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Self-care is important for everyone, especially for those who experience heightened anxiety which is common in the autistic community. To avoid exhaustion and burnout, it's important to adopt a sustainable approach to managing life's daily challenges. The key is learning what you need, what works for you, and where to get the right advice and support.
Put simply, self-care means taking care of yourself in a way that works best for you. It's about creating an environment and routine that promotes your best physical and mental health and can involve anything from eating a balanced diet to knowing when to remove yourself from certain situations before you feel overwhelmed.
It can be helpful to try a couple of tactics or techniques that have worked for people in similar situations. They might not work perfectly for you, but they can be useful in figuring out what does work for you. I’ve shared a couple of real-life examples from patients I’ve worked with that might give you some ideas:
Top tip: Use the post-it notes app on your phone to write scripts for when you feel overwhelmed. You can use these scripts by copying and pasting them into a text or email, or you can show them to someone on your phone in a stressful situation.
Create different scripts for different scenarios. For example, you might have a script for dealing with a social situation to explain that you feel overwhelmed and are going to leave quietly.
Finding an ally or advocate is really important for protecting yourself against burnout and exhaustion. This person could be someone you feel calm around, who understands neurodiverse needs, who understands your triggers, or who simply doesn't judge you. They might be someone else with neurodiverse needs or someone who is related to someone with neurodiverse needs.
If you don’t have anyone like that who immediately comes to mind, there are ways you can find them. Perhaps there is someone at work or someone who’s part of a social community you’re a member of who might be a good ally or advocate for you. You could try opening up to someone you already have a relationship with, and asking if they know anyone autistic, and then gradually start to build trust from there.