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Feeling good physically and mentally are the first steps towards meeting personal and professional goals. It can be difficult, however, to maintain a sense of well-being in the face of so many challenges. Luckily, doing so is not impossible.

A sense of well-being is an essential component in a healthy life

A person with disabilities strives to cultivate and expand their abilities, but of all of these efforts, the most important is learning how to foster a sense of well-being. A general sense of emotional and physical equilibrium gives a person the ability effectively function within his or her surroundings. It also ensures that when opportunities for personal growth become available, a person with Cerebral Palsy can seize them with confidence and aplomb.

Most often associated with physical health, the concept of ensuring one’s own well-being is important in all aspects of our lives. It’s the springboard by which all of our ability stems from; if one does not feel good physically, he or she may not be able to participate in therapy, take part in activities, nurture relationships, study or work. All of these factors are the building blocks of a successful life; those blocks make up all the things that make us whole, and human.

What is well-being?

More than just feeling good, the term well-being is a person’s ability to participate in his or her own life. It sounds trite to say that well-being is about being happy; that’s only the end goal of what is a multi-faceted and lifelong journey. It’s about functioning in a world that sometimes feels like it was built for someone else. It’s about moving from situation to situation with grace, and confidence.

Although there are several aspects of life where a healthy sense of well-being would be beneficial, there are six major areas where a sense of well-being can enable a person to make positive changes. They are:

Physical – Feeling good is a paramount concern for all people with Cerebral Palsy, and often, it’s the most challenging to conquer. It’s about more than general health; physical comfort extends to how a person’s home fits into their ability to function within the home, or how a person’s workspace maximizes an employee’s ability.

There’s also a mind-body aspect to physical well-being. When a person uses their body to exercise, it presents a number of benefits, including but not limited to an improved ability to focus on the tasks they need to complete.

Some of the components of physical well-being include:

  • Maintaining a regular exercise regimen
  • Consuming nutritious foods
  • Preventing disease
  • Getting enough sleep

Some of the physical symptoms people can feel when they’re discontented include:

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Lowered immunity
  • Heart troubles
  • High blood pressure
  • Weight gain, or loss
  • Fatigue

Spiritual – Sometimes, we feel a sense of discontent that’s more difficult to explain than simply being unhappy about a relationship or a job. Often, this is because we don’t feel connected to something beyond ourselves.

This crisis of conscience is often spiritual in nature, as opposed to physical or mental. Spirituality takes many forms; it’s a huge piece of organized religion. People who attend religious services make a connection through their beliefs; others experience spirituality in a less constructed fashion.

Sometimes, people experience spiritual dissatisfaction if they are not living by a code, or set of ethics, that they believe to be right. Other times, it’s just a feeling in the heart that we need to reach outward, or inward, to find out what makes us happy.

Spiritual well-being is about the connectedness of our inner and outer lives, as well as our feelings, the people in our lives, the environment, and a greater force in nature.

Some of the components of spiritual well-being include:

  • Feeling physically and emotionally whole
  • Having a sense of balance
  • Connecting to higher powers
  • Having a sense of inner purpose
  • Feeling contented and peaceful
  • Healing when events cause hurt, or disappointment
  • Sensing a deeper meaning in life
  • Acting in a way that is commensurate with values and beliefs
  • Accepting changes and personal growth

Mental – Mental well-being means that a person is prepared psychologically to handle life’s ups and downs. Typically, mental well-being allows people to forge forward in their lives; pursuing relationships with families and friends, engaging in activities and work and building positive connections in the community.

Feeling good psychologically, in some ways, can be more impactful on a person’s life than their physical health. If a person feels good about him or herself, it allows them to place a high value on his or her achievements and capabilities. It’s the key to feeling self-confident and worthwhile. It’s the springboard by which a person can build a successful, purposeful life.

Some of the components of mental well-being include:

  • Learning and growing
  • Thinking critically and making decisions
  • Forming relationships with others, communicating
  • Developing social skills
  • Working as a team, cooperating with others
  • Relating to others, recognizing and accepting differences
  • Managing time, planning and organizing
  • Setting and meeting goals
  • Resiliency after disappointments

Emotional – A person’s emotional experience is one of the most gratifying, and one of the most challenging, aspects of life. When emotions are positive, and shared mutually, it’s one of the best feelings a person can have. But if a person has internal tumult, emotions can be the root cause of a lot of problems.

How people feel about themselves, their ability to function in the world and thrive under stress, is closely tied to emotions. If a person has emotions that do not accurately reflect what’s happening in their lives, such as minor setbacks feeling tragic, it’s hard to feel empowered. And if they’re overwhelmed by their emotions, it’s difficult to focus on tasks at home and at work, and relationships.

Some of the components of emotional well-being include:

  • Fostering self-esteem
  • Taking responsibility for oneself
  • Building character
  • Showing compassion towards oneself and others
  • Managing feelings appropriately
  • Empathizing with others
  • Nurturing relationships
  • Showing leadership or citizenship
  • Learning about oneself and others
  • Engaging in self-discovery and self-sufficiency

Intellectual – The ability to use intellect to sort out thoughts and feelings is a lot less about raw intelligence than it is about common sense and reasoning. Using one’s intellect is a sure-fire way to avoid emotional reactions to situations that cause stress; if a person can reason through events that may have a negative connotation, he or she can react appropriately. Intellect is a part of our ability to figure out how an event or a situation is going to affect us, and more importantly, it allows us to implement solutions and learn from our experiences.

