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I’m freaking out. You’re freaking out. We are all losing our marbles. We are in a scary time, there’s a lot of uncertainty, a lot of change in routine, and a lot of chaos. At Asperger Experts we aren’t denying that and we don’t want you to deny it either. It is of the utmost importance that for the health of ourselves, our loved ones, our neighbors, and complete strangers that we stringently practice empathy, social distancing, washing hands, and if need be social isolation. But in addition to prioritizing our physical health, it is extremely important that we also preserve our mental health. I’m not going to lie to you, even with a plethora of tools in my toolbox, like many of those reading this I have lost sleep, I have stared blankly at walls, I have worried about bills, I have cried in fear for the safety of my immunocompromised loved ones. Everyone reacts to trauma and anxiety differently, not everything in the below is going to be an ‘aha moment’ for you, but I hope that similar to a lighthouse we can shine a light for one another as together we navigate these rough waves of Covid 19. 1. Know the facts and do the basics. Statistics are hard to talk about in an ever-changing situation, and Covid cases are going to continue to rise in the upcoming days but having an understanding and knowledge of the baseline basics and 101’s through either The World Health Organization or the Center For Disease Control can go a long way. Additionally, for peace of mind make sure that you are taking the right physical steps. Washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using alcohol based hand sanitizers as a substitute. Disinfect and clean commonly touched surfaces such as electronics, doorknobs, and countertops. Limit social contact with other people to 6 feet if possible and if possible work from home/school from home. If you can’t work from home, communicating with your employer your fears and setting a plan of action for what can mutually be done to mitigate potential problems is not a bad idea. 2. Health at home. If you’ve enrolled in even a single Asperger Experts course you by now know that the mind and body are connected. Make sure that you are hydrating, eating healthily, getting sleep, maybe doing some yoga or even meditation/breathing exercises. I find myself doing this particular one on average of at least once per day. 3. Turn the news off. I am a news junkie. Human rights? Politics? Coronavirus? I am tracking it and I am slowly taking steps to stop doing so. Following every lead, every diagnosis, every case is a repetitive exposure set up for anxiety. It is incredibly important to be informed, but make sure that you’re limiting the flow of updates to the point that it is not suffocating you. Everyone’s threshold for this is different, but within the last 24 hours i’ve put time restrictions on my facebook and twitter use and already feel significantly happier. If you’re watching the news multiple times a day, try watching once at the end of the day. 4. Distract yourself. For folks on the spectrum, the disruption of normalcy can be incredibly panic-inducing, this is particularly true as we see school closures. If possible, attempt to stick to somewhat of a similar learning routine. On a different note, make sure that you are providing time for flexibility to do what needs to be done to calm oneself down. Do I normally use video games as an unhealthy crux and play for 6 hours a day? No. Did I allow myself to do it last Saturday because that’s what I needed to recharge and reset? Absolutely. It’s okay to lightly bend the rules for safety and security. 5. Do one productive thing per day. In a situation where things are uncertain and we have little to no control, we can build stability by doing even the smallest of things that already exist within our circle. Big tasks. Small tasks. Easy tasks. Hard tasks. Do one productive thing each day to give you that sense of purpose and progress. 6. Practice reframing your thoughts. While it may seem silly, finding different ways to view the situation can provide some mental relief. Look historically, remember how you felt about a previously stressful event and how you think of it now? In 10 years that could likely be you looking back at the coronavirus. Terrified at the thought of being quarantined? Try taking advantage of the time for some self-reflection, goal setting, and maybe even taking care of some projects that you have put on hold. 7. Talk Worried? Let it out. Know that there is incredibly powerful and calming solidarity in having real and genuine conversations about worries and concerns. Someone else worried? Hold space for them, empathize with them, reassure them. Be realistic, yet simultaneously caring with your loved ones. If you have a child on the spectrum, chances are they are going to need more reassurance than in times of less crisis. Practice patience, everyone's concerns are real and valid. If you are concerned about your situation, and need somewhere to blow off steam, feel free to do it in the comment section of this article. Closing thoughts Take care of one another, love one another, don't stock 8 years of toilet paper, we’re all in this together. Keep an eye out for a new course about how to homeschool and community events in the upcoming weeks. - Love Asperger Experts
