Category Archives: anxiety

The Christmas Party: An Aspie’s Dread

In Unforgiving, Memoir of an Asperger Teen, I am the only person in my entire class who is not invited to the class party.

Yes, it happens, and somehow, we survive. Obviously, I had no gift for social interaction.

But one thing Aspies are good at is learning, and our ability to learn and acquire social skills is key to our enjoyment of the world around us.

And, it’s Christmas.  If you’re lucky enough to be invited to a Christmas party, or maybe you just end up there by default–it’s an office thing and you can’t avoid it–wouldn’t it be nice to be able to relax and enjoy the moment?

Knowing some of the basic behaviours and unwritten rules that others take for granted have really helped me since that day of the big un-invite.

Let’s start with the office party.

First of all, I’ve been told that it’s rude to not show up. It could count against you. However, it is not impolite to come a bit late and leave early on, but if you arrive closer to the start time (say, 15-20 minutes after) people may not have clustered into cliques and you might find making and joining conversations easier.

  • Here are some conversation starters from the November, 2017 issue of Canadian Living Magazine:

    • Do you have any plans for the holidays?  Are you travelling?

    • What were your favourite holiday traditions when you were growing up?

    • Tell me about a book that has had a huge influence on you.

Be sure to see your bosses: your supervisor, the manager and/or the department head before you leave.  “Thank you.” And “It’s been a pleasure working with you this year.” are some things you might say.

Leaving early?  Even though the office party may be a high anxiety event for you, try to wait until someone else has already left before saying your goodbyes.  If it’s conspicuously early, you may say you have another commitment. If it’s curling up with your cat to watch a good movie, it may be wise to refrain from saying so!

I do hope this helps.  Thankfully, my social life has improved immensely.  And believe me, yours can, too!

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean

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Aspies: Ten Ways Volunteering Can Help Us Learn to Adapt.

When someone else changes plans which also affect us, as Aspies we may become temporarily stuck in a “this is unacceptable!” zone.  How can we become more adaptable?

What activities or new experiences may best help us handle change so that we might adapt to other’s needs and acquire a healthier focus; one which does not lead us to a feeling of dread when we must deal with a changed agenda?

Save The Children’s Marc and Craig Kielburger give a possible solution in a recent newspaper article*:

“Youth who volunteer through our service programs…are more comfortable adapting to change…”

Renowned for creating the Save The Children Foundation as a young teen in high school, Craig Kielburger still operates the organization that was originally entirely run by and for children.

In their article, the Kielburger brothers note the following ten ways in whiuch volunteering helps teenagers adjust to school and other stresses, including aversion to change:

  1. When you do something for others, your stress levels are reduced.  This is proven by research**.

  2. Volunteering may give you an alternative social scene, in which you can find a sense of community and belonging.

  3. Volunteering for a cause you’re passionate about will connect you with mentors who have similar interests.

  4. Helping others puts your focus outside of yourself, encouaging you to see your own situation in a different and possibly more positive light.

  5. Volunteering broadens your outlook.  Your own problems may seem far less significant when you come face to face with the plight of others.

  6. Seeing other’s problems, Kielburger says, can help you build both perspective and empathy.  Kielburger also notes that doctors state that empathy is a powerful antidote to stress.

  7. As a Volunteer you enjoy increased self-esteen.  According to research done within the Foundation, volunteers for Save The Children are 1.3 times more likely to “have a strong sense of self”.

  8. The kind of stress found in volunteering — that is, helping others with their problems — can be an opportunity to overcome challenges, to build resiliency and to develop self-esteem.

  9. Volunteering can build leadership skills.

  10. Volunteering helps develop a  life – long habit of giving back.

Find a cause you are passionate about, Aspies and get involved!

Maybe sorting clothes at the local hospice society thrift shop won’t do it for you, but perhaps volunteering in a Wildlife Preservation Society or starting up a chapter of Save the Children will.

