Tag Archives: rest

How Sensory Overload Impacts on Autistic People Part One – The Impact on my Mind.

It has been quite a while since I wrote a blog, and now that I am writing one it is about something that happened at the end of last month. Now part of that might be due to the fact that this month is December, and as I am sure most of you will know this can be a hard month for autistic people. It is all change, and routine and normal life can go somewhat out of the window. But we are still only in early December, and the bulk of why I have not been writing much, if anything, this month is to do with the events of November. The best thing for me to do is to explain what I did in November, and why that is still impacting on me now.

In November I went to three autism events. Twice as a speaker, and once just to man a stall selling copies of my new book. Now I should say before I go on that I enjoyed all three events, and was happy to go to them. Nothing in this blog is meant to be a comment on those events themselves. But it is worth looking at why I, and other autistic people, can find events like these so hard. And some of the particular after-effects that I have had to deal with.

 

  • Build up: I don’t feel nervous or worried about the events beforehand, or at least not that I am aware of. But I know the feelings must be there somewhere. I find it hard to focus on doing work or even doing something relaxing like watching a film if I know I am going to have to go to a busy event in the next few days. Even though I might not be aware of this build-up of stress and anxiety, it can take its toll.
  • Overload: Events such as the ones I went to, full of stalls and guest speakers, tend to draw quite a lot of people in. They are noisy, full of people moving around, and all in all very difficult places to spend much time in if you have sensory issues. Perhaps I must take my share of the blame for not going outside and having a break from time to time, but once I get started on something I find hard I like to just get it all done. If I take a break to go somewhere quiet there is a high risk that I might not be able to go back in, and get on with the work I need to do. So I end up spending anywhere from two to five hours in a busy, noisy, and overwhelming environment. Again this leads to a build-up of stress and anxiety.
  • One-on-one talking: When I am at an event, be it on a stall for ASK-PERGERS? or doing a talk, I end up with people chatting to me. Now this is a good thing: it gives me a chance to sell my book, and also to make contacts. Plus the whole point of what we do is to help other autistic people, or their families by giving advice, so a chance to talk is good. But it does take it out of me. It’s fair to say that in a normal month I might chat one-on-one with five people at most. Now this is partly due to me not being at university at the moment, and if I were it might be more. But five is about average for this year. But at an event like this I might talk one-on-one to fifteen people in the space of a few hours. If I do two or three events in a month it might be something like fifty people over the space of those events. All that one-on-one talking wears me out, and pushes me more and more in to overload.
  • Not much time to recover: If I do a few events in a month then I don’t have any real time to come down from one before I have to start planning for the next. It might take me a week or more to fully get back to normal after something like this, but of course I do not have that time if I have more events to go to.

So what does this all mean? Well it leads to a build-up of stress and anxiety that can only truly come out when I am done with all the events I have planned. Not that it does not affect me in-between events. It does. Last month I was so overloaded that I found it hard to do anything other than the events I went to. When I talk about that a lot of non-autistic people nod their head and say something like “Oh yes I will need to crash out for a bit too.” Or “I get tired as well.” They do not, nor could they fully understand what an overload is. If your lap top overheats and shuts down because it cannot cope with the overload to its system it can’t do anything. It just crashes and goes blank. And I find it to be very much the same for myself. If I am overloaded I can’t do anything, not even things that relax me. I can’t pick which film to watch, and in fact I don’t even want to watch anything. I can’t sit and read, or do anything else fun that might relax me. I spend most of the day just walking from room to room not knowing what to do, and doing nothing. It’s not a case of going “I am tired now, better just watch some TV then I will feel fine.” I might be unable to do anything, and I do mean anything, for days, or if it’s really bad even weeks. The truth is November was such a comparatively busy month for me that it took me quite a long time to come back from the overload. It’s really only this past week that I have been able to start doing things of any real worth, and like I say this is the first writing I have done this month.

I do want to do more work, and my hope is as I do it I will become more used to it, but also work out ways to minimize the impact of the overload. But I wanted to take the time to try and explain to you how even though I might be more than able to stand up on a stage for twenty minutes and do a talk, or man a stall for five hours, the unseen impact of this can last for days, or even weeks.

I also wanted to take the time to write about the physical impact the build-up of anxiety can have, but I feel that should be a full blog on its own. So that should be out later this week, or early next week.

You can find my new book here: http://www.jkp.com/uk/communicating-better-with-people-on-the-autism-spectrum-34251.html

If you need any more help or advice about Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

Twitter https://twitter.com/ASKPERGERS

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ASKPERGERS?ref=hl

And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762

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Managing Sensory Overload …

I have spoken before on my blog about rest days, and about how sometimes they have to be taken even when I would much rather be productive.  But often I will only have rest days when I reach a point where they are absolutely necessary, after I have become overloaded.  Even though this might help to reverse the overload it means that I don’t have a great deal of control over when I rest, and when I am productive.  So what I have been trying this week is resting the day before I know I have something to do, such as going out, in order to ensure I have enough energy to complete the activities.  Even though I like to plan I have never been very good at planning in a way to ensure I was resting, and would have enough energy to do everything I want to do over the course of a week.  I might push myself too far on a Friday, even when I began to feel tired, and therefore not have enough energy to go out on a Saturday.

