Stress in Autism – how can people on the autism spectrum best manage stress

Stress in Autism
Stress in Autism

Research Autism have produced this brilliant infographic on  Stress and Autism.

They have produced an excellent .pdf on Managing Stress in Autism  – you can download it here.

Mindfulness – What is it, why do it and is it worth it? Diary of a Mindfulness Course Part One

AMindfulness – What is it, why do it and is it worth it?  Diary of a Mindfulness Course Part One
Mindfulness – What is it, why do it and is it worth it? Diary of a Mindfulness Course Part One

As some of you may know I’m the father of a 10 year old boy on the autism spectrum. Even without the autism taken into account the caregiving of children can a bit stressful. Plus I now work from home so socialise much less than I once did so do get a drop of cabin fever!
Add to that a bit of insomnia mixed with a rather bad temper. (In my defence at least I know!).

So a few weeks back I registered for a Mindfulness course in South London. I have to say this was at the suggestion of my wife who has been using Mindfulness apps for a few months now. And, I must say, has been very impressed with them!

Now Thursday week was the start of the course proper. The previous week has been a gentle and much generalised introduction to the idea of mindfulness. So I thought it might be fun to run a little diary about the course – what I’m doing and what effects, if any, it has on my life.
(I should point out at this juncture that I’m a fairly hard boiled atheist with very little sympathy for what Eric Cartman refers to as “tree hugging hippy shit.”) (I should also say that some of my best friends are into “tree hugging hippy shit”.) (No really!) The course I’m doing does seem to be a secular version of the kinds of things practiced by Buddhists. So this course would tick the boxes of either a hippy or resolute non-believers. Or indeed a Christian.

The course is delivered by a rather marvellous lady who comes with the most wonderful mid-Atlantic accent. Sort of confirming my prejudices about, well, everything really. She also has that delightful North American habit of being polite at all times. And smiling all the time, when she’s not nodding! This at my age has ceased to irritate. So perhaps I’m mellowing which can be used to prove the course works I suppose.
Okay so what is Mindfulness?

Well Ms Nice North American Hippy Lady used a quote by some bloke called Jon Kabat-Zinn who described it as ““Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally.”

Now I have no idea what that means so another part of this Mindfulness dairy will be trying to unravel the mystery. However it turns out that Jon’s father-in- law was Howard Zinn so he might be all bad!

Anyhow what I think it might mean (if it actually does mean anything) is that one should try and cease spending most of one’s time on autopilot (Ms Nice North American Hippy Lady’s term not mine) be conscious of what you are actually doing at each moment.

I’m going to try and avoid going into any depth about mindfully eating a raisin and listening to middle class pieties turned into truly dreadful poetry. (Come back Ezra Pound all is forgiven! Well, actually, it’s not! You are a bastard still and always were). That being said………….
The key take home for me was the practice called the body scan!

The video below outlines what you do.

The Body Scan uses your mind, and to some degree imagination, to move your awareness (or focussed mind) around your body starting at your feet and ending at your head. It uses visualisation to allow your breath to move through your body. With the emphasis is in feeling your body with your mind while at the same time keeping concentration on your breath. Takes about half an hour. Ms Nice North American Hippy Lady has provided us with an mp3 to play at home while we do, what is, referred to as a practice.

So does it work? Well I’m on Day 5 now and I do find it very relaxing. I’m a bit more conscious of waiting a few moments before I speak. So my initial verdict is so far so good. And yes I can put up with the hippy platitudes even if they are patent rubbish just to feel the tension flowing out of on my shoulders each morning.

Anyhow I’ll tell you how this week goes – next week! But for far Mindfulness gets the thumbs up for me!

What’s The One Thing You Would Change About Christmas?

Christmas and mental health
Christmas and mental health

Three quarters of Brits are stressed about Christmas; ‘Unrealistic expectations’ and the resulting stress tops the list putting our health at risk

Natural stresses are always in the mix on family reunions around Christmas time but with the added pressure that we put on ourselves in trying to deliver everything to perfection, we can end up feeling worn out before the big day even arrives.

According to recent research by Bupa UK, surveying 2042 Brits, three-quarters of the nation finds Christmas stressful and a fifth wish they could better deal with the ‘unrealistic expectations’ they put on themselves with a quarter of women (24%) feeling the strain.