Throughout my life I have not been able to relate to people on a level where I feel connected, understood, or accepted, and even more painful . . . in a way I feel loved. There was always a missing piece, a sense of being different, excluded, isolated, and just not part of. I used to love rolling myself up in a rug and feel the tightness around me. I loved my grandmother’s heavy comforter. I could barely slip under it, and as I lied there with this heavy weight from the comforter on my chest, I felt safe. I was existing, floating, drifting in my own bubble and couldn’t get out. Sometimes it felt like everybody else was in a bubble and I couldn’t get in. Those moments I ‘knew’ everybody knew what was going on . . . and I didn’t. I experienced sexual abuse early and found no support. I feel that when your boundaries are broken it becomes hard to ‘sense’ who is safe and not. Who should I talk to? About what? What are they thinking . . . about me . . . am I prey, will I get hurt, and on and on and on. This uncertainty, this social blindness, lead to more ‘bad situations’ and left me more confused and ‘damaged.’ It was a painful existence, and I found my relief in Vodka. Checking Out of My Body As I started drinking at 13, my life drifted away, and the main focus became to stay numb. I became drift wood, aimlessly moving in time and space, bumping into situations which decided my next direction. Intimate relationships felt as if I ‘had to behave so he wouldn’t leave’. I never picked a boyfriend, he picked me. Suddenly I was somebody’s girlfriend and I didn’t even know how it happened, or how to get out of it. I didn’t know I could say ‘NO.” And much abuse followed. I have not felt the ‘love toward another’, that I hear about, until I met my current husband. We were friends for over a year, neighbors and drinking buddies, a platonic relationship as if we were siblings. He didn’t believe in beating women. I thought that was fascinating. He told me that we might as well get married, as if it was a practical idea since we liked to hang out with each other. I believe he has a ‘sling of neurodiversity’ too. We are celebrating 27 years in 2016. Before I experienced Somatic/Emotional Awakening I would sit in the kitchen with my family, knowing how much I loved them, knowing I was part of the family, I was the wife and the mother for god sake! And still, I could feel as if I was in my bubble light-years away from them, trying desperately to engage over dinner, that I cooked. I knew I was there, physically, but I could not feel part of, or that I belonged. Does this make me into an Autistic person, a person who is neurologically diverse, a trauma survivor, bipolar, or what? Although I haven’t been tested for autism looking back at my life it seems quite clear to me that I was having similar issues I hear from people on the autism spectrum who attended our workshops. Survival Mode I didn’t understand the world and saw everything as a threat, existing in survival mode, or as we call it “Defense Mode.” Now I work with Danny Raede to help others get out of Defense Mode and Come Alive! I sobered up at 32, married my current husband, and had a child at 10 months of sobriety. My world was a whirlwind of emotions. Our newborn daughter Kristina, my answer to everything, my new ‘higher power’, was 2 months old . . . when she had an operation, which left her brain dead. We had to turn off her life support, which left me raw, confused, and pretty messed up at one year of sobriety. I felt as if my skin was pulled off and everything around me was lemon juice. I became pregnant again. To protect my unborn child, I was thrown into therapy. I had an attention span of 10 seconds and the world was ‘after me.’ My social/emotional/psychological development was impaired due to early trauma, and I was diagnosed as an ‘eight-year old trauma victim.’ Charming! Why I believe I have autism What makes me believe I have Autism, or am neurologically different is after 26 years of sobriety, working the program with different sponsors, and also sponsoring others, I have still not been able to find, and/or connect with another human being to form a long lasting close friendship. My husband is my only close friend, and sometimes he is really tired of me. Much of what I say has a ‘bite’ to it, that I, of course, notice too late. I am too direct and ‘off the beat’ in conversations. Like I haven’t learned the dance and keep on stepping on peoples’ toes. I have had ‘friends,’ people I thought were friends, but later realized I had just been used as a glorified baby sitter. In my observation our social anxiety makes us behave ‘weird’ in society’s eyes. My own anxiety felt like a pressure in my chest, a stomach cramp, I had a million