This week I had planned to go out on Thursday to visit family.  I knew that to get there I would need to use public transport, and it might be a relatively busy and noisy environment when I did arrive.  To ensure that I had the energy to go and accomplish this I had Wednesday as a rest day.  As strange as it sounds it was difficult to rest as I felt I should be doing something more productive and useful.  And yet the next day I could feel the benefits.  I felt much more able to go out and do what I needed to do than I would have done if I`d pushed myself on the Wednesday.

I needed to walk to a tram stop, travel on public transport and be in a really busy, noisy environment; interacting with people socially for an hour and a half before getting the tram, then walking back home.  And while I did feel overloaded after this I know that if I had woken up on Thursday feeling overloaded there is no way I would have been able to get up and go out, or even attempt doing this journey.

So even though it was difficult having a rest day on the Wednesday I feel that it was worth it.  When you enjoy working, then it can be hard taking the time out that you need to rest, especially if it is rest as a preventative measure.

But one thing that I am learning and understanding more and more as I grow older is my limits, and what I need to do to ensure that I stay within those.  The reality is I can’t push myself to the point of overload every day, and not suffer badly from it.  When I had to get up each day and go out to college or university, traveling on public transport and interacting with people for hours, I barely had the energy to do anything else.  Even activities such as reading and watching films felt hard for me.  And I need to remind myself at times that this isn’t because I am lazy.  It is because I am autistic, and when I become overloaded it means that I have pushed myself too far.  I am productive; I have a book coming out later this year, and I have edited and helped my Mum to publish her book earlier this month https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01GO1N1X6

But there will be days when I simply sit around and do nothing.  There might be more of these than there are for most people, and as strange as it might sound I think that is one of the hardest things about being autistic for me.  I can`t work twelve hours a day, five days a week.  My mind literally starts to shut down, and I do mean literally.  It is as if a great fog closes in over my brain once I become overloaded.  I find it hard to form coherent thoughts.  I speak much less, my memory is severely affected, and I find it hard to hold a thought in my head for too long, or remember things.   Physically my body begins to feel stiffer; it aches, and I feel as if I have just done an incredibly difficult workout.  Basically when I am overloaded I am the last person you would want doing any kind of job for you.  It seems bizarre, but taking time off enables me to be more productive, and to do better work.  But if anything, I am the one who needs the most convincing of this …..

If you need any more help or advice about Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

Twitter https://twitter.com/ASKPERGERS

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ASKPERGERS?ref=hl

And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762

And here`s the link to our new E Book Autism & Animals – the benefits of animals for autistic people https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01GO1N1X6

 

Autism, and why I have to force myself to rest …

Lately I have found that I have been canceling more and more things. I have not been going out as much, and often when it has come time to do something I have found myself feeling overwhelmed at the thought of having to go out, and do it. This has led to a strange situation where it seems that I have to cut right back on what I plan to do, in order to be productive.

What I mean by this is that I have reached the conclusion that there is no point in making lots of plans, and then not being able to stick to them. It is much better to cut back, and make clear plans for the week that focus on what I want to do, and feel happy doing, that I am able to stick to. The last few weeks have been hard.  Of course coming on the back of Christmas and New Year, the first few weeks of January are always a hard time for autistics. But they have been so even more this year.  As some of you might know I have had a lot on lately in terms of family stuff – most of it quite emotionally draining, time consuming and unpredictable. I think it`s a build-up of things like this which have ended up in me feeling the way I do.

I seem to constantly be on the point of getting overwhelmed and worn out.  Normally I might have twice the energy I have now, and be able to force myself to go out and about, and do things I don’t want to do.  But now I just don’t.  It seems that lately even doing a small amount is pushing me to the point where I am so overloaded I can’t do anything else.

An overload for those who have never felt it – for me at least – feels like this:

On one hand it seems as if I am full of energy, but at the same time as if I am too weak to do anything.  I feel like I want to plan out everything I need to do, but  my mind slows down so much I can not think clearly to do so.  It feels like a cross between a panic attack, and a metldown.  I feel angry, and yet at the same time worried.  All I want to do is sit there, and yet the less I do the worse I feel about not doing things.

Sometimes I am told to just give stuff a go, and see how it goes.  The thing is, that works sometimes, but not often.  Normally I can tell beforehand if I am going to have the energy to do something. Now I don’t mean that I won`t be able to go out somewhere. I might be able to, but I won`t enjoy it at all, and the impact afterwards could be huge.  And yet for years I have tried to force my way through overloads.  It`s not a smart thing to do, but it`s something I have done anyway.  Now I feel like I understand a lot more about myself, and the best ways of dealing with my overloads.  Right now I am worn out both emotionally and physically.  Therefore there is no point trying to force myself to do the things I don’t feel able to do.