The culprit rests within us as the findings reveal that twice as many people say it is the pressure they put on themselves (20%) rather than the expectations from family and friends (9%), which they find to be the driving factor of their stresses on the big day.

Almost a third (29%) of the population are failing to address the issue as they do not consider their own wellbeing a priority during the festive period

A quarter of the nation (26%) loses the battle and admits feeling tired and worn out during the lead up to the big day.

So what are the stresses that we choose to carry at a time when we are meant to be jolly:

  • 37% worry about the financial stress of buying presents
  • 32% worry about buying the wrong presents
  • 19% feel stressed about juggling commitments and pressured situations with their family
  • 15% of people are worried about weight gain over Christmas

Joining us to chat more about the risks associated with letting our health drop to the bottom of our priority list is Bupa’s Clinical Director for Mental Health, Pablo Vandenabeele.

Less stress – 5 great tips for dealing with stress at work.

Yes I know we are only a few days back at work but quite a few of us are beginning to feel stressed again!

Though not my old college buddy Dave. He’s off to Hawaii for a weeks diving! As you can expect he’s off my christmas card list for next year.

So I thought I’d share these great tips for dealing with stress at work.

Do you have any other?

Please feel free to share them in the comments section below.

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Self-help tips to fight fatigue

Self-help tips to fight fatiguee
Self-help tips to fight fatigue
Many cases of unexplained tiredness are due to stress, not enough sleep, poor diet and other lifestyle factors. Use these self-help tips to restore your energy levels.

Eat often to beat tiredness

A good way to keep up your energy through the day is to eat regular meals and healthy snacks every three to four hours, rather than a large meal less often.

Read more about healthy eating.

Perk up with exercise

You might feel too tired to exercise, but regular exercise will make you feel less tired in the long run, and you’ll have more energy. Even a single 15-minute walk can give you an energy boost, and the benefits increase with more frequent physical activity.

Start with a small amount of exercise. Build up your physical activity gradually over weeks and months until you reach the recommended goal of two-and-a-half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, such as cycling or fast walking, every week.

Read more about starting exercise.

Find out the physical activity guidelines for adults.

Lose weight to gain energy

If your body is carrying excess weight, it can be exhausting. It also puts extra strain on your heart, which can make you tired. Lose weight and you’ll feel much more energetic. Apart from eating healthily, the best way to lose weight is to be more active and do more exercise.

Read more about how to lose weight.

Sleep well

It sounds obvious, but two-thirds of us suffer from sleep problems, and many people don’t get the sleep they need to stay alert through the day. The Royal College of Psychiatrists advises going to bed and getting up in the morning at the same time every day; avoid naps through the day, and have a hot bath before bed (as hot as you can bear without scalding you) for at least 20 minutes.

Read more about how to get a good night’s sleep.

Try these NHS-approved sleep apps to help you sleep well.

Reduce stress to boost energy

Stress uses up a lot of energy. Try to introduce relaxing activities into your day. This could be working out at the gym, or a gentler option, such as listening to music, reading or spending time with friends. Whatever relaxes you will improve your energy.

Read more about how to relieve stress.

Talking therapy beats fatigue

There’s some evidence that talking therapies such as counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) might help to fight fatigue. See your GP for a referral for talking treatment on the NHS or for advice on seeing a private therapist.

Read more about counselling.

Cut out caffeine

The Royal College of Psychiatrists recommends that anyone feeling tired should cut out caffeine. It says the best way to do this is to gradually stop having all caffeine drinks (this includes coffee, tea and cola drinks) over a three-week period. Try to stay off caffeine completely for a month to see if you feel less tired without it.

You may find that not consuming caffeine gives you headaches. If this happens, cut down more slowly on the amount of caffeine that you drink.

Drink less alcohol

Although a few glasses of wine in the evening helps you fall asleep, you sleep less deeply after drinking alcohol. The next day you’ll be tired, even if you sleep a full eight hours.

Cut down on alcohol before bedtime. You’ll get a better night’s rest and have more energy. The NHS recommends that men and women should not regularly drink more than 14 units a week, which is equivalent to six pints of average strength beer or 10 small glasses of low strength wine.

Read more about how to cut down on alcohol.

Drink more water for better energy

Sometimes you feel tired simply because you’re mildly dehydrated. A glass of water will do the trick, especially after exercise.

Read about healthy drinks.