AUTISTIC NICK GETS STRESSED AND HOW I DEALT WITH IT
I just don’t like it.
I am unsure of how to handle it.
What am I talking about?
It can be the tiniest of things to trigger me and then my whole day can be ruined by my stressing myself out to the point where I just need to have a conversation with someone and attempt to see it from the other person’s perspective (if I can!).
So, here’s the tea Linda.
I had arranged about a week or so ago with my mentor a time and date for us to next have our Zoom mentoring sessions.
This date and time were locked in.
I built my weekend around this.
I was prepared.
I had gone through her notes from the previous fortnight and examined and read and re read them and worked through the material.
So, on Tuesday I got an email asking me if I could change our date/time due to a work commitment coming up.
I agreed and a new date/time was arranged.
Then SATURDAY HAPPENED!
Linda where’s my tea?
Saturday morning approaches.
I get a text message; it reads that could we push back our meeting?
I agree and ask to when?
Then our new time is tricky!
I can feel myself starting to get anxious.
A possible panic attack is bubbling away.
They text their sorry for being unreliable and that our new time is now 1pm!
So, now I had 3 hours in order to clam myself down and prevent myself from A) having a panic attack, B) Getting overwhelmed and C) having a possible meltdown.
I couldn’t think.
I took a deep breath.
I then made the decision to go for a walk.
I felt that the cold fresh crisp air would help me gain some perspective on this.
I’m not sure how exactly I arrived at this conclusion, but I felt that it may wake up this sudden fog that was beginning to whirl around inside my head.
It was a temporary fix.
I came back and felt worse.
I tried to do a word search.
No that didn’t help.
I attempted to play solitaire.
No that didn’t help me either.
By now I was running out of ideas and options.
I then tried listening to music and that did provide me with 4 minutes of temporary relief.
Stress is part of everyday life and a natural reaction to change and adjustment with a major life change. Stress also occurs in response to ongoing daily hassles such as traffic, noise, or inconsiderate people. The body responds to stress with the ‘flight or fight’ response in the central and peripheral nervous system. This involves a series of chemical changes which prepare people for a stressful event.
We all suffer stress, to different degrees and levels of severity and we all get anxious sometimes.
How people with Autism deal with stress can vary on the person but when they do realise that they are stressed what can they or you do to take positive steps to relieve this.
UNDERSTANDING AND MANAGING STRESS
The first step a person can take to reduce stress is to become aware of the major sources, or triggers, of stress in your life.
It can help to keep a stress awareness diary for a few weeks that lists the date, time, event, severity, symptoms, and coping strategies they used to ease the situation.
The second step is to categorise different stressful situations as follows:
Control – Uncontrollable
Important – Unimportant
This can help you to stand back from your situation in order to view it more clearly and objectively.
FOUR SKILLS FOR MANAGING STRESSFUL SITUATIONS
These are Awareness, Acceptance, Coping and Action skills. Some skills may be more useful in certain situations. Each skill may be explained better using a situation which a person may face in real life.
This is getting a clearer understanding of the situation and how it affects the person.
Acknowledging that you are getting stressed and being realistic about the effects that it is having on you e.g., what aspects are within your control, and which are out of your control and then working out if these are or important/unimportant.
Preparing to cope with the stressful situation by learning various strategies. Identify what changes you can make to control the situation and reduce stress levels.
Actively making changes to counteract or reduce the level of stress.
I ate my lunch and by the time I had finished I was logged into the Zoom meeting and then I waited.
1.18pm (a full 18 minutes past 1pm) she did message me to say that she was caught in traffic.
This was beginning to tip me back over the edge.
I was fully prepared; I had mentally prepared myself for this new time.
I happened, we did it, she was sick, the meeting ended.
I was so angry that I had allowed myself to get stressed to the point of me having A) having a panic attack, B) Getting overwhelmed and C) having a possible meltdown.
I do feel annoyed at myself and here’s why, initially when this was all happening, I became lost, and my mind went blank, and I couldn’t remember any of the steps that I needed to work through in order to achieve a calmer me.
The one important thing that I should have attempted to do, but due to being caught up in the stress bubble I was in was this.
Slow Breathing Techniques
Proper breathing habits are essential for good mental and physical health. First, a person needs to focus upon their breathing pattern.
They need to identify whether they breathe mainly through the chest or through their stomach. Short, shallow, and rapid breaths from the upper chest should be avoided.
The aim is to breathe deeply and slowly through the nose.
A person should feel greater movement in the stomach than the chest as they inhale and exhale. Practice breathing exercises every day. Learn to apply slow breathing as needed e.g. when feeling stressed, angry, or anxious.
Get yourself into a relaxed state, by:
- Getting comfortable, scanning the body for tension, and relaxing the muscles
- Selecting a favourite peaceful place which is real or imagined.
- Focusing the imagination using all 5 senses
- Using affirmations such as repeating ‘I am letting go of tension’; or ‘I am feeling peaceful’.
When supporting somebody who is Autistic and stressed, keep calm and quiet. Be a consistent, safe presence to help the person with autism feel they can begin to relax. Try to avoid showing that you are worried as this may make them feel less secure and more anxious.
Ensure that the person you are supporting has an appropriate communication system in place and that they are able to use it properly. This will help them to express themselves and their frustrations and anxieties.
If a person has a particular “stim” or repetitive movement that helps them to feel calm, then you should support them in this. “Stimming” can be a coping mechanism and may be a sign that the person is attempting to self-soothe.
Sometimes distraction can be a helpful technique. You may be able to remove a person from a stressful situation for long enough for them to recharge and return.
CARRY ON THE CONVERSATION
How do you cope with stress?
What techniques work for you?
Let me know in the comments section below.
Thank you for reading and I will see you next time for more thoughts from across the spectrum.