What I am trying to do is cut right down to the point where I am at home most of the time, and only have a bare few commitments each week for the next few weeks.  I want a nice simple routine at home where I know when I get up, and what I do each day.  Not for ever.  Just until I feel I have got back to my normal levels of energy, and ability to go out and do things.  How long this will take I can not tell, but I do know that trying to force myself before I am ready will not help me at all.

You might think that cutting back on going out, and not doing a lot is a bad thing. That it leads to me being isolated and restricted.  Well what I would say to that is `so what?`  If that’s what I want why is it a bad thing?  I don’t want, nor do I think it`s healthy, to get to a point where I never leave my house at all. But I don’t think there is anything wrong with just doing what I know I can handle for a while.  If I use up all the energy I have on going out and doing things I don’t want to do, what am I meant to have left to work on my writing?  Or to do jobs around the house?  Or work-out?  Or anything I really want, or need to do?  At the moment not a lot!  That’s why I am cutting back.  Not so I can do nothing, but so I can do the things I feel I want, or need to do.

If you need any more help or advice about Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

Twitter https://twitter.com/ASKPERGERS

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ASKPERGERS?ref=hl

And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762

Autism and Relaxing Days

Everyone needs time to relax – autistic people most of all – but what people do to relax can differ greatly.  The things a lot of people find relaxing can be stressful for people with autism.  For myself, and people like me a day of just doing nothing needs as much planning as any other day.  Below I explain why this might be, and how I relax as an autistic person.

It’s all about structure, and if I don’t have any then the day is going to be stressful. I don’t have to have everything planned out to the last detail, but I need at least a rough structure around what I am going to do, and when. I can’t have this structure six days a week, and then get rid of it on a day I am resting.  I still need to plan when I am getting up, what time I am eating or watching a film.  If I don’t do this then I end up spending the whole day getting more and more stressed out about not knowing what I am doing and when.  If I plan then I can relax and have fun, but if I leave it to chance I get nothing done, and feel more stressed than I did at the start of the day.

I can’t just wake up at any time and take the day as it comes. If I know I have the house to myself one day I will plan in advance what I am going to do.  I might say what time I will get up, what films I will watch, if I will do any reading that night.  And for the most part I will stick to those plans.  I know for a fact if I did not have them I would be unable to relax.  It can seem a bit odd; my Mum might ask me to do something and I will grow angry as I have plans.  But those plans might just be to sit and read!  Even lie-ins are not something I find relaxing.  I might sleep in sometimes, but for the most part I need to be up at a set time or I feel my whole routine or plan for the day is off – even if this is just by half an hour.

The fact is uncertainty, and stress are not relaxing for anyone. So I have to make plans in order to get any benefit from rest days. I know this is very different from how most people relax.  Most people I know are happy to just be around the house all day doing nothing, and while that idea is nice I just can’t do it.

I might be thinking and planning for days which film I am going to watch on a night where I have the house to myself.  Does it matter that much?  Well I am sure I would enjoy any film, but if I don’t plan it in advance I may very well be standing there for an hour trying to pick the perfect film to watch. Forward planning is key for autistic people, even when it comes to relaxing!

If you need any more help or advice about Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

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And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762

Work vs Rest.

One of the things that is talked about a lot when it comes to dealing with stress, and overloads in autistic people is rest days; basically just taking a day to relax, and not having to worry about doing anything.  It might be a set day each week, or it might just be decided depending on how the individual feels day to day.  I myself talk about them, and advise autistic people to take them, and not to feel guilty for not doing much on those days.  But as much as I talk about them, and know them to be a good thing I still find it hard to take my own advice, and let myself have days off.  I find that I have a lot to fit in; I write both books and articles, I edit my work, I like to read, work out, and watch films most days. There are also the things I might not want to do that need to be fitted in: jobs around the house, or going out somewhere. Well if I take a whole day off doing things like that, or even if I just relax and only do a small amount I start to feel guilty, as if I should be doing something. I know in my own head that the quality of my work will be poor if I work on days when I feel overwhelmed, or even on the point of a shut down.  And yet I still find it hard to allow myself to have a day of resting.

I like to work and I like to end the day knowing I have done a lot of work.  But it is about time I started taking my own advice.  There is no point pushing yourself past the point where you work starts to slump.  Working hard is great if you also work well, but you can work as hard and as long as you like only for it to be pointless if you don’t work well.

I find that something as simple as having a rest day means that I am able to come back and do better work both in my job, and just around the house, and in life in general.

The issue is trying to stop feeling guilty, or lazy for saying you are having a day off.  In fact relaxing, and resting is a key part of working well.  Pushing yourself to your limits is fine, but its also OK to set up a good work and rest balance, and stick to this.  Different things work for different people, but my advice would be – if you feel you need rest days, then take them. Don’t worry about feeling lazy, just take the day off, and get back to things the next day.  It is a part of autism – at least for some people it is.  It might mean you clash with the way you like to do things, but finding a way of being at ease with the idea of resting is important if you wish to get the best from yourself work-wise.

If you need any more help or advice about Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

Twitter https://twitter.com/ASKPERGERS

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ASKPERGERS?ref=hl

And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762