Last week, for Week 5 of the #TaketheMaskOff Challenge, we talked about diagnosis, self-awareness and how that impacts masking. This week, the second to the last week of the challenge, we will be talking about strategies that can be used to to cope with masking. Most of these strategies came from all the lessons and experiences I’ve been through over the years, and in the end, it resulted in me being able to do something a person in the comments section here referred to as “authentic masking”.
“Authentic Masking”, for both of us, means that we are still very much ourselves, without hiding anything, but we have coping strategies in place for particular circumstances, whether it be remembering particular protocols of appropriate behavior, or just strategies to help me cope with particular situations. All of this does help me be less tired as compared to when I’m really masking.
While reading this, you will notice that I’ve actually mentioned these strategies in previous posts, and I’m putting down what I feel are the most important strategies here because I feel like these are the particular ones that help me all the time, especially when it comes to masking.
- Do Some Research Ahead of Time– Before I do anything, including going out to the mall, shopping, or hanging out with friends, I do some research about the area I’ll be going to, or get a general sense of feeling about the people I might be with in a big event. This helps me to prepare myself for what to expect and already think of what might happen, and what coping strategies I have to use so that when the time comes when I need to use them, its ready, and I don’t need to panic
- Bring Appropriate Stim Toys & Things That Help with Sensory Overload- Everywhere I go, I have something I can stim with regardless of the situation, and are small enough to be appropriate to bring in any situation. For me, it comes in the form of my beaded bracelets I wear on my left wrist, my cellphone and my earphones. I usually finger my bracelets when I’m anxious, and its something that I can use even when faced with tough social situations in which I can’t really run away from or pop in my earphones. When I’m alone, and I’m in areas in which I get too much sensory overload,I pop in my earphones and listen to a few songs first to get “recharged” in a way.
- Have Social Scenario Strategies Ready– Over the years, I ended up learning what behaviors are acceptable and not, and what are the appropriate responses to particular situations. However, even though I know all of this, there are moments I still struggle to use them, especially when big emotions are involved. However, no matter what social situation you find yourself in, you can rely on those “protocols”. Sometimes, these “protocols” are the usual and are pretty universal, like not yelling at the sales lady or customer representative agent when your are upset, or saying hello to a friend you bump into at the mall and they greet you; while others can be a little bit more tailor made and customized for the particular individual. For me, that includes the particular way I should handle any meltdowns that occur in public, because the particular way I cope with that is different from how other people cope with it.
- Create Protocols & Coping Strategies for Yourself– This comes with a lot of self-awareness, as you alone know exactly when you are starting to get tired or start having a difficult time doing particular things. In fact, this is just a culmination of all the three things I mentioned above. Doing your research will allow you to figure out the social situations you will face and any other things you might encounter such as sensory overload, and then you can devise coping strategies for those particular moments. For example, over the years, when I go out shopping, I do research first, canvas all the stores and try on clothes, rest at a cafe for an hour so that I can recharge and make a decision, and then I buy the clothes. For parties, I actually work out my entire schedule on the day of the party, and I also recall the coping strategies that worked in previous parties for social situations I might have trouble with. Over the years, doing this will allow you to create a “coping strategy bank” for yourself to rely on in particular situations.
- Self-Care– No matter what coping strategies you have or use, self-care is definitely the most important strategy there is. This means taking the time to rest, relax and enjoy, even for just a an hour or less, in order to “recharge” and get back the energy you need in order to face whatever challenge comes your way next. This will also help you in doing things more effectively as well.
Do you have any coping strategies for masking that you use? Let me know in the comments below!