This post will probably end up just being a bit of a ramble. Lately, everything has changed due to COVID-19 and the rules being put in place in each country are affecting everyone’s life. Everything is now uncertain and up in the air, ambiguous. Some people are panicking, some people are calm but cautious and some people just don’t key and keep going out and socialising regardless. Since the UK started putting measures in place a few weeks back, I kept my cool and kept thinking that I was dealing with it quite well. I’m not panicking or stockpiling or freaking people out with statistics. I’ve been staying inside as much as possible and keeping myself distracted. When in reality, I’ve been avoiding the fact that there is a lot of change and uncertainty going on that I can’t handle.
As someone with autism, I don’t handle change very well. I thrive on routines and schedules (MY routines, not someone else’s) and hate the unknown. I like eating the same meals and doing the same activities because they’re safe and secure. That’s why I also don’t handle uncertainty. And considering there’s no actual date for when schools open, social distancing stops, restaurants and pubs can open again and so on, it’s safe to say that there’s a lot of uncertainty in the world right now.
In an effort to keep myself busy and distracted, I’ve ended up pushing myself into sensory overload. Even though being productive is usually a good thing for me, in this case, I haven’t been allowing myself the time I need to sit back and process everything. This is going to be a really hard time for everyone, but I can’t help but think about others with autism. Uncertainty and change is difficult for everyone but when you’re autistic, it can feel so intense that it’s actually painful.
I had a lot of plans that have had to be cancelled. I was supposed to be at a literature festival, an art sale, a book signing and a school talk but no more. A lot of events that I was really excited for have just gone. And considering that most events take planning and preparation to avoid stress for neurotypical people, you can imagine how stressful it is for someone who’s autistic to wrap their hand around the fact that all of that preparation is down the drain.
I realise now that I have been pushing myself too much. Just because I have the time to do it, doesn’t mean I should be spending every second doing something productive. If you’re having the same struggles, I highly recommend taking a small bit of time everyday to just lie in bed/sit comfortably and relax. Listen to some relaxing music, mindlessly doodle, close your eyes, nap, whatever- just let yourself do nothing. You don’t have to think about what’s going on in the world, you just have to let your mind be free for a bit. If you spend all of your time worrying about the pandemic and keeping yourself busy, you’ll only overwork yourself.
I’d also recommend setting yourself a new schedule, if that helps you. It doesn’t have to be filled with things- it can be as simple as setting a time to wake up, have meals and go to sleep. Even though most places are in isolation, if you can, go for a 5 minute walk. Fresh air is really good for calming you down. Also, loosen your expectations. These are not normal times, at all. So why should you keep up your normal expectations of yourself? Be kinder to yourself, let yourself relax more and don’t overwork yourself.
It’s natural to feel the need to do stuff with all of the new spare time you have, but even people like me who want to be productive can end up overworking themselves.