We all know about challenges like climbing Mount Everest or crossing the Pacific Ocean on a raft. If you’re up for that kind of challenge, you may read no further. Congratulations!
For some Aspies, the word ‘challenging’ may seem to be synonymous with ‘anxiety-producing’, creating stress.
Experts tell us that whether stress becomes a positive or a negative factor in any particular situation depends upon how we respond to that stress.
Worrying creates unhealthy stress, whereas allowing stress to spur us on into action in a challenging situation ensures that it leads us forward into a positive learning experience.
For some Aspies, ‘challenging’ may even refer to those activities which for many people are common, almost daily occurrences.
For instance, what if you would like to go to a certain shop but it’s in an unfamiliar area of town; one into which you have never ventured. You don’t know how to get there, let alone how to get back!
Maybe you’re hesitant to take a bus because the numbers, the routes and the schedules can be quite confusing.
Breaking down a challenge like this into its relatively simple components will allow you to realize that you can resolve each of them, separately, quite successfully.
You could download a schedule for the number of the bus you need to take to get to your desired location. When you are ready, go to the nearest bus stop. When that particular bus comes, take it.
Carefully observe what roads the bus is taking, what shops and restaurants you are passing, or which other points of interest are along the way. You could make a mental, or even a paper or e-note of them.
When you get to your destination you may not wish to initially venture too far from the bus stop.
Familiarize yourself with the three or four blocks around the bus depot, note the street names and any other unique or ‘landmark’ buildings, parks or memorable natural landscape features.
Once you have experienced the bus route and the nature of the surroundings at your desired destination, you can take the bus back home again.
You might find it helpful to do this two or three times until you feel comfortable in your knowledge of the route, how long the trip takes and the nature of the area surrounding your destination.
What will you have accomplished? Just this: you will no longer need to wait for someone else to have the time to drive you where you want to go. You will be able to move about based on your own agenda, not that of your parents, your siblings or your friends.
You will be in control of your day, and just a little bit more in control of your own life.
And you will feel a sense of success, maybe even of triumph!
Becoming more knowledgeable about your community and its surrounding areas can increase your confidence, giving you a greater sense of independence.
You will find that knowing where you are going and that you can get there on your own can be exhilarating and liberating.
The result is that your sense of self-respect will receive a tremendous boost, encouraging you to undertake similar challenges, in a similar manner, with far less anxiety in the future.
It is important to realize that falling into the trap of simply avoiding the initial anxiety which may accompany a novel task will not get you where you want to go. But meeting the challenge will enrich your life.
When we decide to take control of a situation in our lives, we ask something of ourselves.
When we respond positively and successfully we present ourselves with an opportunity for growth, which involves meeting, accepting and overcoming challenge after challenge.
Ultimately, we become our own heroes, infusing ourselves with the courage, even the desire to face whatever challenges present themselves. In this way we can view new challenges as opportunities for enhancing our experiences.
Our reward is a life fully and joyfully lived, with gratitude for challenges which come our way.
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:
When you do something for others, your stress levels are reduced. This is proven by research**.
Volunteering may give you an alternative social scene, in which you can find a sense of community and belonging.
Volunteering for a cause you’re passionate about will connect you with mentors who have similar interests.
Helping others puts your focus outside of yourself, encouaging you to see your own situation in a different and possibly more positive light.
Volunteering broadens your outlook. Your own problems may seem far less significant when you come face to face with the plight of others.
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.
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”.
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.
Volunteering can build leadership skills.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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/