Maintaining good mental health and well-being in a world that can be overwhelming and confusing is not always an easy task for the autistic adult. Here are my top 10 tips for autistic well-being:
Many autistics have difficulty getting to sleep, staying asleep or feeling refreshed after sleeping. Some sleep aids that can help with this include weighted blankets, the dodow sleep light, blackout blinds, lavender spray, and magnesium bath flakes. A search for asmr sleep videos on YouTube will find you a whole range of relaxing sounds to help you find your way to the land of nod.
2. Pay attention to your senses
Do certain sounds irritate you? Are you overwhelmed by strong smells, sensitive to light, or averse to certain types of textures? Minimise sensory overload by using noise cancelling earphones, tinted lenses, and avoiding, or taking time out from areas that are overwhelming where possible.
Some autistic people have difficulty recognising the signs that they are hungry or thirsty and may skip meals. Create a structured meal plan and include reminders to drink regularly to avoid fatigue and mood changes associated with fluctuating blood sugar levels. Speak to a dietician if you have a restricted diet and may benefit from taking vitamin or mineral supplements.
4. Comparing yourself to others
It’s natural to compare yourself to others, but for the autistic person this may have a negative focus which can becoming damaging to self-esteem. Write a list of all your positive qualities and ask friends and loved ones to write down the positive qualities they see in you also. Keep the lists somewhere safe and take a look at them regularly to hold in mind all the wonderful and unique things that make you YOU.
Music can be a game changer for difficult or low moods. Listen to a favourite piece of music for an instant mood lift or to help you to relax and feel calmer.
6. Find your tribe
Don’t waste energy and resources trying to fit in somewhere you don’t feel understood. Aim to connect with people who share your interests or who you have some common ground with. Online or meet-up groups for autistic adults can be a place to share similar experiences and feel accepted.
7. Look for the certain when things feel uncertain
If there are situations around you that you are finding difficult, perhaps if this includes changes or uncertainty, anchor yourself with the things in life that are certain. Maintain routines and structure as much as possible, and make a visible chart of your routine or upcoming plans to help you to hold this in mind throughout difficult or stressful times.
8. Embrace the stim
Self-stimulatory behaviours, or ‘stimming’ can be soothing, and help to release tension and anxiety. Forms of stimming include rocking, chewing, fidget toys, hair twiddling, dancing. What’s your stim? Do you suppress the urge to stim fearing it may not be socially acceptable? Stimming is a valuable coping mechanism, find ways of allowing yourself to stim in ways that you feel safe.
9. Take time to recharge your social battery
Spending time with others can be draining. Take the time out that you need to and try not to feel guilty for doing so. Relationships will benefit if you can explain that for you to have the resources available to connect with others, it is vital that you balance that with time alone too.
10. Make your own stressbuster kit
Use a small bag or box to store a few essential items that will help you to stay calm in overwhelming or stressful situations. Include something for each of your senses – your favourite CD, a familiar or favourite scent, a picture that makes you smile, a favourite snack, and an item to touch such as a smooth pebble or gemstone, some beads, a soft toy, or a piece of textured fabric that feels soothing.