COVID-19 Tips

Here are the tips for adults with autism on how to cope with the COVID-19 Pandemic. I’ve been doing these things during the pandemic.  

 

How to cope with disrupted personal routines:

  • Try to avoid burnout: If you are continuing to report to work, you may be working longer hours and having intense interactions with customers or co-workers. If you find yourself feeling burned out with the extra effort to sustain these interactions, tell a supervisor how you are feeling and that you need a break. You should document these conversations as well.

  • Practice mindfulness: Mindfulness means being in the present moment with the activity you are doing. This can take the form of meditation, yoga, coloring, or any other activity that helps you focus on the “here and now.” There are many free online videos and apps you can use to explore different activities to see which ones work for  you.

  • Respect your emotions: This is a stressful time and you may experience emotions such as sadness, anger, fear, or frustration. Know that your emotions are valid, and many other people are also dealing with their own heightened emotions. Think of ways you have worked through emotions in the past and try to use some of those same tools now.

Many adults with autism have strategies for avoiding becoming overwhelmed by emotions. In this new and uncertain situation, remember your strategies to avoid a meltdown and take action to avoid it, such as finding a quiet place.

  • Develop or revisit a crisis plan: Having a crisis plan may mean different things to different people. At its most basic level, this is a list of important information, including who to contact if you are in a crisis and what a crisis looks like to you. This plan may include emergency contact information when to call doctors, or other vital information to have in one place. Post a copy in your living space and carry a copy with you if you leave the house.

  • Stick to a new routine: With everything changing around us, we are still able to live some semblance of normalcy by sticking to our existing routines or schedules, while adapting them to the current situation. Try to get up at the same time, still get dressed like usual, go to bed at the same time, and complete any hygiene tasks as if it were a typical day. If you are working from home, or perhaps not working at all, you’ll need to adjust your routine to account for this time.  While it may be tempting to, say, not brush your hair or do chores when at home for long periods, these small details help to eliminate some of the stress of unpredictability.

  • Exercise your mind and body: Stress takes a physical toll on your body and also depresses the immune system. If you are already physically active, try to find ways you can continue these routines at home. Look for free fitness routines online or see if your local gym is offering virtual classes. Keeping your mind active is also important as part of overall mental health. Instead of only binging a new TV series or watching movies, try to add variety by picking up a book or listening to a podcast. Most public libraries have an online system that allows you to check out electronic books and audiobooks to use on your device from home.

  • Take care of your health: Taking care of your health at this time is extremely important not just for you, but also for others who you could unknowingly expose to the COVID-19 virus. Try to eat healthy meals, get enough rest, take medications as scheduled, and if you do feel sick, stay at home. If you have a medical emergency, you should call 911. If you have questions and are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, please follow the CDC guidelines. Also, call your doctor’s office or emergency room before going for treatment.

  • Continue support networks: Many mental health providers, case managers, and specialists are still working but using different methods, such as virtual meetings or video calls. Call your providers to see how they can work with you during this time. Phone meetings may be harder, but prioritizing support right now can help you remember you are not alone. If you are part of an in-person support group, ask the leader if they can arrange a virtual meeting for those who want to join.

  • Find some online or phone resources: There are a growing number of online resources to help people feel less alone during isolation. The Autism Response Team (888-AUTISM2) and 211 can help connect you with needed resources, including new ones being created. Connect with your peers regularly using email, text, video messaging, or social media. Make the effort to reach out to families and friends if you are feeling stressed.

  • Take a media break: It is very easy to get overwhelmed with the constant barrage of information online about the current pandemic. If you find yourself feeling anxious while reading the news or social media, try to take a break. You can schedule a set amount of time to catch up on the news to make it less likely you’ll be overwhelmed by it. Remember to also schedule time at the beginning or end of the day to care for yourself by doing something fun or relaxing, depending on your needs that day.

  • Plan for the future: One of the hardest things at this time is to think about the future with all of this uncertainty. Think positively about the future and the things you want to do when things improve. Is there a new skill or hobby you want to learn? Are there courses you can take to help you at work? Are there goals you want to achieve that you can work on while you are stuck at home? Make a plan to help you work toward bigger goals – it can help you try to stay positive.

Working from home: Developing a New Routine

Manage your time:

  • While your usual workday routine may not be possible right now, that doesn’t mean you have to be without a routine at all. Start by determining what tasks you need to accomplish and when they are due. If necessary, contact your supervisor to make sure you are clear about what is most important to work on. Then, break bigger tasks down into steps and schedule them into your days. Try to leave extra time slots open in case you get behind on a task. This way, you have a plan in place for when things don’t go exactly as planned.

  • A written schedule or visual routine is a good strategy for time management. You can use an app, a daily planner, or a simple checklist with the tasks you need to complete for the day. Many autistic people like to use visual cues to organize information, such as color-coding by task type or days of the week, or using pictures alongside a written schedule. For example, you might shade your break times in blue or include a picture of a phone next to any scheduled conference calls.

  • If you prefer a more flexible approach, you can break the project down by setting a goal for the end of each day. Then list the steps you’ll need to do to reach that goal.

Organize your workspace:

  • Set up a workspace that works to your advantage. As tempting as it is to lounge in bed or front of the TV with your laptop, this can make it harder to focus during the day and harder to relax at night. Consider your sensory needs—the type of lighting, noise level, and seating that allows you to focus. Choose a place that allows for easy access to any paperwork, tools, or other items you need without the clutter. If you’re having a hard time remembering your new setup, try using trays or bins with clear labels (made using text, color-coding, and/or visual cues).

