Jump to content
Nesf

My thoughts about anxiety and establishing routines

Recommended Posts

Nesf

During the last couple of weeks, I've had to use the metro system a lot. I don't usually use public transport, but my current situation makes it necessary. At first, I was very on edge and anxious while on the train, but it's a lot better now.

This has lead me me to think about how I and other people on the spectrum might cope with adapting to new situations, and how the strategies that we tend to use more may be different to the strategies that other people might use.

Firstly, I often feel anxious because I'm not good with dealing problems or situations that might crop up unexpectedly. People (NTs) are less anxious because they are more confident in their ability to cope with unexpected situations. They have the social skills to deal with it and don't get overwhelmed so easily. When I'm in a new situation like using the metro, I tend to become hyper-aware of my surroundings, and notice a lot of things going on around me, as if I am seeing, hearing and experiencing everything in HD. After a couple of metro trips, I began to notice certain patterns to the metro system, that at one end there is always very few people, that people always use the escalators and never the stairs, so the stairs have no people and I can move freely on them, that I feel safer and better near the doors, and not in the middle where the seats are. I begin to establish the optimal way for me to travel on the metro with the least possible stress, right down to the smallest detail. Having established this, I stick to it, and don't deviate. It is my coping mechanism for dealing with stressful situations, and I become very reliant on it. So if I were to travel with someone who wants to stand on a different place on the platform, that would really stress me out and I would react, insisting on doing it my way.

The thing I've noticed with most people is that they tend not to do this. Because people are confident in their ability to deal with unexpected situations, they just go with the flow and tend not to  establish such routines. So they really don't care where they stand on the platform, and then don't understand how it might be so important for me to stand in a certain place. Then they say that I'm being too rigid, and experts pathologize this, saying that autistics insist on routines, have excessively rigid behaviour, etc.

My metro routine gives me the feeling (the illusion, perhaps) that I have some control over my surroundings, because I choose to go to a certain place on the platform, I choose where to stand, choose to use the stairs, etc. It makes me feel less anxious about using the metro. If I feel I have no control, I become very anxious.

I think that this is an important difference between how we deal with the world and how other people (NTs) deal with the world. Other people will 'go with the flow', but we use coping strategies such as establishing routines to deal with stress and anxiety.

What are your thoughts on this?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Eliza
32 minutes ago, Nesf said:

What are your thoughts on this?

I'm so grateful I read this post!

Right now my life circumstances from every angle are changing. I've been fighting overwhelming emotions by the bucketful for the last few weeks. New boss, new office, a car that's not working, medical question marks, family drama, and I feel vulnerable and worn out. Yesterday one of my student's parents yelled at me, was actually abusive, and it left me stunned. She also called the main office and voiced her opinions. I feel overworked, underpaid, and unappreciated.

Without my routine, I'd go bonkers. It's the only stable thing I have in my life right now. Sometimes people get hurt, angry, or tease me about it, but I don't care. I also need more down time right now and struggle to not feel guilty about it.

Your post reminded me it's okay to just be me, it's okay to be different from the majority.

Thank you, Nesf!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
RiRi

@Nesf I can relate a lot to your post. Sometimes I find a way to do things like if the first trial run works well with me then I stick to it rather than experimenting and do it another way. I would take the long way if it meant less anxiety, less people, something that would help me cope. For example, when I used to go out, I would either google map the directions if I could use google maps or if I had been there already, I would map how to get there in my head. There are multiple ways to getting to a place and sometimes perhaps even short cuts, but I would only use the mapped out direction I have chosen because I had chosen it and because I was comfortable with it. When I go with someone else, they sometimes choose different ways. I think it's true that one of the reasons why we insist on not deviating from what we're used to is that we can't cope as well as them (NT's), like you said.

I also always ask people what to expect from a new situation. I ask too many questions (or at least it seems like this to others) because I feel like I don't know how to do things while I think an NT wouldn't ask. They would just go ahead and do it and deal with the changes as they come to them. I try to go in a new situation the most prepared I can to cope better and have less unexpected things happening. Unless someone else is doing the talking, leading, etc. and I know I can rely on them, then I worry less about unexpected things since I'm only tagging along. However, I know that with there's always room for unexpected things happening, especially with NTs, but could happen with anyone, and I can only have anxiety because of that. I do tell the person to not leave my side, but it's not always possible.

