability creates additional stress on friendships and marital relations. Many persons and families with disabilities suffer from isolation and loneliness. Having a disability tends to increase stress, and conversely, increased stress can contribute to poorer health.
While having a disability may not be a choice, the actions you take can impact how well you recover from or adjust to the stress surrounding a disability. Therefore, it is important to develop effective coping strategies as early as possible. To cope with disability-related stress in the short-term, employ reduction tactics such as exercise, meditation, crafts, reading, writing, or talking with a friend. A temporary break can provide the respite you need to manage the daily routines in life. In the long-term, consider seeking professional counseling or support groups, particularly those specific to your specific diagnosis. Many online support networks exist as well, which can be particularly useful to those not living in large urban areas. Developing and maintaining a strong network of friends and family who can offer physical, financial, or emotional assistance is paramount to achieving happiness and well-being for persons living with a disability.