Today’s world is far busier than at any time in the past. Everywhere we look, we’re faced with many choices to make and complicated details to track and organize. It’s no wonder that so many people lead lives of constant stress, always worrying that there’s too much going on and no good ways to keep up with it all. Making wrong choices, losing track of things, and not getting enough done seem inevitable.
Of course, anxiety only makes everything worse; but if we don’t feel in control of our daily lives, then how can we get those worries to go away? And until the worries go away, how can we feel more confident? Many of us struggle with this dilemma. It can be especially challenging for people with disabilities, whose needs are by definition (under the social model of disability) not adequately supported in present-day society.
Autism, in particular, often is associated with anxiety. Definitions of autism generally mention self-calming repetitive behaviors. Many people view such behaviors not as an intrinsic part of their autism, however, but as symptoms of anxiety caused by living in a world that can feel overwhelming and extremely difficult to navigate, with information often coming too fast to process.
I believe that it’s helpful for any of us, whether or not we have a disability, to keep in mind that we do have the power to change our personal environment. Even though we can’t control much of what happens in the world, we can create peaceful, nurturing homes and workspaces that lovingly support us as we go through our days. We can awaken our power by making small positive changes to our routines and surroundings, which reinforce and build on each other as time passes.
When I feel stressed about something I’m trying to do, I stop and ask myself: Does this need to be done now, or at all? Are there more comfortable ways to do it? Should I ask for help instead of trying to do it myself? Sometimes anxiety makes us forget that we have other options; but in reality, there are almost always better alternatives, if we take enough time to discover them. Rather than letting ourselves get overwhelmed, we can step back from the situation for a moment and consider ways to simplify it.
April is Autism Acceptance Month. Visit autismacceptancemonth.com for more information.