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I recently wrote Jason Ross, the author of www.drivemomcrazy.com, a site where Jason reflects on his experience as a person on the spectrum. I asked Jason if he would write about how he experiences and copes with anxiety in his daily life. I asked for specific skills that seem to work to reduce anxiety.  

Here is his response:

(http://drivemomcrazy.com/2012/how-anxiety-affects-us-and-how-to-cope/comment-page-1/#comment-17793)

“I received a request for this post from one of my readers who had emailed me. Anxiety is one of the biggest factors which can impair any Autistic person from functioning with the rest of society. A lot of times anxiety can lead to meltdowns, tantrums, aggression, sensory/emotional overload, or even shutdown depending on where the root of the anxiety originally started. Anxiety overwhelms us differently. Some people feel more overwhelmed by the anxiety than others or some people just know how to cope better with the anxiety.

There are 2 factors to anxiety: nervous feelings that can control/prevent a person from functioning which can lead to depression. It affects us, Autistic people differently than every one else.

In order to function better in society, Autistic people (whether diagnosed with Autistic disorder, PDD-NOS, or Asperger’s Syndrome) need to learn the best way to cope in order to function with the rest of the world. I am learning how to meditate in order to control my anxiety. However a lot of times I find when spinning around (especially when I was younger), closing my door to my room to rub my body against the carpet (especially when I was younger), clapping my hands incessantly, walking outside to hug trees, and/or vocalizing my thoughts mostly in the shower as I feel the warm water beating on my body help me with anxiety.

A lot of times when I vocalize my thoughts, many people have felt I am talking to them so they answer me. However, I am just sorting through my thoughts on ideas or issues I am having in my life. Although in recent years, I am slowly learning to quiet my mind in a meditative state. I started reading books on meditation and learning by myself to have my own mantra (to be able to focus one thing). A lot of times I revert back to my natural ways of coping with anxiety because it’s easier to use up the energy of the anxiety. This only removes the anxiety temporarily without focusing on confronting what I need to deal with.

Meditation has been my inner strength in times of anxiety these days. I find meditation soothes my body as I breathe deep and slowly. I also find that meditation allows me to observe more. Though, through my entire life I noticed I would observe the world differently by seeing the way the shadows from trees, animals, and other things in my environment like the sun affect us. Now meditation often changes my observations by allowing me to observe my whole environment including other people.

I feel if many other Autistic people regardless of where they fall on the autism spectrum can learn to focus their breathing and thoughts on one thing through meditation, they will be able to start coping with anxiety a lot better. Meditation is a great resource, but can’t help every one not even the so-called Neurotypical people. For instance, some Autistic people are in self-stimulation (stimming) mode many times throughout the day, that their brains won’t function in a calm way unless they are doing their special interest. However every one must try to do meditation anyway to see if it works too.

One time I met a person last year who clearly had autistic disorder with intellectual disability and he clearly couldn’t function without being drawn to YouTube. The parents send him to a camp a few hours away where they live so he can live at that camp all year long. I brought the parents and the son to the Apple store to look at the Ipad for their son. I feel the Ipad would help their son only if therapists can help their son use it to engage with the rest of society.

Is it that important for every one to engage in society? What if some people just want to be with the rest of nature? I have noticed some Autistic people don’t want to engage with other people. Is this because the anxiety overwhelms them so much that no body taught them how to cope with it? It’s easier to cope with the anxiety than to leave yourself isolated and lonely.

Loneliness is not only an Human problem, it’s a non-Human problem as well. Many dogs, cats, and other animals get lonely even rodents. Have you noticed plants can get lonely? In fact, have you ever thought all five kingdoms of the many organisms of life can become lonely. The point is any one who is a part of the animal kingdom needs to cope with anxiety in order to function with the rest of the animal kingdom.

Some people who can’t function with other people, need to just realize who they are to function with every one else to feel connected to another Human being. Some people can only function with other people because they are afraid of other animals. It’s very important to cope with the anxiety to function with all positive life forms. That’s where meditation and non-judgmental thoughts help out. For example, when a fly lands on your arm for a just a moment, its there for just a moment to interact with you. We not only need to accept Neurodiversity, we need to accept Biodiversity to be able to cope with the anxiety of being around others.

The best way to cope with anxiety is accepting to connect with others. By doing so, we need to accept who we are and know what works best for us. For me, I am learning to meditate to calm my mind. Give it try yourself! If you can’t cope with the anxiety doing that try to listen to positive song tunes in your head like “I Believe I can Fly” by R.Kelly or hold a small rock in your hand or use a cloth tissue to hold on to. In the end, you can get through it if you believe.

I hope this helped everyone understand how to cope with anxiety.”

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