HOW AUTISTIC NICK JUGGLES ANXIETY, STRESS AND HIS EMOTIONS
I hate feeling overwhelmed to the point of dealing with my emotions.
It doesn’t usually take much to trigger that feeling, it can come from a conversation, an email, a phone call, or a text message.
However, when it occurs it’s not an especially nice and I feel like I’m on a knife’s edge.
I’m already juggling three jobs my anxiety, my stress, and my Autism now add in being overwhelmed you can agree that it’s all starting to build up and become a meltdown or possibly a shut down. https://autisticnick.com/2021/01/11/how-autistic-nick-dealt-with-a-shut-down/
Shutdowns are when the Autistic person is still experiencing perceived sensory overload to an environmental trigger. Shutdowns can be defined as a person’s brain going into a protective mode, where it ‘shuts off’ momentarily.
Autistic Individuals experiencing sensory shutdown often appear immobile; they may lay in one position and not move or blink. They may not hear their names being called and are unable to respond.
These individuals in the midst of a shutdown often retreat from the outside world, by going inside, or within themselves for comfort, in an effort to self-calm and remove whatever caused their stress.
My emotional reactions to any situation where they are bought to the forefront are that I may become angry, aggressive, and demanding, I could also be very anxious which could lead to me crying a lot, I also might withdraw and become unresponsive, or I may appear very calm: either seemingly unconcerned or totally in control.
My emotions are very up and down by this point.
This leads me onto the cognitive effects from whatever it is that has heightened my emotional senses and is contributing to my emotional state.
These can include the following,
May have a hard time processing information.
May be very confused.
May be unable to express feelings and/or ask questions.
May be uncertain about what is expected and be unable to ask for help or to ask for information about what to expect and/or what will happen in the days to come.
May talk a lot: repeatedly asking questions, wanting reassurance, etc.
May have increased executive functioning problems (i.e., organising, remembering things, paying attention, or getting started on tasks.)
May feel like they have lost control of their life.
My behaviour is also affected which may cause me to have an increase in repetitive or self-stimulatory behaviours, I may become very irritable and wish to be left alone.
There are also physical side effects from this which may include a loss of appetite, I may not sleep well, I may experience various body aches, I may experience fatigue and I may experience sensory overload which could intensify.
Being Autistic can make my fatigue and burnout more likely, due to the pressures of social situations and sensory overload. If you’re an Autistic person and have or are experiencing fatigue or burnout, managing your energy levels is essential.
Fatigue, and then subsequent burnout, can happen to anybody. Autistic people, however, can be more susceptible to both, due to the pressures of everyday life, having to navigate social situations and sensory overload.
Trying to cope with these pressures can lead to exhaustion (Autistic fatigue) and over time this can lead to extreme exhaustion or Autistic burnout.
For me as an Autistic person there are various ways that my Autistic fatigue and burnout have affected me. Autistic fatigue has often been described as exhaustion with additional difficulties such as:
Increased meltdowns and sensory sensitivity.
Physical pain and headaches.
Physically shutting down, including the loss of speech.
Autistic burnout affects all aspects of a person’s life, and this makes it different from professional burnout, which is related to work.
WHAT CAUSES AUTISTIC FATIGUE?
There are various things that can cause Autistic fatigue. Autistic adults suggest several causes, including:
Dealing with social situations
Masking or camouflaging their Autistic traits
A sense of not meeting other people’s/society’s expectations of them.
Changes in your routines or day-to-day life, such as a change of school or job, can increase anxiety and can be additional causes for Autistic fatigue and burnout.
For me I feel that I’m going to have to put in place some strategies around monitoring and managing my expectations and knowing the signs that I may need to step outside for 10-minutes to catch my breath or to have a stim, having that extra support with the support worker will put my mind at ease.
By going out and socialising I’m hoping to be able to show myself that my Autistic fatigue won’t hold me back and that I can go out with having any anxiety hanging over me holding me back.
Here then are three strategies on how to deal with a sensory overload.
