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Stress-Management for People on the Autism Spectrum

There are a number of techniques you can try to manage your stress. What works is different for everyone, and it can take time to find the ones that work best for you. Here are 10 tips to try:

1.    Be good to yourself. Remember that you are NOT your stress. You are not a feeble weakling. You are not a second-rate person. You simply have a mental health condition called “chronic stress.”

2.    Be aware of your self-talk. How you think directly affects how you feel. Stress makes you overestimate the danger in a situation -- and underestimate your ability to deal with it. Think of different interpretations to a situation that’s making you stressed, rather than launching to the worst-case scenario. Look at the facts for - and against - your negative thoughts being true.

3.    Fully understand your stress. Keep a diary of when it is at its worst – and best. Look for the patterns, and plan your day to proactively manage your stress.

4.    Adopt a healthy lifestyle. Stay active, eat well, go out into nature, spend time with family and friends, and do the activities you enjoy. These are all effective in reducing stress and improving your mood.  

5.    Learn from other people. Talk with others who also experience stress or are going through something similar. This can help you feel less alone.

6.    Set aside time to worry.  No one can stop worrying entirely, so set aside some time to humor your worries. Take 5 minutes each evening to write them down and go over them in your head. This will help stop your worries from taking over at other times.

7.    Utilize progressive muscle relaxation. Find a quiet spot, close your eyes, and slowly tense and then relax each of your muscles from your head to your toes. Hold the tension for 5 seconds, and then release slowly. This will help reduce the feelings of muscle tension that often comes with stress.

8.    Incorporate slow breathing. When you’re stressed, your breathing usually becomes shallower. Deliberately slow down your breathing. Count to 5 as you breathe in slowly, then count to 5 as you exhale slowly.

9.    Try to stay in the present moment. Stress can make your thoughts live in an awful future that hasn’t happened yet. Bring yourself back to where you are now. Meditation can help with this.

10.    Attempt small acts of courageousness. Avoiding what makes you stressed provides some relief in the short term, but can make you more stressed-out in the long term. Thus, approach something that makes you somewhat fearful (even in a small way). The path through stress is by learning that what you’re afraid of isn’t likely to happen. Even if it does, you’ll be able to deal with it effectively.

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