Advice & Resources, Autism Insights

What Anxiety Has Taught Me and How I Experience It

Anxiety is something we all face at some point or points in our lives, and from what I learned in a course, it comes from anticipating an event, experience or situation before it happens. Trying to anticipate how it may turn out and therefore worrying about what may come of it in the future. It is trying to stay two steps ahead that gets us into an anxious state, and alerts our bodies of potential danger. There are also two types of stimuli/things that can contribute to an anxious state, one I did not know comes from our external surroundings, such as those involving the five senses, which are hyper sensitive to us on the Autistic Spectrum. Another is from an internal trigger or perceived threat that may or may not exist.

For me, the experience often starts with a single thought, a “what if” if you will regarding my feelings on a particular situation or experience, usually one that appears to be completely new, unfamiliar, or involving a change of some kind- which is most experiences out there-. It could also come from an impending plan that I might not have been aware of, or upcoming task that needs to be prepared for; such as a talk that needs to be revised and rehearsed, or family plans that may involve more social interaction. Either way, that one single thought has the tendency (if not stopped) to grow in my consciousness like an invasive weed, only instead of taking over a garden it takes over my thoughts. Each additional thought then has the potential to add onto the initial concern or add further questions to the uncertainty in that situation I may be facing… and so the spider plant of my thoughts continues to spiral down.

Physical Symptoms and What I’ve Learned from This:

Of course, there are other signs of anxiety that alert me something is off or I’m feeling anxious such as: racing thoughts, tightness in chest and head- which causes headaches-, nervous stomach, restlessness or unable to focus, slightly fast heartbeat, irritability and often loss of appetite over nerves, but what I’ve discovered from this- other than anxiety can play out in many ways- is that much of it comes from the need to know everything in a situation. It’s an unproductive, time wasting habit to rely on, but like any familiar coping mechanism it’s what I turn to in times of uncertainty or unknowingness simply because the habit itself has given me the slightest temporary reassurance that I may have been looking for or craving.

What I’ve been working on is finding other ways to use that energy and find coping mechanisms that make those anxious days a little less overwhelming. So that when those days do come or I find myself going down the anxious path again (even after all the work I’ve done) I can rely on these techniques or activities as tools to help me cope or find something to do when anxiety creeps in.

The Techniques:

  • I usually began the process by finding something I can control in the situation- whether that is how I plan to tackle the day or prepare for the situation; when I start with this it helps redirect my focus from worry/dwelling on a situation to what I can do in the present moment. Also, from experience, by doing something I find it is a great way to take control of what we can- which is making the best of the day- and puts the energy or time spent worrying into something far more productive and engaging than sitting around.
  • Being the creative, imaginative person I am , another way to ease anxiety or even stress is by engaging in a creative activity using my hands. Things like knitting, baking (occasionally), and most recently seem to do the trick and really help to release the anxious energy that worrying about a situation creates and uses it in a productively creative way by transferring it into whatever I may be working on.  Which most recently has been getting back into knitting, and exploring photography using a DSLR Camera.
  •  Finally, an oldie but a goodie is to journal whatever I’ve been feeling or journal on the feelings that have been making me anxious, therefore releasing the very thoughts that have been stuck in my consciousness. That once on paper allow me to move onto to and be ready for whatever else may come my way.

So whether it be creativity, writing, knitting or whatever may help you out of an anxious situation, the important part is remembering to use these tools when anxiety does arrive because that is what they are here for- to help us cope better and become less anxious in the process- and will only help if we chose to use them effectively.

And As Always Stay You-nique,