Venturing Outside

Over the last few months, more and more news and media stories have been focused on the U.K. lifting Covid lockdown. Restrictions are slowly easing and we are being told of the return to day-to-day “normal” life.

For most people, especially those of us on the Autism Spectrum, this so-called transition and a return to normal daily life can arouse different feelings, and even some serious concerns.

“Going back to an office could be stressful, having to mask all day & socialise”

“I’ve become used to isolation,”

During the pandemic, those in lockdown, shielding, self-isolating, etc, have spent months or even a year at home, and have developed new, very different routines- a new way of life. We were all required to quickly transition and adapt to very different and restricted routines, which took time and effort to get used to. I know I’m not alone in having found a sense of safety and comfort in this way of living and almost prefer it to the old way of life. Now, though, we are being asked to transition and adapt yet again, towards a new normal, which might continue for some years. While opening our front doors and moving back into society might be a relief to the majority of the population, for some of us (and not only those on the Autism spectrum) it’s a genuine worry and can cause considerable anxiety.

The social distancing and other public health measures in place now require us to interact and engage in a different way. For those of us on the spectrum, this can feel very uncomfortable, difficult to deal with, and some aspects will be extremely discomforting, and disruptive. We’ve spent our lives negotiating situations we struggle with every day and have come up with ways to deal with them. However, now we will find that many of our well-learned “hacks” to do so, no longer apply.

I find it can be useful to try to prepare myself when something new is happening in general terms, so I thought I’d share my thoughts about this in the hope it might help someone else. This is what I do:

Using a pen and paper, or the notes app (standard on most smartphones) to write down the changes you will need to make to your routines, environments and with people. Note down the potential issues you might face, and maybe even some positives too. Then identify where the possible issues could arise, and think about how you can develop coping strategies (new ones, or some rehashed from other situations you’ve faced) for any of the issues you’ve identified. If they have worked in the past, then it might be possible to use them again. If not, you might find new and improved ways that you haven’t considered before.

Another tip is to deal with this like you would climbing Mount Everest. It can feel as if you are, sometimes! You have to do things in stages: small, manageable steps that increase in size each day. Let’s say you’ve been off work, shielding or in isolation for months. You’ve not left your house since lockdown began. So take small steps each day. The first day, walk outside your house, maybe venture to your front gate. The following day go to the end of the road or around the block. The next day, go even further, and so on.

If you don’t manage to go further than you did the day before, please don’t feel that you’ve failed in any way, shape or form,. Repeating the same step a few times can create a comfort level that enables you to gradually do a bit more. We all move at our own pace, and ultimately each step taken will help towards the main goal of facing this new post-lockdown landscape, whatever form it takes.

Above all, please …

Stay Safe X

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