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Wk 12 SELF-CARE 6 Tips for Adult Autistics

 

1. Basic Needs

This one has always been a challenge for me.  I tend to get caught up in what I am doing and forget to eat and drink.  I'm better about it in the mornings, but by lunchtime or late afternoon I have completely forgotten.  I've even caught myself "holding it" after a cup of coffee rather than stopping to "go" because I don't want to stop what I'm doing.  Can you relate, do you do any of this as well?  

IF so, then it is time for some Self-Care.  One of the biggest hurdles we as autistics face is giving ourselves PERMISSION to Self-Care.  Somehow, over the decades of going unidentified and not knowing we are autistic, we hold this false belief that isn't even conscious that we have to follow the rules and ask permission.  I think it comes from childhood when we had to ask permission to go to the bathroom at school.  

Most of us are rule followers to the letter and this new awareness that we are in control and have choices to decide what we need is a hard one to embrace on some level.  But, TODAY, you are in control and you are the master of your life and you can give yourself permission to Self-Care. 

Make a list or just some mental notes of where you aren't meeting your basic needs at the moment.  When did you last eat?  How much water have you drunk today?  Here is a big one...are you getting quality sleep regularly?  These basic needs need to be met so that you can tackle another day and have the "spoons" aka energy to be your best you.  This is the best reason to give yourself permission, so you can do what it is that brings you joy.

This week in the Private Mind Your Autistic Brain Community we paired up with a Self-Care Buddy for the holidays to help one another.  If you need a Self-Care buddy check out the group. There is a link below. 

2. Move

And I don't mean pack your bags..lol.  That just woke someone up!!  I hate packing and moving.  But what I'm talking about is moving your body, exercise.  It is so important for brain health not just your body health.  I have found it to be such a huge part of my late identified, autism journey that I made a video about it on my YouTube Channel.  You can check it out here to learn more about BDNF: Exercise & BDNF VIDEO

One of the big benefits of moving your body for at least 20 minutes to where you work up a bit of a sweat is the raising of those "feel good" endorphins like dopamine.  It also elevates BDNF and as adults we can all use these especially as we are just starting our autism journey.  Get the details in the video on BDNF.  

As for the endorphins, these help with depression and anxiety for starters and raise our "feel good" chemistry.  Try it first thing in the morning as this is the time when cortisol levels or stress hormones are at their highest.  So knock out that morning negative bias with a workout and you will be amazed at how much better you feel and the mental clarity you gain for your day.  

3. A Weighted Blanket or a Hug

Many autistics have overactive sympathetic nervous systems.  I am definitely in that group myself.  And one thing that helps calm and slow down that overactive SNS is either a weighted blanket just wrapped around your body or on your bed at night.  There are a few small studies out showing their benefit to encourage sounder sleep.  I don't know about you but I take all the sleep help I can get.

If you aren't in a situation where a hug is either sensory pleasing or isn't safe because of the people, then a weighted blanket is a great way to get the benefit without the sensory or emotional overwhelm.

If you can and it is enjoyable to you, get or give a hug.   One where you truly are wrapped in loving arms and relax into the hug.  This both releases stress and helps slow down that overactive nervous system. 

4. Meditation and/or Deep Breathing

Meditation helps bring your focus to the present and has been shown in research studies to help with fibromyalgia, PTSD, Anxiety and depression.  Many things that we autistics struggle with on the regular.  I have POTS, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, and when my hear rate skyrockets this helps me regulate.

The key to meditation is consistent practice.  When I first tried it, I was super uncomfortable and my mind raced all over the place.  But with practice my body and mind began to slow down and I was able to tap into the benefits meditation offers: clarity, calm, focus, relaxation just to name a few.  

No one tells you, as an autistic, that meditation feels very "off" from our norm and is really awkward at first try.  So give it a chance and know that it feels weird and hard the first few times, but it does get better each time you practice.

Deep breathing may be more your style.  It helps lower your heart rate and blood pressure per a Harvard Medical study.  And the recommendation is 5-7 minutes with a longer exhale.  

The suggestion is to not just use this technique when you are stressed or upset but rather to use it consistently and when you are not under stress.  By doing it when you aren't stressed your mind and body will become more aware of one another and you can better identify when you are beginning to feel stressed rather than caught in the build up and then trying to calm down from on top of the stress mountain.

5. Join a Community of Others Who are Experiencing Similar Challenges As You

You are NOT alone my friend.  One of the hardest things about being late identified as an adult autistic is not even knowing or thinking about reaching out to find others.  I didn't and it took me several years doing it all alone until I had the thought to find others who were in the same boat or ahead of me on the journey to talk to and ask questions.

Good NEWS!!!  Because of my experiences you don't have to do this alone.  I started Mind Your Autistic Brain Community for this exact purpose.  A community of late identified, adult autistics who come together to encourage and support one another from a place of kindness, gentleness, patience and understanding.  We have spent too much of our lives not receiving those basic things and in MYAB that is what you will receive.  

To join the community click here: Join MYAB FB Community

6. Daily "Love Note" to yourself

Our brains have what is termed a "negative bias," and it is this negative bias that is part of how our brain seeks to protect us from danger.  However, that negative bias can be a challenge that turns into negative thought loops for many of us on the spectrum.  

To help stop or put the brakes on a negative thought loop, try the following:

Journal or just write on a post-it (I use a post-it and stick it on the bathroom mirror)
write something you are good at.  This can be something small to start if you are having a hard time letting go of the negative self talk.  I started with little things "I am good at folding the socks so that they stay together and fit in the drawer perfectly."

Write something you do that is an act of kindness to yourself or to others.

This Self-Care practice is one that works over a period of time.  So don't just do it once and think it didn't work so you quit.  You don't have to do it daily but that is helpful in the beginning.  I did it each day for a month and kept each post-it on the bathroom mirror to remind myself of the days prior.  Now, I do it about once a month on my #ReflectionFriday.  

You can follow along with your own #ReflectionFriday journaling in the Private FB Community, Mind Your Autistic Brain for more guided support and encouragement.

Thank you for being here today and taking time to read a few of the many Self-Care tips I have gathered for myself over the years on my Autism Journey. 

You are not alone and you are enough just as you are.  And you are important and Self-Care is your choice and under your control to choose when and how you need it.  You don't have to ask permission my friend. 

As always, all my best,
Carole Jean
AKA Social Autie


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