Hyper-focus is a wonderful thing for many autistic individuals. We accomplish so much and feel so much joy in a hyper-focused state. Yet, with every great experience, there is often a shadow side. Sometimes we may hyper-focus and wish we could stop. This may occur if we put all our energy into another person, a food regimen, an unattainable goal, etc., or if we’ve realized that we’ve hyper-focused away from the important people and activities of our lives.
Un-hyper focusing is very difficult. In a way, it goes against our nature. We also must remain kind to ourselves, avoiding negative self-talk like, “Stop! You shouldn’t be thinking about this anymore.” Here are healthier methods that may help us to take a step back from some undesirable hyper-focusing:
1) Set timers. If we have activities we need to attend, but hyper-focusing has been preventing us from getting ready or getting out the door, try setting a timer for when we have to pause the hyper-focusing and begin our to-do lists.
2) Part of the struggle is recognizing that our thoughts (whether we’re brushing our teeth, driving, or working) constantly circle around the point of interest. In many ways, this is unavoidable. Sometimes it can be so troublesome that autistic individuals may turn to self-inflicted pain in order to escape. Instead, try loving ways of emptying the brain: stream-of-consciousness journaling, writing a letter to a friend that is never actually going to be sent, exercising to favorite music, or cooking a complex meal.
3) Usually, we just have to ride the wave of hyper-focus to its end. But if the process needs to be expedited, put a lot of energy into attending events, watching entertainment, and/or engaging deeply into hobbies that were once a special interest or hyperfocus. This may rekindle a healthier new focus that can dampen the emphasis on the negative hyperfocus.
Please remember that hyperfocus is in-and-of-itself, not a bad thing. It’s a beautiful thing that I often consider a superpower. Even if someone is annoyed by our passionate pursuit of what we love, we know ourselves and whether hyper-focusing is helping or harming us.