By Becca Lory Hector, CAS, BCCS
According to Merriam-Webster, inertia is defined as “a property of matter by which it remains at rest or in uniform motion in the same straight line unless acted upon by some external force” or more simply, an “indisposition to motion, exertion, or change.” When we talk about autistic inertia, we are simply saying that for autistics, changing states is difficult. Autistics, by nature, like routine and we don’t like change. So, what happens when change is forced upon us? When the Universe dishes out something unexpected? Well, if we are honest, a good chunk of us freeze and crash.
Recently, I was sent into a “freeze” state by one of the most common triggers, employment became unemployment.
While I should be used to this cycle by now in my history, this particular incident was such a punch in the gut that autistic inertia set in almost immediately. Knowing that old habits would be quick to re-surface, and I could soon be stuck in bed or on my couch in a major depression, I decided that this time, I would beat the inertia. And since I did, here are some successful steps I took to keep inertia and depression at bay.
Steps for Fighting Autistic Inertia
Step 1: Physically don’t sit still.
Part of keeping my energy up during this time was spent in physical motion. Meaning, since I didn’t want my life to be still, my physical body needed to stay in motion. This translated into A LOT of extra dog walks. Forcing myself to take the walks and not just let them out in the yard, kept me from sitting on my couch in my pajamas all day, feeding the sadness. It also meant fresh air, sunshine, and being in the moment, not in my head worrying.
Step 2: Keep your mind in forward motion.
Mentally, don’t let yourself be paralyzed by failure or anxiety. It would be easy to give in to old thinking patterns here. DO NOT. A mind in forward motion will not think in circles. Don’t get on a loop of negative self-talk and instead engage your mind. Make sure your mind isn’t living in the past but is here with you in the present, looking forward. What could you do to change the situation? For me, it was applying for jobs in this instance, though in the past, it has been something as simple as created something. Make something from the nothing.
Step 3: REST.
Yup, you heard me, rest. Inertia is uncomfortable and fighting it is exhausting. Don’t forget that change is a transition for us. You are going to need your rest if you want to stay in motion Make sure you are padding your days with some extra downtime. Your body and brain need that too.
Step 4: Enthuse on your enthusiasms.
Don’t forget that that fun is part of being a healthy human. It is super easy to punish yourself for a “failure” by depriving yourself of fun. But, like self-care, fun is an essential ingredient to a healthy, happy life. I mean, why do all the work if there is no payoff. So, don’t forget to infuse some fun into all this serious anti-inertia work. Make time to do stuff you enjoy. You deserve it.
Step 5: Don’t stop caring about you.
It’s ok to skip a shower or two but don’t dwell in the dirty. There are going to be days when a shower is the last thing you have energy for, or laundry feels like waste of time, but don’t let the chores pile up. Instead let those basic things comfort you. For me, chores like laundry, pet care, dishes, personal hygiene, and remembering to eat and pee, can be challenges but they also add to my sense of well-being.
Step 6: Reframe the situation.
For example, I didn’t lose my job. I know exactly where it went. So instead of saying that on repeat, I started saying, “I am no longer under contract” which leaves me available for other, better opportunities. That reframe of the situation helped me see that this situation wasn’t an end, but rather the beginning of some amazing possibilities.
By keeping myself in motion, the inertia was kept at bay AND I was able to fight off a major depressive episode. Your spark will return if you can clear out the clutter talk, keep yourself in motion, take care of you, and reframe your situation.
Give these simple steps a try the next time Change comes calling unexpectedly and see if you can beat the inertia.
Becca Lory Hector, CAS, BCCS was diagnosed on the autism spectrum as an adult and has since become an active autism advocate, consultant, speaker, and writer. With a focus on living an active, positive life, her work includes autism consulting, public speaking engagements, writing a monthly blog, Live Positively Autistic, and the bi-weekly podcast that she co-hosts, Spectrumly Speaking. Becca sits on the Advisory Board of the Nassau-Suffolk chapter of the Autism Society of America, the Board of Directors of Different Brains and the Foundation for Life Guides for Autism, as well as, the Community Council of AASET (Autistic Adults and other Stakeholders Engaged Together). Discover more on her website at beccalory.com.
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