I know there are other things, but I'm too mentally exhausted to do more right now. I'm even scared of posting this because I feel like I will end up getting stressed somehow. *sigh*

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sanctuary

Routines, particularly in areas where we don't feel entirely confident, can certainly be very helpful. There is always the risk though that they can take on a life of their own and create more anxiety rather than reduce it. This is particularly true if it's not possible to follow the routine for some reason and they can make adapting to new circumstances more difficult. However I think for people on the spectrum there often isn't much alternative - we need routines and structures to a greater or lesser degree. Perhaps the key is to plan alternative routines for those occasions when the preferred one isn't possible or has become less relevant to the situation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Nesf

Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

18 hours ago, Eliza said:

Without my routine, I'd go bonkers. It's the only stable thing I have in my life right now. Sometimes people get hurt, angry, or tease me about it, but I don't care. I also need more down time right now and struggle to not feel guilty about it.

I think that all people need routines to some extent, but we tend to need them a little more as a coping mechanism. Since your routines help you to face your difficulties, you shouldn't feel guilty about them.

13 hours ago, Makelets said:

I also always ask people what to expect from a new situation. I ask too many questions (or at least it seems like this to others) because I feel like I don't know how to do things while I think an NT wouldn't ask. They would just go ahead and do it and deal with the changes as they come to them. I try to go in a new situation the most prepared I can to cope better and have less unexpected things happening. Unless someone else is doing the talking, leading, etc. and I know I can rely on them, then I worry less about unexpected things since I'm only tagging along. However, I know that with there's always room for unexpected things happening, especially with NTs, but could happen with anyone, and I can only have anxiety because of that. I do tell the person to not leave my side, but it's not always possible.

I always ask a lot of questions too, and I sometimes ask the same ones many times because I want to be sure. i worry a lot about not knowing how to do things and also like to be prepared, to have as much information as possible in advance. i worry about small things that NTs usually find trivial. For example, was carrying a supermarket bag with some personal items, and wanted to shop from the supermarket, but worried that if I went in with the bag, they might think that I'm stealing. So I went home, dropped off my bag, and then went shopping. NTs don't usually worry about tings like that. I also find it a lot easier if someone is wit me, for the same reason - I let them deal with anything that might suddenly come up.

1 hour ago, Sanctuary said:

Perhaps the key is to plan alternative routines for those occasions when the preferred one isn't possible or has become less relevant to the situation.

i agree, it helps to have a plan B. Sometimes, though, it's not always possible to predict what might go wrong, and i still get thrown when something changes suddenly or goes wrong.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dr-David-Banner

My problem is working with other people is now impossible. Some days ago I was helping 2 friends catch up with their shelves at work. It's no big deal as I'm just helping. One of the girls remarked it didn't have to be so exact and that I needed to just cover the whole aisle in much less time. Yet physically I can't not do something perfect. So I work kind of slowly. It has to be lined up and so on. So my problem is in various ways I can't work with others and also feel out of place. I can help out but I'd feel like a cat on hot bricks if employed there. I've also had a feeling before under stress of working as if underwater where movements seem to be dragging and slowed down.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sofi

I agree with this, now that I think about it. In any stressful/anxious situation, I realise I will always try to get some sort of control over it or establish a routine in the situation. I do similar to you on public transport, I always sit on the same seat on the bus (and have sat on this seat for over 10 years whenever I've got on a bus - I sat on this seat when I took the bus regularly as a teenager and now I've been taking the bus more regularly again now and I sit on the same seat as back then!) I won't get too upset if the seat is taken but it does bother me a bit and feel thrown off my routine and feel as if my day has gone completely wrong! 
I do see other people going with the flow more on public transport and I definitely don't do this. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
PandaPrincess

The same thing happens to me when I go substitute teach.  I always follow the schedule that the teacher leaves very rigidly, and if something happens where I can't follow the schedule, or we get finished with something early,  then I have no clue what to do.  Other teachers can always think of something on the spot, but I have to make preparations way ahead of time.  Other teachers also know how to tell stories and make jokes right on the spot when they are teaching, which I think helps students relate better to the teacher and what the teacher is saying.  I can't do that at all.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.