Whatever you choose, if you give it your all you will find yourself thinking about situations, people and places beyond your own inner world.  Go for it. And, most importantly, enjoy!

*According to an independent study by research firm Mission Measurement.

**See:  https://www.randomactsofkindness.org/the-science-of-kindness

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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Aspies: Back to School Stress: What helps?

School is a stressor for most of us.  While we love the learning, many of us suffer through the social aspects of every class from kindergarten to university.  A recent survey shows that 25 per cent of new high school students will rate their anxiety level at seven out of ten*.  Here are some ways to deal with that discomfort whether you’re starting high school, middle school, university or college.

  1. Familiarize yourself with the geography of your school, especially if it’s new to you. Where are the washrooms?  The lockers?  The labs?  What is the shortest route to take between classes? With your class schedule in hand, do a practice run from room to room to see where you’ll need more time to make the change.  Many schools have portables; do you know which portable your class is in?  How long will it take you to get from the main building to that class? Even if you attended the same school last year and the year before, chances are you’ll have some classes in new locations.  Knowing where you’re going and how to get there will give you a sense of confidence even before the class begins.

  2.  Check your supplies and organize them for easy access.  If you’re still using handwritten notes in a note book, keep the subjects separate, and the notebooks with the applicable texts.  Being organized means less time spent hunting down materials which means ultimately, less time spent on homework.  Who’s going to argue that?  One website, https://www.verywell.com/top-school-stress-relievers-for-students-3145179 has more suggestions for organizing and utilizing your study space.

  3. Always write assignments in one place.  This could be the notes app on your cell phone or lap top or at the end of your class notes.  Just be sure they are easily accessed and you won’t have to rack your brain about what assignments are due tomorrow.  For tips on how to organize your homework/study area and how to approach homework and studying, getting those assignments done and done well see this article at PsychCentral.com: https://psychcentral.com/lib/top-10-most-effective-study-habits/

  4. Study regularly; don’t just cram before a test.  Cramming seldom works.  Regularly familiarizing yourself with the information is the most helpful way of learning.  Talk about what you’re studying with someone else who is truly interested.  If you can help someone else learn, you’ll remember it far better at exam time.  For some excellent study tips try this website:  http://www.youthcentral.vic.gov.au/studying-training/studying-tips-resources/top-10-study-tips

  5. Learn to destress yourself.  At Wellcast’s website, you can learn 100 wellness techniques in 100 days.  This URL will take you to the one on meditation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lWIFMfEgc8A

So head back to school with confidence and determination, visualizing a successful year.

Using these tips will help you do just that.

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

*McGill University Research conducted by Dr. Nancy Heath.

 

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Aspies Relax? How a Neurodivergent Rebel Learned to Meditate.

Apparently many people have issues with relaxation.  This week’s post is a reblog from a writer who goes by the moniker “Neurodivergent Rebel”:

TO EVERYONE WHO “CAN’T MEDITATE”

Mindfulness and meditation have been a big part of my life for several years now. I’m always happy to share with people how helpful meditation is for me.

Unfortunately almost everyone I talk to about meditation “can’t meditate”.

“I wish I could meditate. My mind isn’t made for that!” or “I can’t stand being still”, a few of the most common excuses why people tell me they “can’t meditate”.

People assume meditation was always easy for me, while in reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

I started meditation because of a deep internal need for change.

My twenty-fifth birthday was coming at me like an out of control locomotive with a sleeping driver. The number made me uneasy and it was coming too fast. Like a doe, hypnotized by the headlights, I felt helpless to stop it.

Something was wrong, missing, empty and completely inexpressible. I’d been searching my entire life for something. . . peace, stillness, answers, meaning maybe?

In my mid to early twenties, I was very out of touch with my own feelings and emotions.

At first, my meditations were distracted, plagued with racing, unwanted, thoughts. When the goal was to count to five without allowing your mind to wander off, sometimes I only got to two or three before starting over, and over, and over.

