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Ways of coping with anxiety
Thursday 05 December 2019

Ways of coping with anxiety

For people on the autistic spectrum, anxiety is a common occurrence. Any number of things can cause anxiety. For me personally, the stuff that tend to cause anxiety are things such as social situations, crowds of people, alterations in routine, new situations, deadlines and loud noises.

There are others, but those are the most common.

When I get anxious, I often feel sick, shaky, lightheaded and cold. I start breathing faster and I feel like I'm floating.

Sometimes I get hit out of nowhere by these weird attacks where I feel like someone's just thrown me into a bowl of treacle or quicksand. Even thinking feels like a massive amount of effort and I just feel like I want to give up and not put any effort in. It can make it really hard to do homework or anything like that. If it lasts longer than an hour it can stop me from eating, because I just don't particularly care about it and it seems like way too much effort to make the food and eat it. This is one of the reasons why I often end up missing meals or eating late.

When you have anxiety, trying to control or cope with it can be really difficult. Sometimes it's harder than others, which is what a lot of people don't really understand. If I'm more tired or feeling sick anyway, then I find it a lot harder to calm down from an anxiety attack on top of that. But it is possible to control anxiety, even if it is hard. I've written one other article on MyVoice about tips for dealing with social anxiety. Here are a few more tips for generalized anxiety.

Some of them are exactly the same. I still find music to be very helpful when it comes to calming down and I still think gradually introducing yourself to whatever makes you anxious can help.

One of my biggest tips is to find things that you personally find calming. This could be music or maybe you like photography or a particular kind of food.

Things that help me personally are stuff like fluffy blankets, heavy coats or jumpers and wool clothes. It might sound really childish, but I also find it quite calming to hug a teddybear or some other stuffed animals. Writing is really helpful too, although I don't really know why. I always feel calmer when I'm writing. I also like watching my favourite films or tv shows. I do have favourite foods as well that are good for when I'm anxious, although sometimes it feels like too much effort to make them or we don't have them in. These would be food like grapes, tomato soup, raspberries, apples or tea. There's also this particular kind of yogurt that has bits of chocolate floating in it that's really nice.

I use these stim necklaces as well. One's a black musical note that's designed to be chewable. Then there's one that has a gear mechanism built into the pendant, I can spin it around and play with it. Then I have a scented necklace that smells like citrus. These are all fairly non-obstructive and subtle ways for me to stay calm when I'm anxious. Maybe you could try and find something like them for yourself.

The important thing to remember is that you're not alone. A lot of people both with and without autism have anxiety and there's nothing wrong with it.