Processing and dealing with the feelings and thoughts induced by anxiety looks different person by person and can be both healthy and dangerous. Finding the way of coping that works for you is important, and making sure that it is positive and productive. Below is a list of some ideas, many of which are backed by medical research and a general consensus, but there are many more options. The important thing is to make sure that what you are using is something you are comfortable telling people you trust about and having them accept. Any form of coping that involves either implicitly or explicitly hurting yourself or others typically only lead to pain and an increase in anxiety and depression (if present).
Exercise: Exercise can look like anything from taking a short walk around the block to lifting weights. It all depends on the type of sensory you enjoy (deep or light pressure, for example) and what your body can handle. However, getting up and moving both can help release energy and center your thoughts as well as release serotonin and other “happy chemicals” in your brain.
Therapy / Counseling: Talking about our problems is a good way to get them out and process what you are feeling in a healthy way. Doing this with family and friends is not a bad idea, but oftentimes having an impartial source who can listen and has a degree in what works best for the mind is superior-- this can help avoid tense family situations or annoying a friend by being a “negative Nancy.”
Psychiatrist / Medicine: While anxiety and depression can be caused by events in someone's life or an existing disorder, sometimes the only way to properly manage the chemicals in the brain is to be prescribed an anti-anxiety medicine. This can be a temporary fix, helping someone get an overwhelming burden of anxiety under control while they work with a therapist to try to solve the anxiety causing issues without the need for a continued prescription.
CBD / Essential Oils: An alternative to prescription medicine are more natural or homeopathic options, such as CBD from the cannabis plant and essential oils. Many of these have been proven to help lower anxiety without having high-inducing effects or lab-created products.
Social Groups / Organized Outings: Social groups and outings where you group together with peers in similar situations as you, such as Totally Social’s teens’ with high functioning autism social skills groups, are another great way to help connect with others, relieve anxiety, and learn new techniques to dealing with anxiety.
Sensory: Often it is not your mind that is necessarily unquiet, but your body. An aspect of autism is that it affects the sensory systems and making sure you take time to give yourself the input you need-- weights, touch, absence of feeling, movement-- can greatly assist with stressors.
Time Alone: Sometimes you just need to take a break from people! It is totally okay to walk away from an anxiety-ridden situation and take a break to think about things and calm down.
Write it Down: If you are worried about talking through your thoughts to another person, keeping a journal to write it all down is another great way to process how you are feeling and calm down.
Written by Katy Evans