mosquitoes under my skin, constantly scratching, itching, picking on myself. I was so overwhelmed with sensations that I felt panicky at all times, as if I was locked in an emotional and mental straight jacket. I could only spend my attention on how not to explode; there was no extra attentions, awareness, about others. I could be talking with someone and biting my nails, or picking on a scab during the conversation, anything to distract me from feeling . . . anything. My body was filled with sensations and "shakings." I was so uncomfortable that it felt I had to ‘hold on’ to myself. It felt like living on an earthquake, holding on to something so I didn’t fall. My body was filled with sensations of "shakings." I was overly concerned about what you thought of me, every second. My brain had a million thoughts, and I never knew which one would come through my mouth. With the behavior I exhibited (I can see it now) people were uncomfortable around me and sure didn’t want more of me than what they had to go through to be socially correct. Due to people being socially correct and polite, I could never pick up they actually didn’t want to get to know me more. I didn’t even see my husband as someone to support me. I was born in Sweden and conditioned to take care of myself. Now, with my awkwardness that became a struggle, and in the US there were only bartending and house cleaning available for someone like me. It has taken me 25 years of training, education, and practice to become who I am. Had my husband not lived next door, and had he not been as lonely as I was, I doubt we would ever have become a couple. Women on the spectrum have more difficulty Unless we’re blessed with access, education and support as we go through the gauntlet of life, and unless we are truly great at what we do, we will not succeed in the workforce. The politics and cut-throat mentality is above the head of an Autistic person. I do not know that an autistic person can ‘play the game’ as well, and to be a woman on top of it is just two strikes against us. Our other choice is to find someone who can support us: A sad alternative. I believe men may have a better shot at getting careers and jobs. They are encourage to do science and math in school, they can be rude, odd, laud, introverted, still there is more room for them to be different, they are just ‘boys,’ eccentric, or special. A man may be lonely because of his awkward behaviors, but if he has a skill and can charge for it, he can be successful. It is said that there are plenty of Asperger’s in engineering, computers, attorneys, doctor, and musicians. We women even marry men like that, sometimes settling for less emotionally, just to not be alone, just to have a husband, just to be ‘safe’. It’s a strange world. On the other hand, we women do not have the opportunities to be rude, odd, laud, or introverted without being judged and ‘cast away’. For some reason, if we women are scratching at all on the edge of social norms, we’re doomed . . . forever! We have to move away, start over, and hope for more acceptance somewhere else. I moved 6000 miles, but unfortunately took myself with me, and just repeated my story, over and over, and over again. Connecting the brain with the body Emotional and Somatic Balancing Techniques are ways to learn how to connect our brain with our body. In my world Autism is a “Bad Skype Connection,” It’s all there, there is just some disconnected parts that make our vision, and interpretation blurry. When we cannot see what’s going on around us we get scared, retreat into defense mode, bite before we get hurt, and obsessively focus on figuring out ‘what’s wrong,’ with us, with you, with people, places, and situations. Emotional and Somatic Balancing Techniques are ways to help a person connect with their body and feel the awesomeness of feeling centered. There is a wonderful sense of safety in the body, if we can connect and move into the present moment. Every human has this ability; we have just been conditioned out of connection with self. And for Autistic people I wonder if we ever had the opportunity to be connected at all. Therefore, it’s extra important for people on the spectrum to re-connect and find their homeostasis, their center, their peace. It’s there, just hidden. Everything for Autistics is amplified I believe we, on the spectrum, feel more than the average person, more intensely, more physically in our skin and fascia tissues that everything is amplified; like living inside a loudspeaker, full of needles. It’s loud and prickly. This creates tension and pain in our bodies, it becomes too much, and we ‘leave,’ numb out, check out with various addictive behavior patterns. We become so preoccupied with our self, just to survive the silly routines of a day. We hide in our brain with opinions and explanations for everything, and no ability for intuition to lead us. We train and practice behaviors that will keep us safe, and we become ridged and almost robotic. Coming out of a fog When I woke up to my body and realized I could connect, it