Autism and stress don’t go together. Stress and anything don’t go together, but for my autistic mind, my reaction can seem unbearable. I want to hide and rock. I can start to feel sad, and I withdraw into one of my not-talking days.
I have been enduring a lot of stress, some short-term, some long term. For long-term, I had a business, and it was very stressful because I never felt like I was caught up (and often I wasn’t), I was never off of work, and there were so many moving parts that I felt out of control. I shut down the business for that reason and my health problems, and in noticing the difference now, good for my mental health.
Short term stressors can be a change in routine, too much in-person people contact (email is okay), or sudden noises. I have found a job, so something new can be a stressor, and a new job is both positive stress (excited to try something new), and negative stress (trying something new that destroys my routine). Since the job starts next week, I’m getting up early and getting ready for work to get used to the new morning routine.
I get stressed with doing something with someone else on short notice without knowing in advance and mentally preparing for it. It may seem odd that I regularly do things on the spur of the moment like writing this blog post, but they emanate from my own mind when I am engrossed in an activity. When that activity gets interrupted, I feel stressed and sometimes angry. I get confused and hesitant.
Now, what to do about it.
For going somewhere short notice that another person has instigated, I practice doing the short notice, but only if it’s to a place that I’m used to going, such as the grocery store. Going short notice to the Halloween store to pick out a costume feels stressful because I haven’t thought about what costume I want ahead of time, and those places are bloody noisy so I experience a sensory assault to top it all off.
All the autism methods of relaxing that we hear about online are true. I have a ball that I bounce repetitively, a hammock, and weights. I will jump, power walk, walk on my toes, lift weights, and do stretching. I have started meditating, which I have discovered is not as easy as it sounds because focusing on my breath and clearing my mind of thoughts is darned difficult, but I persevere on learning to do it.
And yes, I flap my hands when I feel overly stressed.