Cultivating Emotional Stability in Individuals with Learning Disabilities
If you want to be successful in life, you must develop emotional stability. Warren Buffet has was quoted as saying:
“The key to success is emotional stability.”
This statement is true for anyone. There are times when life feels like an emotional roller coaster. Life can be particularly frustrating for individuals with disabilities. Especially if they face challenges their family, friends or colleagues do not experience.
Whether an individual with a disability likes to admit it or not, there are moments where their disability frustrates them. They know that without their disability, some of the challenging situations they regularly face would not exist. During these moments, it is crucial that they have emotional stability and the proper coping skills to help them through these feelings.
One of the essential characteristics of a successful individual with disabilities is their emotional stability and their ability to handle the stressful events they face on a daily basis.
Emotional stability provides individuals with the ability to take problems they face in stride. This allows them to continue on to reach their goals. They are able to embrace changes and use challenges as opportunities to learn and grow as a person.
Developing emotional stability involves an individual establishing at least rudimentary self-awareness and disability awareness. This awareness does not develop overnight. It is something that can be modelled and taught to an individual.
Simply put, emotional stability is an individual’s ability to stay level headed in stressful situations. It is possible to assist persons with disabilities in developing coping strategies by helping them understand the following:
Mental health is a critical part of an individual’s overall health. It allows them to control their behaviour and emotions in day to day life.
According to the World Health Organization, someone who has good mental health is:
- Ability to cope with the normal stresses of life
- Ability to reach their potential
- They can accomplish what they set out to accomplish
- They are contributing members of society
For a long time, there has been a stigma associated with mental health. We are fortunate that this stigma is beginning to fade.
Things that can have an impact on an individual’s mental health include:
- How active they are and how much they exercise
- Whether they eat a well-balanced diet
- Their physical health
- Whether they socialize or participate in community activities
- The quality of relationships (with family, friends and romantic) in their lives
- Having healthy sleep patterns
Paul Eckman is a noted psychologist who proposed the following six basic human emotions:
- Happiness is what many people strive to achieve. When someone is happy, they will often feel content, joy and have satisfaction in life. Being happy typically has a positive effect on an individual’s behaviour and overall stress level.
- Sadness often occurs when an individual is feeling disappointed, lost, or that a situation is hopeless. When an individual is sad, it will usually have an adverse effect on their behaviour. They may be quieter than usual, feel the need to cry, withdraw from others and not have the energy to do things they usually enjoy. Feeling sad may increase their overall feelings of stress.
- Fear is a powerful emotion that was originally intended to help individuals survive. When an individual is fearful, they may have an increased heart rate, rapid breathing, be more alert, and their body may feel very tense. Fear will increase an individual’s stress levels
- Disgust is an emotion that occurs when something offends an individual. It can cause an individual to try and remove themselves from the situation. In some cases, it can cause a physical reaction such as vomiting. Disgust has the potential to increase an individual’s stress level, depending on the situation.
- Anger is a compelling emotion and can cause individuals to do things they would not typically do, such as act aggressively or yell. When an individual is angry, they may have difficulty controlling their emotions. Anger generally leads to elevated stress levels.
- Surprise is typically a short-lived emotional response to something unexpected. The nature of the surprise will dictate the emotional response and stress level associated with it.
Stress experienced and expressed differently for everyone. It is based on how their bodies react to the many demands that they face.
When an individual understands what contributes to their stress load, they will be able to predict when something stressful might happen. Understanding their stressors allows them to prepare themselves for it.
It may be helpful for the individual to write down the different things that contribute to your stress load.
Some stressors can include significant life changes, things in the environment, things in school or the workplace, social or recreational experiences and unpredictable events.
There are many ways individuals can reduce their stress to help their emotional stability. For many people, doing their favourite activities, like practicing yoga or taking time to relax can help elevate some of their day to day stressors.
In addition to these strategies, many counsellors, psychologists and psychiatrists are teaching their patients to use mindfulness. Mindfulness is about being fully present at the moment you are in and not focusing on what is happening in the environment around you.
Unfortunately, there is not a one size fits all model for dealing with stressful events in life. Each person needs to develop their own set of coping mechanisms. This means they need to have several different strategies that they can use in a different setting and for varying levels of stress.
For example, after a stressful day at school or work, an individual may just need to enjoy a favourite snack and some downtime listening to music or doing some sort of physical activity. Some other examples could include playing a game, taking a nice hot shower or talking to a trusted individual such as a family member or friend about the frustrations they are dealing with.
The most important thing is that individuals must learn to recognize when outside support and or help is needed.
There are times in life where things get to be too much for one person to handle on their own. In these times, it can feel impossible for the individual to swallow their pride and accept the fact that they require additional support.
Once individuals have come to terms with the fact that they need help, they should decide how to get it. Will someone in their support system will be able to help them or if they should look for help elsewhere?
- If there are any persistent negative thoughts or times when the individual has thoughts of hurting themselves or someone else
- If an individual has tried all of their coping strategies and none of them have worked
- If the individual is overwhelmed with the situation and does not know where to begin to deal with the issue
- Family or trusted friends
- Their family doctor, counsellor, psychiatrist, or psychologist
- One of the mental health clinics or organizations their community
- Support groups and workshops addressing the areas where help is needed
- If they are spiritual or religious, they can speak with a trusted member within the group
This post is based on a journal article by Raskind, Goldberg, Higgins & Herman’s qualitative analysis of 20 years of research published Learning Disabilities Research & Practice.