The time spent in isolation affects all people. Some young people with disabilities have first-hand experience in being isolated, socially distant and living with most of the current aspects of the emergency measures. Actually, a large number of NGOs of people with disabilities or working with people with disabilities are focusing on the fact that a lot of people with disabilities were feeling good and of help when they shared their experience of coping with those phenomena.
However, for the big number of people with disabilities affected by the COVID-19 measures share they feel differently. The general feeling of being limited, enclosed and even a lack of connection and of personal contact are amplified for the young people with disabilities by the fact that they are, on the one hand, adolescents (and experience age-specific issues) and, on the other hand, have disabilities (and experience condition-specific issues).
Effects of the isolation:
One of the prime effects of social isolation which we will look at is the effect on the brain. Actually, we will look at only one of the so-called “hormones of the happiness” - dopamine. When we are affected by isolation, we are not connected to people, the meaningful people and even our assistants and the lack movement etc. – these factors are causing lower levels of dopamine released into our bodies. In a longer isolation, like the one needed to stop the spreading of COVID-19, the receptors for dopamine grow more resistant. This makes our brains need more dopamine than usually.
On the other hand, we have people in their adolescence. Professional knowledge shows that all people of this age have lower levels of happiness, wellbeing and self-esteem, compared to all other age groups.
At the end we have to point out that the disability normally induces depressiveness, a feeling of no autonomy, lack of importance, deprivation of meaning and lack of connectedness to the others.
In short, there’s a reason to feel not OK.
This is not a feeling which should make us anxious. Down below we are going to share three steps which can help us get through the isolation better and which will develop valuable skills for the post-pandemic time.
1. Organization of the time:
Having a rest and what it seems like a lot of free time can easily turn into a lack of daily routine, which causes sleeping problems, disorders in the so-called biological clock, etc.
When we plan for our social isolation daily routine, we have to arrange a time for socializing with the people we live with. Communication helps everyone feel better. Finding groups for support or empowerment or organizing such groups yourself drastically help for a structured day, which can maintain your biological and psychological rhythm.
Doing physical activities that are appropriate for your type of disability generates hormones of happiness like dopamine. They are making our life healthier; our eating, rest and sleep are healthier too. Exercising our minds with games like chess, bridge, etc., also meditation and exercises for visualization are giving our mind a free space for getting stronger and healthier at the same time. Meditation skills can be easily transformed into a business asset or an incredibly valuable personal skill for quality learning or working in stressful environment.
The most contemporary ways of doing policy changes, business, or supporting people with disabilities should be based on the organic approach - asking people with disabilities what are the things exactly their group needs, what they don’t like, what they think should be changed. Telling first-hand stories is a skill which should be developed and enhanced. You can do this when you look for courses on creative writing or read books on storytelling at way friendlier prices.
The skill of quality storytelling of how we feel and what is going on is essentially crucial in times of emergency.
Taking our place
Time spent in emergency measures and the time of getting back to the “normality” is the perfect time for people with disabilities to take their places in the societal process.
By developing skills for storytelling which can be used in everything humans do, by developing routines for physical and mental activities, by learning skills for organizing a daily routine, adolescents with disabilities are emerging with quality skills in a lot of valuable areas of personal and professional development.
By developing the skills from this article, adolescents with disabilities will again show they are equal partners in the process of positive social change.
About the author:
Diliyan Manolov is a cofounder of Vizioner Foundation which empowers self-development and professional development for blind people or people with low vision. He is a young entrepreneur, Youth delegate of Bulgaria to United Nations - 2018-2019 and currently a UNICEF Global Youth Champion for Social and Behavior Change.