How to release stress and avoid meltdowns / burnout ?

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MrsPeel
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01 Jul 2020, 3:01 am

I'm getting a lot of issues with episodic meltdowns or burnout, which might be stress-related.
Has anyone found a good way to release stress and avoid meltdowns?
What would you recommend?



timf
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01 Jul 2020, 8:38 am

First, one can manage to alter expectations so that disappointment occurs less frequently.

Secondly, one can identify the accumulation of that which will contribute to a melt down so that an alternative course of action can be taken. For example, when I was in management an employee might do something surprising. I would delay dealing with the unanticipated event until I had taken a five minute walk outside to cool down.

The thing about melt downs is that they are a recurring phenomena and thus provide a continual source of experimentation.

Lowered expectations help reduce surprises. Recognizing signs of accumulating stress allow alternatives to be considered. However, the increasing pace of hectic modern life means there will always be that which catches us off guard. If a melt down cannot be prevented or avoided, it may be diverted into a less offensive expression such as screaming or swearing in your thoughts rather than at a person vocally.



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01 Jul 2020, 5:11 pm

There is probably a huge list. But I'm gonna give you what comes to my mind in that moment, that happen to be simple and more practical things:

- Sleep
- Avoiding a high caffeine intake (a very difficult thing to achieve for some people, including me)
- Healthy and alkaline food
- Avoiding substances, including alcohol
- eating similar meals or trying to avoid overthinking over simple things like food.
- exercise

- Walking around in public with earplugs
- sticking to the routine
- avoiding contact with people that stress you out

I hope I didn't miss the point of that. But all of these things help me personally to function on the long run.
It's important to reduce your stress-hormone levels on a regular basis.

Good luck



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01 Jul 2020, 5:18 pm

When I was experiencing extreme stress a few years back, I found that long baths at the end of the day, exercise, and music really helped. It took me awhile to realise that a glass of wine after a stressful day could help me unwind, but you need to be very careful with that, of course.



MrsPeel
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02 Jul 2020, 4:38 am

Thanks for the replies, that is all excellent advice.



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03 Jul 2020, 11:02 pm

Hello, here's what I've learned about what works for me in dealing with stress and untimely meltdowns.

That's the keyword here is untimely. The intense emotions and sensory overload that lead to a meltdown can't be ignored. There are certain things you can do to decrease the amount of exposure to stimuli that cause those things, but they add up, and eventually, it's going to be too much. That's okay. That is one of the most important things is to realize that it is okay to breakdown because of these things. A meltdown in itself can be a massive stress reliever if you let it happen (also assuming you're in a safe space).

That's the second part of this. I've had to really learn myself and know what triggers what kind of reactions and how my base mood/state of existence that day might affect that. More or less, I know what I can handle and what I can't, and while I always push myself to grow it's a fine line where that can become pushing myself too far. That said I normally work 40 hours a week in a customer service job no less (barista/bartender), and on a day when I'm near capacity, I can't just decide to not show up for work. On days like these, I get home and I just let myself have a meltdown. It generally goes down like this; I cry alone for literally about an hour and just let myself feel everything. Then I watch a comedy for an hour and go to bed. Sometimes I draw. A lot of the times I journal (something I ten out of ten recommend, it's a super useful tool for externalizing emotions in a healthy way but also learning to better identify and communicate what you're feeling.

So that's a logical meltdown, i.e. the one that had a valid easily identifiable reason for happening. Then there are the ones where suddenly I'm trying to choose which pasta sauce to eat at dinner and my whole brain shuts down. I don't know if these ones happen to you or not, but if they do here's what I do about it. When little unpredictable things send me spiraling, mentally I take a step back and ask myself one simple question; Why am I feeling this way? There's always a bunch of follow up questions after I figure out the first one's answer but by removing myself from intense whatever emotions I'm experiencing without trying to suppress or ignore them, I'm able to feel them in a solution-based way without losing control of them. Let me be clear; the answers you may come up with are ridiculous but you have to bear with yourself. For example, if textures one morning are suddenly on hyperdrive and every shirt I own is like sandpaper I often have to talk myself down. I find one and ask why can't I wear this? The answer, it feels terrible. Then I ask what's the worse thing that could happen if I have to wear an uncomfortable shirt? By the end of it I usually remind myself the shirt usually feels fine in a couple of hours and if I'm really worried about it I'll stick an alternate in my bag. This is a simplified walkthrough but I hope it made it sort of clear.

In the end, everyone has something different that works for them. What works for me might not work for you but the most important thing to remember is that all emotions deserve and need to be felt. You can't avoid or suppress them otherwise it will lead to a meltdown but the bad kind. I hope this helps somehow.



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04 Jul 2020, 11:04 pm

I find exercise is the most useful way to release stress. I also use stress toys and try to get up and move often. To avoid burnout I take my breaks away from my desk and on weekends I don't think about work - I keep busy with hobbies and other chores I deem important. I also find writing in a journal daily to record and organize my thoughts from the day and sleeping on regular schedule works well.

As mentioned on another post earlier, avoiding people who are toxic is really important. I always find if I am around people who are critical and unpleasant to be around really can really take away my energy leading to intense burnout. Same thing with large gatherings and long emotional conversations. Usually after events like this I make sure to do something relaxing on my own like watch TV or read.



