Our special interests give us energy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come home exhausted only to emerge from an hour or two of special interests investigation with a enough energy to get through the rest of my night! But what do we do when we are so busy that we no longer have the time to engage in our passions?
First, why are special interests so important? For me, special interests are like brain stimming. My mind encounters a subject repeatedly as a means of filtering out the stressful information from a long day. Without my interests, my mind stays sensory overloaded, repetitively focusing on the negative events of the day instead.
So what does an autistic individual do if there’s no time to engage in special interests? In my opinion, not using my interests to unwind is similar to not seeing a doctor when I have bronchitis. I might be able to get by without going to see the doctor, but I’m miserable, cranky, less productive, and downright sick. There may even be lasting consequences.
I highly discouraged deprioritizing special interest time. Let me be clear: if you simply cannot engage in your special interests, nothing can replace the healing they accomplish for us. Still, life hits hard, and we can end up in difficult situations. Here are some ideas.
1) I would recommend seeing a therapist once a week during busy times in order to to unpack some of the sensory baggage that’s building up in the brain.
2) Another temporary solution during these busy times is to find sneaky ways of building special interests in. Listen to music that relates to your special interest on wireless headphones while at work or school, write school essays on your interests, or use a planner that incorporates your interest.
3) Most importantly, sit down and evaluate all of your obligations. Write down each one. Then, rank them from most important to least important for your survival. Cross out one or two. It’s better to disappoint someone than to live a half life.