For the past month, we’ve been living in very different times. With shops empty, restaurants closed, and people being encouraged to stay in their homes, everybody has had to adapt to a “new normal” way of living.
For autistic people, these changes can be exceptionally stressful due to our reliances on routines and familiarity.
Autism And Routines
Autistic people often rely on routines and schedules as a means to cope. For some, it allows them to prepare for events they may otherwise struggle with. For others, it can be a means to help them remember to do certain things they may otherwise forget. This can include drinking at a certain time, showering, and even eating.
For many autistic people, a change to routine can be scary because it means a disruption to our schedule. It’s comparable to a TV network having to interrupt a show they were already airing, and then struggling to alter their schedule for the day due to this unexpected event.
How To Handle These Routine Changes
During these times, many autistic people will have likely found their daily routines have been affected greatly. As an autistic myself, I have devised a guide on how to cope with the changes during these times….
1. Create A New Temporary Routine/Schedule
It can be hard for autistics to adjust to new schedules. Creating a temporary one to remind you to do certain tasks might take some time to adjust, but it certainly may help to make things easier during the lockdown period. Perhaps go out for exercise at a certain time of day (though please do be careful if you do this).
If some parts of your old routine are still do-able, stick to them. As keeping parts of your old routine can help you adjust to a new one.
2. Engage With Special Interests
If you have special interests, engaging in them can be a great way to distract yourself from any unexpected changes. Whilst it won’t solve the problem directly, taking time to calm down with something you enjoy might help to make the changes easier.
3. Take Some Time Away From Social Media And The News If Necessary
If you’re feeling anxious about what’s going on and how it’s affecting your life right now, remember it’s okay to have some time to yourself and avoid news and social media if necessary. Similar to above, take some time away from what’s going on and do something you enjoy. Perhaps add to your routine a certain time to look up what’s going on, and then try to focus on other things.
Twitter, Tumblr and even YouTube allow you to filter out words you don’t want to see on your feed. Whilst you can’t filter out keywords on Facebook currently, they do allow you to ignore certain people or groups that may be talking about it a lot.
4. Plan What You Want To Do Once Quarantine Is Over
We won’t be in this forever, one day it will be safe enough to go out and do the things we enjoy again, and it’s important that we remind ourselves of that. Remind yourself that one day, you’ll be able to enjoy the stuff you did before once again.
Plan things you might want to do in the future, look up things that you’ll one day be able to enjoy again. Making plans for the future is a good way to keep yourself occupied when feeling stressed and anxious, even if things are uncertain right now.
5. Talk To Someone
It’s important not to keep your feelings bottled up. Talk to people you trust about how you’re feeling, this can include partners, parents, close friends. Why not join online autism support groups? It can be healthy to talk about how you’re feeling in an environment where people will understand you completely.
Remember, whilst things may be scary right now, we will one day come out of this into a much better place. Hang in there!