Change, whether it be something as small as small as a change in plans or routines, or a major change, like entering a new job, is a constant in life, and we all have our own ways of coping with it. However, for people with Asperger’s Syndrome, change is something that doesn’t come as easy or as natural to us, even if it is as simple as a small change in schedule or routine, and can go as far as being something that can be upsetting to the point that it can trigger either a big or small meltdown.
This resistance to change and the big reactions we have to changes in routine or plans, in my experience, is because of the fact that we think mostly in black or white, have specific daily routines that we follow that help us focus on the tasks we need to do during the day, and because it takes some time for us to process the information and how it’ll affect our daily schedules and routines. All of that, plus the worry and anxieties that come with a new plan, is usually pretty overwhelming for me, and I end up seeming like I am upset or mad about the change in routine or the plan. Today, even if I now have my own coping mechanisms in place, I still do get upset over changes in routine and schedule, and it takes me a while for me to calm down and look at things objectively rather than emotionally. In the end, it really boils down to the fact that we are not really wired to cope and adapt to changes quickly. However, even though the process may be slower than others, we can accept changes and act on them.
So, in line with this, I thought that it would be helpful to share some tips which I found useful whenever I’m faced with a change in routine or plan.
1. Remove Yourself from the Situation & Allow Yourself to React
Instead of reacting right away in front of others, if you can, take a five minute breather, and allow yourself to properly react to the situation, but give yourself a time limit. I find that bottling in my emotions aren’t healthy at all, and I found that it was better to actually acknowledge the emotions you feel about something in order to be able to act on them moving forward. Give yourself a time limit as well, as this will allow you to calm down faster.
2. Take Note of All Your Worries & Fears
One of the reasons I usually have a big reaction over changes usually stem from my own anxieties and worries that I won’t be able to accomplish or do what I have to do for that day, or my routine will get disrupted, and then I wouldn’t know how to re-orient myself after that. Of course, it may be a different story for others. However, whatever the case, it is good to take note of all your worries and anxieties about the change so you can find possible answers and solutions to them when you come up with a plan of action.
3. Rationalize by Re-Evaluating Your Original Plan or Routine
By this point, after allowing yourself to acknowledge what you feel about the change, and after acknowledging all your anxieties and fears regarding the change, you would have started to become calmer. Now, you can now take a step back and start creating a plan of action by taking a look at your original plan or routine, and see how you can accommodate that particular change by re-arranging parts of your plan or routine in a way that you will still be able to accomplish everything that you need to do. It is actually good to have a semi-flexible plan or routine in place to allow for some room for some changes, because you know that that will always happen.
4. Have A Back Up Plan or Routine, and a Back Up for That
One of the reasons I detest changes in my plan or routine is because I usually end up feeling that I won’t be in control anymore, which makes it harder for me to control my reactions and emotions as well. So, in order to counter that, I usually have back up plans to my back up plans, and modified back up routines for my routines. These back up plans usually come in handy especially when my entire routine or plan is completely upended. For example, because of some unforeseen circumstance, I end up waiting in the mall for more than an hour. When that happens, I usually am prepared with something that will help me pass the time productively, whether it be being able to do something for work on my laptop, or catching up on a drama that I need to review the next week, and the like. When it comes to routines, I mostly just re-arrange and move things around to accommodate the new task, and more often than not, it usually fits and is doable.
5. Manage Expectations Depending on the Scenario & Take it One Step at A Time
When you know that change is coming, whether it be big or small, in a plan or in a routine, knowing your anxieties and what you feel about it will allow you to create strategies on how to cope with them. Also, if it is possible, especially if it is a major change, it would be better to ease yourself into the change slowly. Doing so will allow you to manage your emotions better, and it will allow you to be less overwhelmed with it on an emotional and on a sensory level as well. Also, doing it one step at a time, if you can, will help you get used to it and the idea as the weeks go by, allowing for a better and smoother transition into it. An example of this would be major changes such as entering a new job. It will really take some time to fully adjust to the work load and all the sensory inputs that come with it (office lighting, interacting with people), but if done one step at a time, without being too slow about it, it can help you adjust better and will allow you to be more productive at work as well.
I hope that these five-ish tips help when it comes to handling changes in routine or in a plan. It’s not easy, but remember that it can be done.
How do you cope with changes in the routine or the plan? Are there any other tips I missed out on? If so, let me know in the comments below!