It was hard, but as I kept on it things got easier.

Finally, with Buddhism, I was beginning to unlock the tools needed to understand and shape my own mind. Somedays progress crawled along at what felt like a snail’s pace, but every week as I continued to practice it got easier.

As I’ve grown older and incorporated mindfulness into my life over the years, things have greatly improved. I still meditate every day but the way I meditate has changed.

I meditate all the time. At times I may meditate for only a few minutes or seconds, whenever I need to calm and relax my mind, think more clearly, or gather the words for an important conversation.

Meditation has become the tool that I use to recalibrate my brain. Sitting tall I close my eyes and bow my head as I take in a deep, slow breath. As I breathe in I focus on the feelings of my feet on the ground or my butt in a chair (depending on where I am).

As my lungs expand I shift my focus to the feelings of my breath. With eyes closed, I listen and feel, asking myself – “what’s happening now?” Depending on available time I may stay for a while, eyes closed, nose pointed at the floor.

This micro-meditations can be as quick as a few breaths. I’ve even learned to meditate with my eyes open, although I wonder if I have a blank stare when I do this.

I take the time that I need and if I get flustered I remind myself not to rush, gently whispering in my own ear “relax, stay in the present”.

Every day I am needing to remind myself less and less, thanks to a very conscious choice I made years ago to change my life.

Dear people who “can’t meditate” – keep trying.

For more great posts from Neurodivergent Rebel go to: https://neurodivergentrebel.com/

Hope this helps!

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

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Aspies: Ten Steps to Mixing at a Party!

Happy New Year everyone!

Invited to a party?  Anxious about how that will go? Good news, Aspies: Mixing well at a party is really painless. Here are ten steps to being at ease at a party:

  1.  Be presentable.  Clean body and clothes, regardless of what you wear. Fresh breath and deodorant are a must.  No pet hair on clothes.  Lots of people are allergic and you don’t want everyone in the room moving away from you all night.

  2. Arrive on time, especially if it’s a dinner party. Don’t come early, and don’t arrive more than fifteen minutes after the specified time.

  3. Be thoughtful of the host/hostess. Where do you put your coat, etc?  Can you help with anything?  They will most likely greet you at the door, take your coat, and either hand you a drink or point you to the refreshment table/bar.

  4. Forget about YOU. This is a gathering of diverse people the host brought together with the overall idea of a fun/stimulating/entertaining evening.  Therefore each person regardless of appearance, abilities or disabilities, is worthy of your time and attention.

  5. Spend a little time with each guest as they become conversationally accessible. Introduce yourself, mention the weather or the funny hat the host is wearing, or how you know the host.  Ask the person about themselves: what do they like to do?  How do they know the host?  What is the best movie they’ve seen this year?  The worst?

  6. LISTEN: Really listen. You aren’t listening if you’re waiting to talk about your favorite topic.  And you aren’t listening if you’re looking around wondering who to talk to next.  To listen, look at the other person.  Absorb what they’re saying.  Think of something to ask that relates to what they are saying, or, if the conversation is complex, briefly rephrase what they’ve said to make it clear that you understand.  The point of any conversation is to draw the other person out, to see into their mind, their interests, their lives.

  7. Excuse yourself, when it becomes obvious the other person is never going to stop talking, or others have joined in and are pretty much carrying the conversation. Do not take offence that this has happened, it is a natural evolution of party talk. However, if you see people moving away from you? Probably you are talking too much!  Go on to the next.

  8. At the end of the night, say a brief goodnight to each person you chatted with, thank your host and check that you have everything; cell phone, purse or wallet, hat, scarf, gloves.

  9. Do not be the last to leave! Unless the host has designated you part of the clean up crew, exit the party in a timely manner. It’s okay to leave at any time, but probably best if you wait til after two or three others have left.

