5 Moments That Sum Up, "Help! I'm Overwhelmed!"

Updated: May 7

Create a plan of action. Here’s what worked for me.


The image is darkened greatly by shadow. In the center there is a wall with many windows. It is the only light source. A young woman in a dress stands at the door. She is coming into the dark room.
Photo by Ekaterina from Pexels

What Do You Struggle With?


I stood at the door, trying to open it. I couldn’t. I dropped down on the porch in a collapsed position. “Dang It.” I turned onto my hands and knees and tried the doorknob one more time. “It opened!”


I crawled through the front door. That’s as far as I could go. I closed the door and laid there for almost an hour until I had the strength to go to my room and rest on the bed. My energy had totally drained. It happens to me suddenly and often. That’s obviously a problem.


In addition to fatigue and sudden muscle weakness, my areas of struggle are communication, speech, and human interaction.


During a work meeting, my leg taps uncontrollably. I’m anxious. We are sitting in a group, and everyone’s talking. My words vanish.


My voice froze from anxiety. The only sound I’m contributing is the books falling to the floor. My tapping leg knocked them off my lap onto the floor. I’m utterly embarrassed as I bend down to pick them all up.



 

Two people sit across from one another in a living room. One is using spoken words and the other is writing out their communication.
Photo by SHVETS production from Pexels


What Methods Can Be Used To Support Ourselves?


In desperation, I sat and wrote a list of what I knew was triggering overwhelm for me at work. “What simple methods can I use to help lesson the overwhelm?” I questioned.


Communication Struggles:


Communication and speech are such a struggle for me. I write out a script and memorize it to be successful. I spend hours preparing for each day. “It is exhausting. I need more ideas,” I tell myself.


My solution is to keep a quick verbal script ready if needed and post visual notes and cues all around the room to help me.


“This takes so much work! I’m burned out! I simply can’t keep this up!” I told myself as I realized the reality of my situation.


To support me with communication and Autistic burnout, I switched to using a text-to-speech device, allowing my computer device to be my voice. This device works well for me. My communication with fingertips is fast, easy, and requires minimal effort. My brain is quick with fingers typing text to speech communication.


I also communicate using American Sign Language (ASL). Using a keyboard is not always convenient. I use ASL with family members who also use ASL.


The change in communication techniques has made a difference for me and my overall well-being. I’m grateful to have them to use.


Communication Options:

  • Write communication scripts and practice them.

  • Use a communication device.

  • Use ASL

  • Use writing it down or as a text.



 

Two ladies walk and talk together while drinking bottled water. They are outside walking along a sidewalk down a busy shopping district. They are both wearing backpacks and engaged in communication.
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

Human Interaction:


I sit observing everyone interact. I sigh and turn away. I want to engage, but for me, it is more complicated. As I get older, I find myself more avoidant as I realize how difficult engaging in social activities is for me.


I’ve taken a Master Emotional Intelligence course, read the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 (affiliate link), plus many others on how to learn how to engage with others. They have all been helpful.


I’ve learned more about body language and what it means. Now I can identify when someone is uncomfortable or not. It’s a good idea to end the communication when you notice the other person is uncomfortable.


I’ve learned to listen actively, interact better, and keep the other person talking so I don’t have to.


I try always to say “Hi.” It is easier for me to engage in conversation using a text-to-speech device. It’s different but works for me. It takes a while for new people to get used to me.



 

A woman stands outside of a shopping area. Her hand is holding her forehead. Her eyes are closed. She looks like she is anxious and overwhelmed but with a subdued face. Her hair is short with tight curls all over her head. She is beautifully freckle faced. She has a rainbow color wrist band and bright red bangles at her ears.
Photo by Claudia Barbosa from Pexels

Anxiety:


“How are you?” the doctor asked.


“I’m fine,” I reply as I take three deep breaths, rub my hands vigorously against my legs, and then uncontrollably tap my foot.


The doctor responds, “Your blood pressure is a concern.”


“Yes, it’s anxiety.” I reply. I’m on three blood pressure medications, and it’s high every time I visit the doctor. It’s rarely high when I’m at home.


Anxiety is a significant issue for me. I’m finally starting to recognize what it feels like in me and when I have hit an overwhelm. When my body is hitting an overwhelm, and I realize it’s anxiety, I use breathing techniques of-4 breaths in, hold breath for four counts, and then breathe out from my mouth for eight counts.


I repeat this as much as needed. If it isn’t working, I add in a muscle squeeze and release method. If I still need more, I use EFT techniques.


One instant anxiety reliever for me is to play white noise into my earbuds. It instantly calms my body down and takes about 10 or 15 minutes for the overwhelm to subside.


I have specialized earbuds that, with a tap, will shut the world of sound down, another tap opens sound back up again and is blue-toothed to my phone so I can play sounds to hear. I have a white noise app on my phone to easily access when needed.


 

Summary:

  1. Check-in with your body frequently to assess what emotions you experience and how they feel in your body. Where do you feel pain, uneasiness, sensations?

  2. When does your entire body feel like it wants to flee or scream? What lead up to it? It can be as simple as sensory input building up in your system. Notice sounds and how sensitive you are to them. If you start getting sensitive to sensory input, that means you are on your way to overwhelm. It means you have a build-up, and you need to release it through stimming, rest, food, water, quiet things down with earbuds, get comfortable, and dim the lights.

  3. Analyze your weaknesses in dealing with life, routines, people, academics, relationships, and struggles at work or with employment. Choose which ones you need to improve to better your chances of doing well and thriving. Educate and train yourself by taking a course, finding someone to show you how to do something, read a how-to book, or learn the techniques through YouTube.

  4. Have an advocate or a support buddy. Mine is my husband, and I am always trying to analyze who is supportive vs. ugly towards me. Surround yourself with those who are supportive, helpful, and understanding. Let those who are not, fall away from your life.

  5. Do your part in being a good friend. I know it is challenging. You also need to be a good friend. Just realize your limits. Autistic people typically have a short battery life when it comes to socializing, so keep your social activities short. Limit the time you socialize but when you do, be a good friend.

  6. Find your friends by joining activities related to your particular interests. Autistic people typically do well when doing an activity with their friends associated with their specific interests. Less talk and more activity are best.



Thank you for reading,

If you are interested in reading more, click the link: Autistic Strategies for Adults.

Wonder, Explore, Experience!

Bobbi Lynn Gibson





 

REFERENCES:


Sullivan, Jonathan. “Connected Toward Communion: The Church and Social Communication in the Digital Age.” The Catholic Library World, vol. 86, no. 1, Catholic Library Association, Sept. 2015, p. 50.


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