Mental Health Awareness for Adults With Autism
- Become More Mindful
- Soothe Your Senses
- Break Down Stressful Tasks
- Create a Tool Box
- Be Kind to Yourself
Self-care can be a difficult thing for adults with autism. Not only do you have to identity your physical and psychological triggers, but you also have to deal with the emotional fallout of living with a condition that many people still don’t understand. Fortunately, there are ways that you can manage your mental health even when you’re struggling on the spectrum.
Become More Mindful
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a series of actions and behaviors that can calm you down when the world is too much. It was originally designed for people with chronic pain, but it’s being incorporated more and more into treatment plans for things like substance abuse and mood disorders. MBSR combines meditation, muscle relaxation, breathing exercises and low-impact activities like yoga to help people feel better. Studies have shown that it’s also effective at managing anxiety and depressive symptoms in adults with autism.
Soothe Your Senses
Autism is often marked by difficulties with sensory processing. However, you don’t have to let these overwhelming or underwhelming elements control your day-to-day activities. If you get headaches from bright white lights, you can experiment with low-level blue lights that are more calming for your brain chemistry. If certain smells can push you towards a meltdown, you can create a safe space in your home that’s filled with air-purifying house plants. It might help to create a sensory profile that establishes your exact triggers when it comes to stimuli.
Break Down Stressful Tasks
If you find yourself overwhelmed at the thought of a certain activity, you can utilize the “chaining” method to break it down into smaller parts. This is a strategy that’s commonly taught to autistic children to help them with things like hygiene, but it can be modified and utilized for adults as well. For example, you might simplify the process of making a phone call by imagining every action as a link on a chain. The first link is picking up the phone; the second link is unlocking the screen and opening the app; the third link is dialing the number.
Create a Tool Box
There are many tools that autistic individuals can use for self-care. You’re probably familiar with fidget spinners, but there’s an entire market for stim toys that can help you with your sensory processing difficulties. Whether it’s a bite band for anxious chewers or moldable putty to squeeze out stress and improve fine motor control, there are options out there for anyone who is willing to create a self-help tool box. It’s just a matter of figuring out what works for you and building a collection of gadgets and gizmos that are devoted to your unique needs.
Be Kind to Yourself
This is easier said than done, of course, but try not to be overly self-critical because of your autism. Talk to yourself the way that you’d talk to a friend. For example, if you made a mistake at school or work, you might say, “That was hard, but it isn’t the end of the world. You can get through it. You just have to stay positive.” Instead of spiraling into negativity and potentially triggering a meltdown, you can turn the little voice in your head into someone who is kind, patient and understanding.
Related Resource: 10 Best ABA PhD Degree Programs
Managing your mental health is important no matter who you are, but it becomes especially critical if you’ve been diagnosed with autism. Without learning how to regulate your emotions, you’re at an increased risk for things like panic attacks and sensory overloads. Use these self-care tips for adults with autism if you’re seeking to manage your condition while being on the spectrum yourself.