Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.
Imagine a kidnapper holding you hostage. It happens daily, sometimes many times a day, sometimes once a day. Sometimes he comes to you at night. He holds a gun to your head, with only one bullet. He spins the cartridge, and pulls the trigger.
You melt in sweat and panic. The shot fires, the bullet is not in the chamber. But it could be, the next time….
Anxiety can be a cruel kidnapper, robbing us of the joy of living.
Stress exists in many forms. This study found that anxiety is often mentioned in clinical practice for children and adolescents on the autism spectrum.
I can’t find any studies about how often anxiety preys on autistic adults, but when we understand some core autism spectrum characteristics, we can better understand why stress and anxiety can take their toll over time.
I’m going to share 10 easy anxiety help tips with you, so that you can make your kidnapper (anxiety) helpless.
Anxiety Help Tips
1. Get To Know Anxiety
When we don’t understand anxiety, it builds inside us. It affects our mind and body, causing us to lose patience, become irritable, lose sleep, and ruminate about possible outcomes.
Our body may tell us we’re anxious through physical signs of thirst, stomach upset, loose bowel movements, frequent urinating, gas, muscle aches, dizziness, headaches, or tremors.
Musings of an Aspie blogger, Cynthia Kim, an Aspie blogger, helps us understand some of the paradoxically helpful aspects of anxiety, in her article, My Anxiety Is Not Disordered. I found her traffic light analogy especially helpful.
2. Get to Know Your Other Emotions
Journaling or blogging help us find out what’s going on in our mind and body. I’ve often written things down and surprised myself at what’s brewing underneath all that anxiety.
Identifying and labeling our emotions can also help us figure out what we’re anxious about. Here’s a great photo shared by Asperger Syndrome Awareness to help you and me better understand our emotions.
3. Understand Your Sensory Needs
I’m not on the autism spectrum, but I’ve read enough Autism bloggers’ articles to understand that sensory overload causes stress.
S.R. Salas talks about how important her Safe Place is.
Invisible Strings blogger, M. Kelter, shared with me that he needs quiet down time, with quiet/low lights to recharge from mental exhaustion.
- Use a rolling-pin for physical input. You can use it yourself, or better yet ask a friend to use the rolling pin on you while you are lying face down.
- Use a pull up bar. If you have a pull-up bar at home, just hanging from the bar stretches the upper body and can help you relax and focus.
- Indoor trampoline. You can purchase an indoor trampoline at Target or Walmart or a similar store nearby. Jumping up and down or running in place can give needed input.
- Backpack with handheld weights. A backpack doesn’t draw attention, yet can provide the same relief as a weighted vest without being as conspicuous.
- Bean Bag Chair. If you have difficulties with poor upper body tone, sitting on a bean bag or bean gag chair can help you stay alert without exhaustion.
- The Wall. A wall is a sturdy, flat surface you can lean against with your back while squatting, or you can push against it to create proprioceptive input.
4. Learn To Meditate
I’m a Christian, so I meditate on Scripture when I meditate. However, you don’t have to be spiritual to meditate.
I recently heard Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income talk about the power of positive habits. He interviewed the creator of Lift, a site and an app (free) that harnesses the power of positive reinforcement and community to help us form helpful habits. On that app, I learned about two great guides to learning how to meditate. Here’s an example of one of the meditations I did today. The other app, which I just downloaded yesterday, is called Head Space App. [It’s also free].
Pushups, situps, weight lifting, bike riding, running, walking, or jogging. Most of these exercises are low cost. All of them will get your blood flowing. Our minds and bodies are like a two-way feedback system. If we take the actions of exercise, our body and mind both benefit.
Like meditation, I found Fitocracy, both a website and app, that uses points, badges, and props from friends to help me stay motivated to reach new levels of fitness.
6. Write It Out
Michael Hyatt revived my practice of journaling with his post, The 7 Benefits of Keeping A Daily Journal. These benefits include processing previous events, clarifying our thinking, understanding the context of what is going on, noticing our feelings, connecting with our hearts, recording significant lessons, and asking important questions.
7. Think Differently
Cognitive behavior theory posits that the way we think about and perceive situations in our lives can either help us or make things worse. This free self-help cognitive behavior therapy course may help you think differently about stressors. Often, when stressed, thinking about our thoughts is the last things we want to do. But if we can slow down long enough to catch our breath, we can learn mental habits that help us better cope with anxiety.
Here are some more tips from Angela N. Weddle, artistically autistic professional artist –
Although, I have hardly mastered control of my anxiety, I take anti-anxiety medication. I know that many people don’t like medication, but for me, it makes me far more functional than without.
I also listen to music, taking my phone or mp3 player with me. Music has the ability to change my mood.
I find that taking walks regularly and being in nature, also helps.
Since, I’m an artist, I also bring my sketchbook/or take photos for reference. Sometimes, I listen to music while walking.
I think the walk/exercise, art-music combo is one of the most theraputic, for me.
I try not to censor my inner child. I love to blow bubbles, even in public. And I have an inexpensive set of musical bells that I play. I’m no musician, but the sound of the bells combined with the gestures of ringing them, is soothing form of stimming for me, and leaves me feeling happy.
I also love animals. And find that petting and playing with my cats, calms me down.
And last, but not least is my art.
I still play alongside people, rather than with people, even as adult.
Drawing and painting, not just at home, but in public, allows me a legitimate reason to avoid eye contact, and to let others do their thing, while still having me present, participating in the event or outing, usually drawing the event, recording it for posterity. It also encourages positive social interactions, where others notice I am drawing, and gives me a legitimate reason to talk about my primary special interest: art.
What about you? Please share some of your anxiety help tips below!