  10. The next day, call or text your host/hostess to tell them how much you enjoyed the event. Be only positive in this missive.  Do not point out how they could have improved the party or who they should not have invited or that your aunt has a better recipe for baked Brie.  Positive remarks only along with thank you.

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Anxiety: the Big Muscle in Aspie Brains?

 

Are we anxious because we unintentionally develop the anxiety muscle in our brains? My recent reading has led me to consider the possibility.

Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School by John Medina offers fascinating insight into the molecular processes that occur in our brains.

Although Medina is a developmental molecular biologist and research consultant chapters like “stressed brains don’t learn the same way” and “we are powerful and natural explorers” capture and entertain those of us with a more elementary knowledge of neural science.

In the chapter on “Wiring–Every brain is wired differently”, Medina tells us our brain is like a muscle: the more you do the same activity, the bigger and more complex that part of the brain that is utilized can become.

For us Aspies. this poses an interesting possibility.  Can it be true then, that the more we experience anxiety, the larger and more prominent our anxiety receptors become?

Temple Grandin, in her book The Autistic Brain,states that neuro-imaging shwoed her brain had a larger anxiety receptor than “normal”.

And does Medina’s conclusion explain why forcing ourselves to think positive, to build and maintain positive images of ourselves in social situations, can result in having a better day?

Is it because we are strengthening that part of the brain that builds confidence, feeds positive feelings and reduces our levels of anxiety?

If so, let’s go, Aspies!  Let’s exercise the positive neurons, or as Willie Nelson once sang: accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative!

Let us build our brains in a direction in which we are all longing to grow!

Yours truly,

Margaret Jean.

 

 

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Poetry For Troubled Minds: Aspies Take Courage.

This challenging and inspiring poem was written byAJH who also goes by the monikers”Beautifully Bipolar” and “notmydisability”.

Alex has a lot to say about issues around not being people’s notion of normal.

She sent me this poem with permission to use it on my site.  I have taken the liberty of titling it:

SOMETIMES

Sometimes, I want to end it. I want to undo the world, untie the knots in my brain. Make things better when I know that won’t happen. Change my past doings when I know it is not possible.

Sometimes, I hate myself. My skin is my worst enemy. My heart is an evil force. My thoughts are both my best friend and biggest defeater.

Sometimes, I don’t want to do this. Going on would be harder than just going to live with the stars. The stars are beautiful. Why can’t I be the same?

Sometimes, I get scared. Make that all the time. Fear attacks me, swallows me in. I am one with the anxiety but it is slowly taking over.

Sometimes, I am dangerous. I am like chemicals and matches. If you mix up everything inside of me, I’ll explode. Boom. Crash. Die.

But….

Sometimes, I gain courage. I talk to someone new. Smile at a stranger. Decide to make myself happy.

Sometimes, I love myself. Looking in the mirror isn’t as bad. Clothes feel right. People’s eyes don’t bother me. If someone stares, I’ll think maybe they actually like me.

Sometimes, I take a new step. Jump outside of the world I have created for myself. Outer space isn’t such a bad place, when it makes you feel weightless.

Sometimes, I am not heavy. My shoulders are not dragged down. My face is not a constant straight line. There are no weights on my feet, telling me to stay put.

Sometimes, I am me. I break the mirror showing me my flaws, and look out a window that shows me the good things. Beauty, love, and hope are present, and I am too.

 

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The Start of Something New

Guest Blog:

Paisley’s blog is a great example of having compassion for yourself. I love how she’s embracing her issues instead of trying to just make them go away! We’ll be following your blog, Paisley.

The Over Thinker

IMG_6433 Thumbs up to me for my first post!

My name is Paisley, I’m a 19 year old student from Ontario, Canada and I have severe anxiety. My whole life I’ve been trying not to let my anxiety define me, but it recently occurred to me that after 19 years of trying to make this thing go away, it won’t. So why not embrace it? That seems to be a trend lately anyways, embracing past tragedies, scars, and physical illnesses, so why shouldn’t we start embracing our mental illness as well?

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