Some of the components of intellectual well-being include:

  • Solving problems and conflicts
  • Thinking through problems to a logical conclusion
  • Developing social skills, ability to work with others
  • Ability to take the high road/do the right thing
  • Learning from adversity
  • Ability to use what is learned and head off future troubles

Social – Friends and family members are very important to people; they are among our closest confidantes and trusted allies. Building relationships that are enjoyable and a source of pride and comfort takes a certain level of well-being with oneself, however. Everyone experiences social unease at some point, but often, people with disabilities doubt if they will be accepted in circles at school, at work, and in other settings. Social well-being begins with the self-esteem and the confidence to interact with others and while building positive ties.

Some of the components of social well-being include:

  • Engaging in activities with others
  • Participating in family and social activities
  • Ability to work, maintain employment
  • Forming a supportive circle of friends
  • Participating in intimate relationships
  • Ability to approach new people

Why is well-being important?

If we don’t feel good about ourselves, the direction we’re taking in life, or our abilities, then it’s extraordinarily difficult to reverse negative trends and pursue positive courses of action.

With all of the pressures of life, those that everyone faces and those exclusively faced by people with special needs can bring us down. Sometimes, it seems as though so much time is spent achieving menial tasks, or pursuing simple goals, that grander dreams can seem insurmountable. Well-being is a vital tool in the box that can help us emerge out of the darkness and into the light.

Every one of us can feel stuck, or trapped, by circumstances in our lives. When this occurs, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. Conquering whatever is causing us to feel out of sorts – be it physical or mental troubles – requires all of our energy. Therefore, well-being plays a significant role in not only coping with life’s inevitable challenges, but changing course in the hopes of finding peace of mind.

How can a person create for themselves a sense of well-being?

If a person doesn’t have a keen sense of well-being, it can be difficult to figure out ways to lighten one’s personal load. Luckily, there are numerous ways that a person can find their way out of the darkness and into the light. This does require effort, however.

Of course, there are factors that are out of the control of an individual. If a person’s health is precarious; if his or her job is causing undue stress, or if a family member is causing discontent, those external factors can cause significant distress. How people address these problems, however, can make a difference in how they cope with these matters.

Often, creating a sense of well-being doesn’t mean making broad changes, though, sometimes, that’s exactly what is needed. Most often, bringing about well-being is a series of small changes that can make a big difference in one’s circumstances, and how he or she feels. Positive changes can be in response to a single incident, or the overall state of one’s life.

Some ways a person can create a sense of well-being include:

  • Eat healthful foods designed to optimize energy
  • Exercise to release hormones, or feel-good endorphins
  • Be sure to get between six and a half to eight hours of continuous sleep
  • Make time for meditation to bring about mental clarity
  • Focus on relaxing exercises, such as yoga or stretching
  • Take a peaceful walk to reflect on what brings happiness
  • Take on a new creative pursuit – expressing oneself through art is one way to create a sense of balance
  • Talk out differences to keep communication open and honest
  • Do something new to bring freshness to everyday living
  • Make time for hobbies and activities
  • Join a new group or club
  • Keep a journal – write about what’s working, and what’s not
  • Share thoughts and feelings with friends, connect with old acquaintances
  • Keep a list of things you like about yourself
  • Remember to forgive people for past transgressions
  • Make sure to take time for solitude
  • Volunteer – helping someone else can be therapeutic to the person giving of their time

If a person has an inkling that their feelings might be more than typical moods or sadness, he or she should seek the advice of a medical professional.

Choosing optimism over adversity can be difficult, but with the right set of strategies, people can turn the page and feel good once again. Remember, the goal is to find peace of mind.

How can others encourage well-being in a loved one?

When a person you care about is out of sorts, it can be heartbreaking to watch him or her struggle. There are several courses of action a person can take to help someone they love cope with their troubles and find a new path to happiness.

The most important action is to let a loved one know how much they are cared about; which could help provide them with a pick-me-up if they feel depressed or sad. Letting a person know they are cared about is often better than providing direct advice, unless of course, the person is seeking out specific answers. Most often, people need the space to be able to think about their troubles and devise their own solutions – it’s best to listen, empathize, and keep confidences.

Encouraging a person to engage in health activities, from exercise to spending time with family and friends, can also provide a sense of equality to someone that is struggling emotionally or psychologically. It may even be helpful to join a person in those activities to foster a feeling of connectedness.

It can also be helpful to encourage a person to seek professional help if it appears that the source of a person’s discontent is one that can be addressed. That means encouraging the loved one to seek the advice of a doctor, a psychologist, or a counselor.

Achieving a sense of well-being can be a long walk, not a short sprint. When people have the right tools and supports, it can be something worth pursuing.

Associative Conditions

father laughing with son in wheelchair

Associative conditions

Cerebral Palsy affects muscle tone, gross and fine motor functions, balance, coordination, and posture. These conditions are mainly orthopedic in nature and are considered primary conditions of Cerebral Palsy. There are associative conditions, like seizures and intellectual impairment that are common in individuals with Cerebral Palsy. And, there are co-mitigating factors that co-exist with Cerebral Palsy, but are unrelated to it. Understanding conditions commonly associated with Cerebral Palsy will enhance your ability to manage your child’s unique health concerns.
Associative Conditions