We are delighted to introduce Aoife Casson, who has joined our MFON columnist team. Aoife will be sharing her open and honest accounts of living with Asperger’s, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Dysgraphia.
This week, 1st – 7th February, marks Children’s Mental Health week, so for her first column, Aoife shares the things she does daily to help reduce her Anxiety.
I have anxiety. I’ve never been officially diagnosed with it as I consider it a symptom of my Asperger’s. Lots of things trigger my anxiety, such as social engagements and unexpected changes. Having said that, I also get anxious at random times for no particular reason. Because of this, I’ve made tweaks to my everyday life to help reduce my anxiety, and I wanted to share some of them with you! Note: These are based on my personal experiences, so they may not work for you. If even one of these tips helps reduce your anxiety – then that’s a win!
Get some sleep
It might sound obvious, but the most important thing I can do to reduce my anxiety is sleep. The amount of sleep needed differs from person to person; I know that I need nine hours a night. If I don’t get enough sleep, my mental health suffers, so I must make sure I get to bed on time, even if I’m really enjoying that Netflix show!
This one will be familiar to people on the autistic spectrum or with sensory processing disorders, however it has the power to help everyone! Short for ‘sensory stimulation’, stimming is a way of calming down your overwhelmed nervous system by focusing on one sensation. This could involve fiddling with the cuff on your jumper, playing with a fidget toy or piece of jewellery or simply tapping your fingers together. I have a small sheepskin rug under my desk, which helps calm me down while I’m working. As long as you’re not hurting yourself, there’s no right or wrong way to stim, so just find what works for you!
Find the right people
A lot of my anxiety stems from how I think other people see me, especially when I’m focusing on my mental health. Surround yourself with people who understand your experiences and support your efforts to improve your mental health. This will have a massive long-term impact on your anxiety as it will allow you to feel safe in your social circle. Don’t be afraid to create some distance between you and the people who make you feel worse! It may be the best thing you ever do.
Know your limits
This is probably the most difficult one for me and is something I’m still working on to this day. A lot of anxiety can come from feeling overtired and overwhelmed, so it’s helpful to stop yourself before you get to that point. This can be planning what time you’re going to leave a social engagement (even a virtual one) or saying no to something because you’ve already got a lot planned. Unfortunately, it involves a lot of trial and error, but it can help to set regular reminders on your phone to check in with yourself and see how you feel.
Talk about it
Talking about something reduces the power it has over you. There’s a reason why everyone was so scared of He-who-shall-not-be-named in Harry Potter! Next time you feel anxious, try telling a close friend or someone you live with. If you don’t have anyone you feel safe talking to, just look in the mirror and say “I feel anxious right now and that’s ok. I’m going to keep doing my best, but I accept that ‘my best’ will look different from day to day.” How does that make you feel?
I hope these tips help you with your anxiety. Remember; sometimes the bravest thing you can do is reach out for help. If you feel like your anxiety is getting in the way of you living your life, please speak to your GP or a therapist.