Easing Out of Lockdown
A Blog on managing anxieties, expectations and strategies on how to help.
Anxiety can be a consequence of mis-understanding the world around you, or unexpected changes in it. In more ‘normal’ times autistic young people are all impacted to a greater or lesser degree by this. Unplanned change, transitions, unexpected change to environment or routine can cause significant peaks in anxiety and the requirement to implement, or garner support to implement strategies.
Lockdown, whilst significantly limiting, did provide in most instances, a reliable and stable ‘bubble’ which was predictable. Teachers and learning entered the house through the screen of a device, and social communication was curtailed; as were much of the challenging changes to the environment created by lots of other people carrying out their business.
In the background for all of us is the monitoring of infection rates, social distancing, regular testing, mask wearing and other mitigating measures around the pandemic. This is causing a new heightened sense of alertness. If this new state of alert impacts on the general population, who were frustrated at loss of freedom, and desperate to get back out and socialise and attend work, spend time with people in complex social setting; bear in mind those for whom the controlled environment has brought some certainty, and enabled guards to be dropped and energy to be redirected from management of difficult daily situations to academic or other areas during the course of lockdown.
We’ve all experienced those days where we have been in back to back meetings, or at an event where we have been ‘on show’, having small talk with lots of people, ensuring everyone is ok and has what they need. It’s exhausting. We definitely slept well after such events. Over time, if you do it daily, you build up resilience to it, you employ strategies to mitigate the impact as much as possible. Your small talk becomes more formulaic, meaning it is less impactful on energy levels, and you are able to build up natural responses that save cognitive reserves. Often autistic people report this as their daily life. They have to go through these steps in school, in the supermarket and in the street, and again over time this is mitigated a little by the development of strategies, and the general increase in tolerance.
How to help:
Be understanding that the transition back to ‘normal life’ is going to be long and tiring.
Allow potential for mistakes and breaks, to build resilience over time.
Support everyone to be mindful of the increased cognitive load everyone is under, but be particularly mindful that autistic people will be particularly impacted.
Build in transitions if possible. Allow people to build up experience of situations they find demanding over time, and enable them to communicate the pace where possible.