How I Look After Myself as an Autistic Adult [Lived Experience]


Keith Greenwood  |  21/05/2021

Keith Greenwood shares three main tips on how he looks after himself as an autistic adult.

1. What are your strategies on taking care of your mental health?

There are times when people will send typed instructions to you in a haphazard manner. If there is still ambiguity reply back to the sender for clarification. It can be irksome to do but better some time spent clarifying now instead of making a mistake.One of the challenges is when people assume an accepted use of a word that makes sense to them but not to someone. For a real life example. I was asked to carry out a task manually as it cannot work on one system. I then used another system to carry it out.However, I was told off because when they meant ‘manually’, they actually meant they wanted it to be done using email which ‘everyone else’ in the office understood.When you are working with people who may not be precise with their use of language, do not always go with the first or logical assumption. Unfortunately, people can react with hostility if you are asking for clarification repeatedly. Politely ask for them to change the way they are communicating. If they refuse then it falls on you to adapt. However infuriating it can be keep a calm tone of voice. Raising your voice or showing aggression does not aid in communication even if others do it.

2. How do you manage autistic burnout?

I remove myself from the situation that triggered the burnout. I step outside the room. I step outside the building if I must. Once in a safe place I rest whether feeling physically exhausted or not. Drink water and distract myself with media. Eat something nice. Make use of annual leave and have a day off. Taking a short break and going back to it is for before having had a burnout not afterwards. Also I reach out to someone I trust mainly family and ask for their help. In the worst case of autistic burnout I ever experienced I took two days off work and spent time down at a family members cottage away from my house and workplace.

3. What are your common self-care practices? 

Leaving social events or situations if experiencing feelings associated with impending burnout. Such as tunnel vision, Feelings of extreme cold in the chest, sensory overload or just gritting my teeth and wanting to punch someone. If I am experiencing stress or exhaustion from masking responses that are socially unacceptable I take a five minute break. I read a book or look at something on the phone for a short while. I go somewhere private and curse at the wall. It is better to take short breaks before a burnout than to take a long one after. Remembering to sleep regularly at set times. Sleep deprivation is no good for anyone and the effects pile up even if you are not severely affected immediately everyone is bothered by sleep deprivation.