Self-care is an important part of maintaining good mental health. For those on the autism spectrum, taking small steps daily to look after your emotional, physical, and mental health will improve your quality of life. From reducing work stress to getting enough sleep, there are many ways to practice self-care in your everyday life.
Get Adequate Sleep
A good way to start your self-care regimen is by ensuring you’re getting enough sleep. Adults should try for 7-9 hours of sleep per night. Sleep may be particularly elusive for those on the autism spectrum, with 80 percent of young people on the spectrum reporting that they have difficulty sleeping at night. Working on your sleep hygiene is a good start if you want a better night’s sleep. Making sure your bedroom is quiet, not using your phone or watching TV in bed, creating a sleep schedule, and avoiding caffeine before bedtime will improve your sleep.
Pay Attention to Your Diet
You probably already know that a good diet can improve many aspects of your life. A good diet not only makes your body feel better, it can help reduce stress and improve your mental well-being. A diet consisting primarily of whole foods (such as vegetables, fruit, and legumes) is an easy way to ensure you are getting proper nutrients. However, diet change is one of the simplest yet difficult lifestyle changes to implement. Therefore, if a total diet change is overwhelming, try slowly phasing out unhealthy snacks, drinking more water, and incorporating more healthy fruits and veggies.
Reduce Work Stress
Work is often a significant source of stress in people’s lives. Chronic stress at work can cause employees to turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms, like drinking alcohol or abusing drugs. For those with mental health issues or for those in addiction recovery, reducing stress and paying attention to self-care is especially important. If you’re constantly feeling stressed because of work, be sure to find healthy self-care practices that will help you cope, such as eating healthy meals, exercising, and getting plenty of sleep.
If you’re a dog owner, you may not have to look very far to find a source of stress relief. It’s no secret that owning a dog — or a cat, for that matter — can help reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress. The best part: To take advantage of these incredible benefits, all you have to do is spend time with them.
Saying “no” is another strategy for dealing with stress at work and in your life in general. If your boss has unrealistically high expectations (or if you are going through a tough time), it is perfectly acceptable to respectfully talk to your boss about temporarily cutting back on work tasks. Setting boundaries is important for healthy relationships and frees you up to do things which are truly important to you. Saying “no” is difficult, but putting yourself first is sometimes the best thing you can do to make sure you don’t develop serious stress-related problems, such as substance abuse and depression.
Find Peer Support
Social interaction is an often-overlooked part of self-care, but ensuring you spend adequate time socializing with people you like and have common ground with is important for your mental health. Social isolation is a key concern for adults on the autism spectrum. Finding a group of people online or in person who share and understand the unique challenges you face can be highly beneficial for your mental health. There are many online and in-person support groups for those on the autism spectrum and/or those who are struggling with substance abuse issues.
The path to self-care can be difficult. For those struggling with additional challenges, from autism spectrum disorder to substance abuse, self-care may be even more important. Basic techniques, including getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet and saying “no” when necessary, are some relatively simply self-care acts that will improve your overall health.
Brad Krause wrote this guest post and is the owner and writer for his website selfcaring.infoShare