For all that I pretend I’m far too canny to fall for click bait, I’m actually a sucker for a life-hack despite the stupid name – they’re just helpful tips, gosh darn it! No one is hacking anything!
But there are a few things that do help me through the day, and just in case anyone might be interested, I thought I would share.
Take up Crochet
It doesn’t have to be crochet, it can be knitting or origami or sketching, or whatever takes your fancy. It just needs to be something small enough and light enough to fit in a pocket or a bag.
This is great for long journeys or visits to relatives or sitting in a cafe. It’s not the same as reading or playing on your phone, because the point of it is that you will be doing it whilst interacting.
- Don’t like eye-contact? I’m not being rude, I can’t talk and look at you and count stitches at the same time!
- Find it difficult sitting still and doing nothing? You’re being creative! You can move as much or as little as you like. I find it really helps me focus on conversation too.
- Worried about where the conversation might go? Chances are you’ll be asked about what it is you’re making – which will helpfully match your interests.
Bonus that I find the process soothing and relaxing. Find something that fits with you, and it can ease the tension of being in a strange place, or worrying about where to look and what to do with your hands.
Have your Bag Perpetually Packed
I hate getting everything I will need together – it takes executive function that I lack.
When I was at school I couldn’t keep on top of which books/kit I needed on which days, and no one listened when I said I found it hard: They lacked the social imagination to see that just because they found something easy, didn’t mean that everyone does.
My solution was to take everything with me everywhere at all times. This was not a great solution. Back problems and a bag that weighs a ton, didn’t really go together, but it was all I could manage, and the pain was better than being told I was daft and feeling like a failure.
Now I try to consider what I’ll need, but travel light. I top things up as they run out, and keep a routine for everything else. There are five key ingredients to my bag:-
- Food and drink – water and a snack that will keep if I don’t eat it this time
- A ball of wool and a crochet hook (I keep patterns on my phone)
- Small origami paper
- Headphones and sunglasses
- A scarf that can double as a blanket, pillow or whatever else I can think of
By leaving it packed where possible, but also having a set list of things, it takes away uncertainty. I know what I need to have. I will know what I have with me. Phone and money would be in there too, but they’re not bag-specific!
Research new places
Google maps, google street view and searching websites for photos – life is so much easier these days. I need to know where the front door is. Where the parking is. Who I will have to interact with. These things all help make places more accessible.
Plan your recovery time
So I want to go to something. It will be loud, it will be crowded, it will make my head buzz by the end of it. I need to factor in recovery time.
It might be afterwards, it might be tomorrow, but my mind will need time to unwind somewhere dark and quiet, or I’m going to exhaust myself and risk shutdowns or meltdowns where I don’t get a say in the matter.
This isn’t something to be taken lightly, it’s important. The more I plan, the more I can do, and that can only be a good thing.
Work to your strengths
This is probably a bit too big to be a life-hack. It can mean anything from, ‘find work that fits with your interests’, to, ‘If you’re happy hanging out the washing, and they’re happy getting a pint of milk, then that’s fine”.
I used to be disproportionately grateful to my husband for grabbing milk on the way home from work. I could have gone, but he was happy to. He had to sit me down and say, “Look, this a huge effort for you; the lights, the social ambushes, the whole thing takes a lot of effort. It’s easy for me. Just takes me the time of popping in and out again. I’m happy to do it.”
Read to Sleep
I’ve always done it, and still do it. These days it’s usually a kindle that hits me on the nose as I doze off, rather than a heavy tome. Having a kindle with a light, means when I wake in the night I don’t have to turn the light on, and can read myself to sleep again.
There’s something magical about it, it brings my brain all together to focus on one thing. I’m not a reading snob, it doesn’t matter what you read. I go from important and worthy books to Deadpool comics (totally worthy) in one swoop.
It’s not about what you read, it’s about the reading. Comics, magazines, books. Stay away from newspapers and current affairs – they won’t help you get to sleep and they’ll bring nightmares – and don’t use your phone. Stay away from google! You’ll fall down a rabbit hole and stay up all night.
Lots of words. Take them and put them in your eyes to fill your head up. It’s my favourite soporific.
Noise Cancelling Headphones
You don’t have to buy the expensive ones, although they do fit nicely and work well. There is nothing more amazing than flipping that switch and the world being taken away from your head.
The pressure lifts, the headache eases, they are magical. I always thought I was too old and too desensitised for them, I was wrong.
Never buy Women’s Trousers*
*That’s ‘Pants’ to you non-native English Speakers!
This could just be me, but I had enough of rubbish pockets. The only women’s trousers that I have ever loved have been Screwfix’s work trousers (soooo many pockets). It’s not that I never buy women’s, but when it comes to fitted they simply aren’t practical and don’t fit well. I don’t want something so tight that I can’t move, I want something warm, comfy, useful, that I can wear without wriggling.
I hate carrying a bag when I can avoid it, so enormous pockets are essential. This probably won’t work if you don’t have long legs (but turnups are cool, right? Right?!), but for me I am never going back. Men’s trousers fit. They’re comfortable and have pockets that fit everything AS STANDARD (!)
Women have suffered for too long. Sod that! It’s a conspiracy to keep us uncomfortable, don’t fall for it. Pockets are wonderful. I even found some great work shorts with extra pockets for walking in. I am clearly a fashion icon.
I rarely meet an autistic woman who doesn’t have the best boots. Doc Martens, Fly London, Destroy, these are a few of my favourite things.
Big, clumpy, stimtastic, comfortable boots. Your feet will love you forever and every step will feel firm and safe.
The right person is worth ten
I used to worry about not having loads and loads of friends. I build friendships slowly, my passion for things can confuse people, I am not someone people warm to instantly.
Many of my friends are far afield. I’ve moved too much, or met people online, or they’ve moved. Life gets in the way – life is like that. Some friends I see once every few years. Some friends I message a few times a week. Some friends I see every few months, but don’t contact in between.
I’m never going to be someone who can keep up constant contact, or be everyone’s friend.
I could be sad about that, but actually, it’s what works for me. If you have one person who knows you inside out, who you never have to mask with, who you trust, then that is more than many can ever hope for.
I am enormously lucky that my friends know me. They are the people that I let in, and who didn’t run screaming. They are the people who engaged with who I am. They are the best people for me, and I am incredibly lucky to have them. Online friends are real friends too!
It’s not about being grateful for what you have, it’s about realising what works for you, and not pushing for something that might suit other people, but would drive you up the wall.
Find a Good Ceiling
When all else has failed, look up. There are very rarely people on the ceiling. Ceilings are usually a mix of shadows and patterns, and I find them a wonderful escape. It doesn’t always work; sometimes a ceiling has fluorescent lighting, or it’s too low, but mostly they are an escape from what is happening around you.
When I go to a new place, I always check out the ceilings first. Once that route of pattern-finding is anchored, I know it’s there if I need it.
That’s all from me, but I would love to hear any tips you might like to share. I’m sure there are loads of things I haven’t covered. Please feel free to add yours in the comments or tweet them at @outfoxgloved
By sharing what helps us, we can all make the world a little bit easier