Something new approaches. We think, “I’m going to try ___,” but then, the anxiety kicks in. “But what if…?” we might ask ourselves. As we autistic people anticipate a future event, we often find the potential fun frozen over by the fearful unknown. Social mistakes, unkind strangers, getting lost, overstimulation. The possibility for failure can paralyze us. First off, anxiety is a neurological condition and cannot be simply willed away. Licensed professionals who are familiar with an individual’s personal experiences are the best place to seek counsel when it comes to anxiety. Even so, here are some ideas to immediately mitigate an anxiety spiral:
1) Write it down and talk it out. Try penning the top three fears you have about a social situation. Then, call up a trusted friend with whom you can share your fears and from whom you can get their perspective. Their take on the situation may alleviate some of the anxiety over doing something new.
2) Take a twenty-minute nap. It might sound silly to sleep right before trying something new, but the anxiety spiral that we find ourselves in may be exacerbated by lack of sleep and/or overstimulation. A quick respite can refresh our brain and body.
3) Create a role for yourself. Sometimes, when I’m nervous about a future event, I turn it into a live-action role play of sorts. Using masking to a fun advantage, I dress and act as a role that I enjoy. It turns the event into a game.