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05 Jul 2020, 5:34 am

Thanks vvvv and Gamecube!
I have similar kinds of strategies, but maybe I've just been under too much stress recently.
And I haven't been getting too much exercise recently, that probably doesn't help. Exercise is definitely important.



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05 Jul 2020, 8:31 am

Going on a drive through the countryside!


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06 Jul 2020, 11:13 pm

If you live with anyone and/or have a close friend at work, ask them to tell you when they think you seem stressed or upset. My partner often notices before I do when I am getting overwhelmed...I didn't even know I'd start rocking or flapping my hands until it was pointed out to me. He can point it out and take over whatever chore was pushing me over the edge while I take a 15 minute break.

If you don't have anyone like that, maybe set a timer to remind you to check how your body is feeling throughout the day. If you notice any physical symptoms of anxiety, go take a break.

I also find that sometimes what I need for a "break" is something pleasant to occupy my mind, like an interesting YouTube video. It doesn't have to be a nap or meditating or something if that doesn't work for you.

You can also take some time to think about things that you know stress you, or patterns of meltdowns. If female (sorry, forgot to check OP gender), don't discount the role of hormones. On days you know you will have added stressors, schedule in some extra breaks.


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MrsPeel
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07 Jul 2020, 5:23 am

Good ideas, thanks!
It's the same for me, I don't always notice my own state of stress and need it pointed out to me.



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07 Jul 2020, 5:56 am

-forest walk, preferrably off the beaten path.

-pet and/or cuddle a beloved pet.

-reread an old favourite book.

-"ballistic meditation", i.e. pistol shooting.


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08 Jul 2020, 1:52 pm

There’s something else I feel like I need to mention, that just came to my mind. Perhaps it belongs more in the Women’s discussion... But since you’re a women, it’s something we have to consider.

I personally had very strong hormonal disbalances in the past, called PMS. The worst break-downs I ever experienced were in a particular time, where my hormone-levels were inconvenient and these mentioned problems were mainly caused by hormones. The things I’ve experienced during the time was ridiculous. It even went into a direction, which includes suicidal thoughts and wanting to completely give up life. It’s insane what some women have to go through.. that makes us aspie women different from males in some ways.
To know this, was a huge part of the healing, cause I could specifically treat these issues. It just makes a big difference if the experience includes hormonal changement or not, cause in that case the problem would have very different approaches. So maybe you can observe when exactly your breakdowns happen.

And it's not surprising, since aspies are very sensitive.. And I've heard before that aspie women tend to have PMS more often and this can be a life threatening issue.

Hopefully that small input could give another possible idea.



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08 Jul 2020, 5:32 pm

Hit a heavy bag until the seams split or until your hands are so calloused that gloves don't offer improved protection anymore.

Try to not wreck them when you're broke though, otherwise you'll have a new source of stress.


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MrsPeel
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09 Jul 2020, 1:09 am

This is fantastic, so many great strategies.
I've decided to make a list of them all (some frequently-mentioned ones at the top) (apologies if I miss any out):

Top strategies (mentioned by several respondents):
- Exercise
- Sleep (on regular schedule)
- Avoiding contact with stressful people / stressful situations like large gatherings
- Recognising signs of accumulating stress / asking others to tell you when you seem stressed or upset - and remove from situation / take 15 minute or overnight break
- If unable to prevent meltdown, divert in some way (eg. let it out at home, crying, hit a heavy bag)
- Do something relaxing (eg. watch TV / comedy / youtube, re-read favourite book, drawing, take a long bath, listen to music)
- Contact with animals and nature (cuddle a beloved pet, take a forest walk off the beaten path, take a drive through the countryside)
- Journalling

Other strategies:
- Lower expectations to avoid disappointment
- avoid high caffeine intake
- healthy and alkaline food
- eating similar meals / avoid overthinking simple things like food
- earplugs in public
- sticking to routines
- stress toys
- getting up and moving
- "ballistic meditation" - pistol shooting
- consider effect of hormones / PMS.
- don't think about work on weekends and keep busy with hobbies and chores
- accept that meltdowns are OK and an important stress reliever

and something that seems to be up for debate:
- avoid alcohol
- have a glass of wine at the end of the day

Some thoughts:
With regard to the effect of hormones, I definitely agree from my own experiences that there seems to be a hormonal effect. I think it's significant that I'm having problems now in perimenopausal stage of life - it's a bit like being a teenager again, with hormonal imbalances leading to uncontrolled surges of emotion.
I tend to think that this is one of the ways that AS looks different in females and males - in general it seems that men seem to have more problems with the social communication side of things, whereas women often have emotional issues - and often, associated diagnoses of mental illness. But feel free to argue!

On the question of alcohol, I think both strategies are good in a way. I know my health is generally better if I avoid all alcohol, but on a particularly stressful day there can be a bit of relief in having a glass of wine to help one unwind, which might exceed the negative impacts. I also use alcohol to loosen up a bit before a social gathering, but I limit myself to 2 units. You've got to be sensible in how you use it.

Please keep responding, let me know if you've had success with any of the above strategies or can think of others.



MrsPeel
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09 Jul 2020, 1:24 am

Oh, and another question...
I've booked in to see a psychologist for therapy to see if that helps.
But now I see that none of the replies so far have mentioned formal therapy of any kind.
What have your experiences been with psychotherapy - did it help with stress management? Was there a particular type of therapy that helped? Or is it a waste of time and money?