STRATEGIES FOR HOW TO DEAL WITH SENSORY OVERLOAD
1) CREATING ROUTINES FOR STABILITY
Build upon routines and address changes within familiar routines or expectations before they happen.
2) IDENTIFY, DISCUSS, AND WORK ON POTENTIAL SENSORY TRIGGERS IN ADVANCE
Identify potential sensory triggers and discuss expectations for those situations as well as solutions that might be possible. For example, a noisy, crowded shopping mall could be a trigger – expectations could revolve around the time spent there, problem-solving could include negotiating stores differently or discussing an exit-plan.
3) CREATE A TOOLKIT
Prepare for a potentially difficult experience beforehand as much as possible.
Discussing an appropriate way to leave the situation/environment should it become too much.
Problem-solve potential triggers.
WHAT IS AN AUTISTIC BURNOUT?
“An Autistic Burnout is a state of physical and mental fatigue, heightened stress, and diminished capacity to manage life skills, sensory input, and/or social interactions, which comes from years of being severely overtaxed by the strain of trying to live up to demands that are out of sync with our needs.”
The signs were all their lack of motivation, not caring about goals, everyday life being overwhelming, loss of executive functioning abilities, decision making, organising myself, difficulty with self-care, exhausted, lethargic (my afternoon naps had gone from the standard hour to an hour and a half to two hours).
The last question that I would be asking myself Is it possible to prevent burnout? And the answer to that is yes it can.
The key strategy for preventing burnout is self-knowledge which I am now armed with. I just like other Autistic people can learn over time which situations are most likely to trigger burnout for them.
While recovering from Autistic burnout, it is important to be patient with yourself. It can be frustrating to lose access to skills but remember that this is not your fault. During this time, it may help to schedule breaks throughout the day to relax. If you have a special interest or stim that calms you down, feel free to use those as much as you need to. Don’t be afraid to ask friends and family for help as you are recovering.
If you feel that you would benefit from seeing a therapist to aid you in learning coping skills and then click here for a therapist in your area.
You can search for a psychologist here https://www.psychology.org.au/Find-a-Psychologist
Or you can see a physiatrist here https://www.yourhealthinmind.org/find-a-psychiatrist
Anxiety in Autistic Adults
Anxiety can happen for a range of reasons and Autistic people can vary in their ability to cope with it.
Understanding your emotions can be difficult. But by getting help from someone so that you can understand your anxiety, you can then be in a position to manage it better.
Anxiety doesn’t just affect the mind but it can also directly affect the body as well. The psychological and physical symptoms of anxiety are closely linked and this can lead to a vicious cycle that can be difficult to break.
Some of the psychological symptoms of anxiety are, easily losing patience, having difficulty concentrating, thinking constantly about the worst outcome, difficulty sleeping and depression.
How do you now manage your anxiety?
Well in the next section of this blog post I’ll tell you
Strategies for managing your anxiety
Once you have understood and acknowledged that you have anxiety, the next step is to begin to identify what triggers, and situations are the root cause of your anxiety. This is where keeping a diary can be an extremely useful tool.
By keeping a diary and writing down exactly how you felt during a certain situation this should enable you to see the following;
What was the trigger?
What was the situation?
The time and the date?
Did I alert someone that I was feeling anxious?
What steps did they take?
What steps did I take?
What did I do to resolve the situation?
What can I do to prevent myself from becoming anxious the next time I am out in a social situation?
How anxious did I feel on a scale from 1-10?
Was I with my carer/support worker or was I with a group of friends?
Have I informed them that I have anxiety, did they know what steps to take?
You can modify the above to best suit your current situation. The biggest benefit of keeping a diary is that you can use this as a reference tool and this will assist in you managing your anxiety better.
Carry on the Conversation
What have you done to help you when you’ve had a burnout?
Did you recognise the triggers and how do you manage to prevent them from affecting you?
Can you pass on any hints and tips?
Let me know in the comments below.
Thank you for reading and I will see you next time for more thoughts from across the spectrum.