Meltdowns are a regular occurrence in an Aspie’s or in an autistic person’s life, as it is our brain’s way of “rebooting” itself and starting anew after the brain becomes too overwhelmed by a build up of triggers. These meltdowns, once it starts, cannot be stopped, and it usually comes in different forms, depending on the person. It is very different, however, from a tantrum, as a tantrum is a child’s way of seeking attention and the child can actually stop at any given notice. Now, there have been many articles written about what others should do when their friend or loved one has a meltdown, but very few that give tips to the one’s experiencing the meltdown themselves, which is why I decided to list down my Top 10 Tips For Meltdowns.
Before I begin, please take note that these tips are tips that I have gathered throughout the years. However, some of these might work for you and some might not. These, though, have been helping me manage my own meltdowns for several years now.
1. List Down Your Triggers- Take some time to sit down with a loved one or a therapist, and list down your possible triggers. A build up of what triggers you causes you to be overwhelmed and you end up having a meltdown. Knowing these triggers will help you in preventing an impending meltdown as you will be able to avoid that particular trigger, or come up with a solution for it. For example, if loud noises are part of your triggers, then, if it is unbearable, just leave the place, or if you can’t, wear your earphones and listen to calming music. Also, noticing that your triggers are starting to pile up is already one sign that a meltdown is coming.
2. Have A “Calm Down” Plan in Place- Whether you are having a meltdown or getting triggered, it is good to have a “calm down” plan in place. It is good to have one for different situations as well. For example, listening to calming music or taking a break and going for a walk, watching a short clip or episode that makes you laugh always helps me out. Of course, everyone is different, so it is good to sit down, and write down what will make you calm down or be happy and always have it ready with you.
3. Know the Physical Signs- Aside from a noticeable build up of triggers, there are also external and physical signs that you will be having a meltdown soon. Some pace, talk even more loudly than usual, have particular gestures that they do, etc. It is good to list them down so that when you notice that you are starting do it, then you can try to prevent that meltdown from coming by using your “calm down” plan.
4. When It Happens, Try to Go to a Safe Space, or Be Alone- It is better to be alone than with other people during a meltdown. When a meltdown happens, people will either tell you to stop it, or try to comfort you, and as you are already in meltdown mode, that really won’t help at all. Also, depending on how you have your meltdown, it is better to stay in a space where you can’t hurt others or damage anything, and of course, go to a place where you won’t hurt yourself. For me, that’s my bedroom or my walk-in closet. However, if you are out and have a meltdown, try to go home, or stay inside your car until it passes.
5. When It Happens, Ride it Out- Trust me, once a meltdown starts, there’s no stopping it. It’s best to let it all out, and ride it out. Cry and shout, and do what you need to do.Trust me, you’ll feel better, and your head will be much clearer as well afterwards.
6. Know What Kind of Meltdowns You Have- No two meltdowns are the same. For some, their meltdowns are explosive. That is usually accompanied by shouting, kicking, punching, and other physical and external things. Others implode- they become quiet, cry quietly and shut down from the rest of the world. Knowing what kind of meltdown you have will also help in coming up with a plan for when you go into meltdown mode.
7. Take Your Time to Recover- Meltdowns are exhausting, both physically and emotionally. After riding out your meltdown, I suggest that you rest first. Anyway, you will feel tired afterwards. Also, take your time to recover. If you can go out afterwards but you think that you cannot talk to anyone yet, you don’t have to. Also, it would be good to know how long you take to fully calm and recover, so that you know for next time.
8. Aside from the “Calm Down” Plan, Have a “Meltdown” Plan- Having a plan and knowing what to do when I have a meltdown actually helps ensure that others around me don’t get too stressed, and that I also don’t end up hurting myself or others. So, as of now, I know that whenever I have a meltdown, I go to my room, and if I need to punch things, I punch my bed instead of a wall.
9.Don’t Be Ashamed About Your Meltdowns- Sometimes, you may feel embarrassed by your meltdown, especially if it happens in public. Don’t be. Meltdowns are a regular feature in an autistic person’s life, and it is needed so that your brain can “reboot” and you can function again, especially after being overwhelmed by all your triggers.
10. Tell Your Family & Friends – As your family and friends will always be concerned for you, they will either try to talk you out of your meltdown or try to comfort you, which we all know will not help. Explain to them what a meltdown is and that you need some space and time if it happens. Also, it is good to let them know of your “calming down” routines or your established rules and plans for when you have a meltdown so that they can help you out if need be.
And those are my Top 10 Tips For Meltdowns!
What do you think about this list? Are there any other techniques that you use? Let me know what you think in the comments below!