felt like I came up for air. I have been swimming in confusion for years, and got a breath of air and a glimpse of how it could be. By then my girls were 13 and 14. What a loss of precious time and bonding. I had robbed them of having an emotionally present and loving mother. That’s a price we paid for my Autism. After a few sessions I felt as if I had come out of a fog. I could see other people, I could feel without hurting. I have had many sessions due to all my issues. After 16 years of sobriety, therapy, breath work and anger management I still was crazy, screaming at my children and husband, with no friend or colleges. At 16 years of recovery I stumbled over the book “Awaken The Tiger” by Dr. Peter Levine, and woke up to Somatic Experiencing. It saved my life. It saved my marriage. It saved my relationship with my two girls. When I work with people we let the body tell the story. We discuss conditions and situations and stay close to the body-sensations that arise. If we let the body learn how to relax, we can get free of the tension and pain. It’s just not enough to talk about it. I teach different exercises and modules dependent on the client. If there is also an addiction present, we deal with that a little differently. Stop. Drop. Check One technique I have developed is the Stop. Drop. Check. Stop – and scan your environment, Ask “Am I safe?” If not, create a safe space. Drop – and exhale into your body, as if you’re letting go of your breath. Bring your attention inward. Surrender, not to the outward surrounding, but to yourself, internally. Check – Ask “How am I feeling in my body?” With the next exhale – go deeper. You will feel and recognize your sensations, give them a little space, and it will shift. It will always shift. There will be a little ‘aha’ and you will have more space to make a decision about what to do next. Then – and only then, do you respond in a way that is best for YOU! This way you will learn how to allow any emotions, comfortable or/and uncomfortable. And you learn how to drop below your emotions and tap into your intuition in the moment. That’s were your true answer lies. And that's where you find the response that is best for YOU. *** For over 25 years, Eva Angvert Harren, has masterfully developed and taught her BEAM LiFE step-by-step body-centered awareness approach to people who wanted to move beyond their limiting beliefs about themselves and their possibilities. Eva Angvert Harren specializes in a Body Centered approach to Healing and Complete Wellness. She helps you “Reclaim, Restore, and Recover” your body-mind to Be Reaction Free! Eva is a Certified Integral Coach, www.newventureswest.com, Somatic Experiencing Practitioner (SEP) www.traumahealing.com, and a Certified TIPI Specialist, www.emotionregulationtipi.com. For more information about Eva, go to www.BeamLifeCoaching.com or call: 510-825-7574.
Every year between 2014 and 2019 I told myself that I was going to go the gym. Every year, I was going to get healthy…. I’m going to get healthy, I’m going to get healthy, I’m going to get healthy. But come the first week of January, or any time really, I would be in that gym for 10 minutes max. Sensory overload is the loud noises of weights dropping. The massive amounts of people. Someone engaging me in a conversation that I really don’t care about. It's uncomfortably bypassing a group of extremely buff people on my way to the water fountain. Why do I drink so much water compared to everyone else, have they noticed that? Why am I sweating so much when that girl over there is hardly sweating? I can’t do this anymore,. Imagining the feeling that I get when my sweat rubs into the car seat is torture, and I’m certainly not showering here. In public. Ewww. This isn't even getting started on the sensory stimulation that occurs from the drive home when i'm already tired and burnt out. I’m not going to the gym this year. So much of being autistic is needing to mask, needing to conform to the norms around me. To do anything possible to avoid some random stranger from thinking that something is wrong with you while simultaneously trying to process and understand the different sensations and feelings that you encounter on delay. It’s exhausting, sometimes terrifying. This year, I’m accepting that going to a gym is not for me. Just the way I’ve come to realize that my style of learning is drastically different than that of many. It’s not better, nor is it worse. It’s me. This year, I’m basing my health goals on me, and what I can do, not on what other people have done. Success for me is trying, failing, making adjustments, and finding a way to achieve my goals. You don’t have to do things the “normal way.” No one should ever have to do things the “normal way.” My favorite poem by Laura Hershey is titled “You get proud by practicing.” Let’s start with that, I’ve already got my yoga mat and some YouTube videos lined up. From AE we wish you all the luck in doing the best you can with the emotional capacity you have, all in very non-normal ways. Here’s to 2020.