Acceptance and Uncertainty
Being on the autism spectrum means I dislike uncertainty and unpredictability. This means that these days I’m really having to let go of my anxiety concerning the COVID-19 pandemic. I have to quit asking “when will this be over?” or “what next?” I also have to stop listening to the news or watching television obsessively to figure out what’s going to happen in the future. I’ve come to the conclusion that I need to take every day one day at a time.
Having autism means that I have an obsessive-compulsive tendency and propensity towards rumination. What does that mean? I get thoughts stuck in my head and they keep on coming over and over and over again. I find it hard to distract myself from these thoughts. It takes real effort on my part to get past these thoughts and move on. Sometimes what I really need to do is just acknowledge my thoughts by saying them aloud or writing them down on a piece of paper or even just emailing myself. I find that if I’m able to express the thought, sometimes I’m able to move on.
For example, an obsessive thought I’ve been having is when will the COVID-19 pandemic be over? When will things get back to “normal?” How much will things be different when we get back to a “new” typical? There are lots of different opinions on this which makes me even more uncertain. What can I do about it? I can try to listen to only a few trusted news sources and keep an open mind. I can try to focus on what I know and what is constant. I can be aware but I’m paying attention to and being more careful about how I spend my time.
Changing my environment is also often useful since the change in my surroundings means that I need to think about something else. Lately, I haven’t had as many options as far as changing my location. I am especially grateful for the places I can go to. I can walk around my neighborhood or go to a park for example.
What am I doing to take care of myself these days? Having a general plan for the week of things that I want to accomplish is helpful. Having a list of things that I want to do daily is also good for me. Making sure that I do the stuff that I need to do and mixing it up with things that I enjoy is important. I find having a plan means that I complete the things that I don’t enjoy so that I have less stuff to do later so I’m less overwhelmed. I’m more likely to do small “bite-size“ pieces when something is difficult, rather than all at once since I feel inundated if I wait too long. Setting realistic goals and deadlines allows me to feel more grounded these days.
During this time of uncertainty, I need to use all my tools to take care of myself and I need to be vigilant about how I spend my time. I am trying to see the silver lining in this time of uncertainty by learning how to let go of things that I can’t control by accepting the things I can and following through. I think if I can do that, I will be much better off in the future. Best wishes to everyone during these days of change.