  • If your work involves frequent emails, consider setting up your inbox with subfolders and color-coded tags for each sender. You can organize computer documents and files in the same way.

Communicate With Co-Workers:

  • The same technology that allows teams to work together across countries and continents makes it possible for projects to continue despite the circumstances brought about by COVID-19. Your employer may use a platform or app designed for remote work, such as Basecamp, where team members post announcements, schedules, to-do lists, and files. Team meetings may take place over a video- or web-conference platform such as Zoom or Skype. If you are having trouble navigating these platforms, contact your supervisor or a savvy co-worker and ask if they can walk you through how to use the most important functions.

  • Since in-person contact is not possible, you might see an increase in emails, phone calls, and video conferences. Leave time for responding to these in your daily schedule. Some of these communication methods may be more difficult for you. Don’t be afraid to double-check your understanding following one-to-one emails or phone calls, especially if you were given instructions.

  • During meetings, consider taking notes, writing down questions, or even asking permission to record. If you agree to do or are assigned tasks during the call, you can write them down as a list of action items. Then, you can reach out to the meeting leader, your supervisor, or a coworker with your list to confirm or clarify what you will be working on.

 

Stay Well:

  • Successfully working from home is as much about personal wellness as it is about productivity. As much as possible, keep the parts of your day that don’t have to change, like the time you wake up and go to bed, the clothes you wear. and meal times. Using these as anchor points can give you a sense of normalcy as you fill in the gaps with your new routine.

  • For many people with autism, work can be socially draining, so home becomes a place of much-needed alone time. In this case, working from home could mean too much isolation. With social distancing in mind, you can find ways to stay connected to other people once your workday is over. Play video games, invite coworkers to a long-distance movie night via Netflix Party, or take a walk while staying at least six feet apart.

  • Make sure you take breaks during the workday for both your body and mind—eat regular meals, get up regularly to stretch or take a short walk, and give your eyes a chance to get away from the screen.

  • As you develop your new routine, check in with yourself regularly. Are you meeting your goals? Are you getting healthy amounts of sleep, food, and exercise? Are you keeping in touch with other people? Are your mood and anxiety level manageable? Keep the big picture in mind—that your wellness is key to successfully working from home, and that your new routine is a good thing because you are helping to keep yourself and others safe.

Here are more coping tips: 

  • Don’t get upset when certain events get canceled or postponed. Just deal with it and move on.  
  • Make a post-pandemic plan.  
  • Put off traveling until it’s safe to do so. 
  • Try virtual tours of museums, national parks, etc.   
  • Watch virtual events (concerts, conferences, etc). 

Here’s more info:

Support for Autistic Adults Dealing With COVID-19 Employment Changes:

https://www.autismspeaks.org/blog/support-autistic-adults-dealing-covid-19-employment-changes

Applying for Unemployment: https://www.usa.gov/unemployment

Here are tips on coping with stress from WHO (World Health Organization):

  • It is normal to feel sad, stressed, confused, scared or
    angry during a crisis.
  • Talking to people you trust can help. Contact your
    family and friends. 
  • Don’t use smoking, alcohol, or other drugs to deal with
    your emotions.
  • If you feel overwhelmed, talk to a health worker or
    counselor. Have a plan, where to go to, and how to seek
    help for physical and mental health needs if required.
  • Limit worry and agitation by lessening the time you
    and your family spend watching or listening to media
    coverage that you perceive as upsetting.
  • If you must stay at home, maintain a healthy lifestyle –
    including proper diet, sleep, exercise, and social contacts
    with loved ones at home and by email and phone with
    other family and friends.
  • Get the facts. Gather information that will help you
    accurately determine your risk so that you can take
    reasonable precautions. Find a credible source you can
    trust such as the WHO website or, a local or state public
    health agency. Ignore the fake news or misinformation. 
  • Draw on skills you have used in the past that have
    helped you to manage previous life’s adversities and use
    those skills to help you manage your emotions during
    the challenging time of this outbreak.

Here are more mental health tips including the resources from the American Psychological Association: 

https://www.autismspeaks.org/covid-19-information-and-resources-adults-spectrum

Extra Tips 

  • Ration all the supplies. 
  • Once in a while, order essential items online, but don’t overspend. 
  • If you run out, deal with it and use other options. For example, if you run out of hot dogs, eat something else instead. Or if you run out of shampoo, use dry shampoo or some other hair resource.  
  • Sanitize mail and food deliveries. 
  • No contact with the deliverers.    
  • If you’re on essential errands, wear masks, carry hand sanitizers & tissues, and stay away from strangers. 
  • Donate to charities. 

Here’s a link of more info and resources for families, educators, caregivers, etc:

https://www.autismspeaks.org/covid-19-information-and-resources

Here’s a link of how people with autism are coping with the pandemic:

https://www.cbs.com/shows/cbs_this_morning/video/cjVS8oLnb8UWHTMkijxTJpbgY1qhjjSY/how-people-on-the-autism-spectrum-are-navigating-pandemic-forced-routine-disruption/

If you had been vaccinated, don’t do anything strenuous. Go easy on yourself. Relax and read or watch TV. Get some sleep. Take some Tylenol, Ibuprofen, or some other medication once in a while. Eat lightly, nothing heavy. Keep your vaccine card. Do not lose it or misplace it. Put it in a safe place. Take a picture of it.

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