Via Flickr – by DenisVahrushev
When I entered high school, I was overwhelmed with stress. Suddenly, I was surrounded by tons of kids that I didn’t know. I had to navigate a completely new environment. And all while trying to get good grades in some of the most difficult classes I had ever taken.
I would come home from school frustrated and angry. When I started asking my mom if I could stay home “sick” from school, she knew it was time to take action. So, one Friday when I came home from school, she had me get in her car and told me we were going to do something fun. We ended up going to a beginners painting class at our local art museum and then out for pizza (my favorite!) afterwards. It was a great way for me to de-stress after a long week at school.
I’m sure other kids with Asperger’s Syndrome have the same difficulties managing stress that I do. So, I thought I’d suggest a few things I’ve tried that have helped me feel less stress and happier overall:
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the best artist. But I think what really matters is that you enjoy the process, and I certainly do. Regardless of what I’m painting, spending a couple of hours in a quiet room really helps relax me. Now, I try to do some painting at least twice a month.
While my painting is very informal, parents should know that there are more formal art therapy programs designed to help kids on the autism spectrum. In its article on the practice, LovetoKnow.com provides information on the stress-reducing benefits of art therapy. It explains that art provides kids on the autism spectrum with “a very safe but effective way to express emotions, including frustration and anger.”
I began swimming as a way to be more healthy. But it didn’t take long for me to realize that it was also helping me manage stress better. When I swim a few times a week, I’m in a much better mood and things that would normally stress me out—like exams or tight deadlines—don’t have as much of an effect on me.
As this article on swimming for people with autism notes, it is a form of exercise that has many physical and mental benefits for people on the autism spectrum. The article explains that in addition to helping to reduce stress, swimming improves one’s ability to concentrate, helps ease repetitive behaviors, serves as an excellent form of physical exercise, and much more.
As Science Daily explains, a study was conducted that found that children with Asperger’s are at a high risk for developing sleep problems. I can tell you from experience that that is true. In fact, when I’m really stressed, I feel like I’m stuck in a never-ending cycle. I’m stressed so I don’t sleep well. Then, because I haven’t gotten a good night’s sleep, I have even more trouble dealing with the next day’s stresses! The good news is I’ve found that taking painting and swimming regularly help me de-stress enough that I’m able to sleep better. Sure, there are nights when I still struggle but they are much less frequent than they used to be.
I want other high school students with Asperger’s to know that stress doesn’t have to be a constant part of their lives. There are ways to manage stress. And when you make them a consistent part of your life, you’ll feel much better overall.
Kathleen Carter is a teen who has been living with Asperger’s Syndrome for as long as she can remember. She strives to educate her peers and others about AS. Recently, she began focusing her efforts on writing proudly about how her experiences differ from other people her age. She is so grateful to have the opportunity to write for EducatorLabs.