5 Tips To Help With Community Integration
hen living with a disability, it's important to find ways to integrate back into the community, as we were never designed to live alone. We don't realise how powerful connections can be, and these connections are often found when we least expect them. Staying connected within your community and finding your people is a great way to live, when navigating a change in life, and even if you have been living with a disability for decades, this still rings true.
I have been navigating life with a disability 25 years, and the further I am into my journey, the more complicated it becomes to make new friends, and trying new things can become overwhelming. I have recently moved to the Sunshine Coast, and over the past six years it has been a journey of self-discovery, especially with new relationships. I lived in a very protected environment with a fantastic network of family and friends, and since relocating to the Sunshine Coast, my relationship circles are now made up with people who didn't know me prior to my accident. This has been an interesting dynamic as often we are defined by our past and many of our friends and family find it difficult to accept the new you. I have come up with some tips that I have found helpful through this transition into living in a new area.
- Make an effort - Sometimes it is easier to stay in our comfort zones and avoid going out. It can take me hours to get myself and my family ready to leave the house. To be honest, sometimes I feel like the effort outweighs the reward, yet I push through and encourage family outings. I have a family with two wheelchairs and cane, and taking ourselves out of our environment can be overwhelming, yet I have found over the years that the more we do it, the easier it gets.
- Don't wait to be asked -It's very easy to become complacent in and across our busy lives. Far too often I hear people complaining about never receiving invitations to do things. An invitation is a powerful thing, and we don't realise that every time you think to invite someone, it plants a seed for them to reciprocate the invitation at a later date, even if it is turned down. Always remember to be intentional with your planning. Don't wait to be asked, get on the front foot and if you want to do something, don't let the lack of an invitation stop you.
- Try new things - Whether you have been living with a disability for decades or navigating a new way of life, remember to always try new things. It's important to listen to your child self, breakthrough your anxieties and not be overwhelmed when it comes to putting yourself out there and to try something new. It could be a musical instrument, a theatre group or a new church, remember what's important to you. Try to recognise the void your disability has left you with and fill that void with something new, this will lead you towards a more fruitful life.
- Be a servant - This is a tricky one. When we find ourselves navigating a new life and the challenges that come with disability, it is easy to wait for someone to lead the way. I believe we all are servants. If we put others first and try to bring joy to those around us, we will find a new sense of purpose, and people around you will notice, and automatically be drawn to you.The bi-product of this is, new relationships, new communities and a sense of belonging.
- Create habits - Habits can be a great way to find your new normal. I encourage you to set some short-term goals and try to stick to them, whether it's having breakfast at a certain time, doing some exercise each day or staying intentional about your relationships, creating healthy habits can be a fantastic way to manage your day-to-day life. It's a lot easier to get yourself out of the house and meet someone for a coffee if it's something that fits into your routine.
Connecting with your local community is the first step to finding a peaceful full life.
We are blessed to be living in a time where interactions and relationships can be built on many platforms. There is something powerful about one-to-one relationship and taking the time to connect into your community, creating habits and building new friendships can be a great start when rebuilding.
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