Having shared tools that I use to improve my social life and socializing skills, I will now go over ways in which I’m currently trying to reduce the effects of several other problems brought up in previous blog posts.
First I will discuss how I’m coping with my anxiety (first read “Not allowing myself peace – Anxiety and Me” for background info). I am essentially using a lot of the same tools that plenty of other people (including those without Aspergers) commonly use to help deal with stress in their lives. There are three main activities that I engage in as much as possible to relieve stress: exercise, meditation, and yoga.
One fact that should be clarified, before I continue, is that the way in which I’ve been incorporating these activities into my schedule has gone through endless changes over the past several years. There have been times when I did a great deal of exercise and meditation each week, but no yoga; there were times when I didn’t exercise, but instead practiced yoga and meditation; and there were times when I did none of those three things. Nonetheless, I can safely say that when I do engage in at least two of them on a regular basis, it has a greatly positive effect on my overall level of stress. Of course, anxiety remains a serious problem for me, and it probably will for many more years to come, but it isn’t nearly as bad as when I do nothing at all to try relieving it.
As of now, here is how exercise, yoga, and meditation fit into my schedule: every day, I try to do around 7-15 minutes of meditation, followed by a couple of workouts on my Wii Fit U program. Allow me to elaborate a little on these two activities:
For those who don’t know what Wii Fit U is, it is basically a game for the Nintendo Wii U console that functions as a personal fitness program. Along with keeping track of your weight and posture, it includes a wide range of games, exercises, dances, and even yoga poses. I am using the program for two main purposes: to become much more healthy and fit in general, and to greatly reduce stress during the day. So far I have found it to be fairly effective in serving both purposes. Plus, since I can do yoga poses in addition to aerobic and strength exercises on this thing, I’m sort of killing two birds with one stone.
Now regarding meditation: whenever I do it, I typically either listen to some relaxing sounds that I’ve downloaded to my iPhone, or I try focusing on my breathing – one breath at a time. Both of these techniques are quite effective, although they aren’t at all simple. While meditating, I will repeatedly go back into thinking mode instead of staying focused on the relaxing sounds or my breath, which I have to snap myself out of. Still, the brief moments when my mind is empty and passive are always worth it, and I know they will become longer the more I keep at it. The same can be said with pretty much everything I’m doing to deal with my issues as an Aspie.
Aside from reducing anxiety, meditation has also been really helpful in teaching me how not to be so fixated on my thoughts, and how to stay conscious of the present moment. This relates to my issues with obsessive mindfulness and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), which were the primary focus of my last three posts. Indeed, by meditating as regularly as possible, not only do I generally experience less stress, but it also becomes slightly easier to not be constantly distracted by senseless thinking. Just like with anxiety, however, I have quite a long way to go before I’m at a point where my mind is mostly in the now and doesn’t get sidetracked by different topics every couple of seconds.
Fortunately, I am also currently reading a book to help me out with this compulsive thinking issue. The book is titled The Power of Now, written by Eckhart Tolle, and I consider it to be one of the most inspiring works I’ve read in a while; a must-read for anyone who experiences frequent stress, low self-esteem, a lack of self-discipline, or is simply unable to keep their mind relatively clear. The overall thesis Eckhart Tolle articulates is that the great majority of our thinking throughout the day is entirely unnecessary and compulsive, a product of “false identification with the mind.” He believes that the only real way for us to live peacefully and problem-free is to keep our consciousness in the now as much as possible; to stay completely present to the situation that we are in, rather than allow ourselves to be continuously troubled by the past or future.
So The Power of Now proposes a unique, possibly even radical theory that may take time for most people to fully comprehend. I find the book to be tremendously helpful in encouraging me to be more aware of my thought patterns and take things one step at a time, as opposed to being endlessly obsessed with what happened earlier, with what’s going to happen, or with issues that have nothing to do with the present situation. I’m nowhere near finished with the book, though, so I’ll have to keep reading it in order to gain the full advantage of Tolle’s message. Once again, I must insist it is a fascinating read that could be seriously helpful to anyone who experiences similar problems.
I would like to share one last tool that I am using to deal with my Aspergers-related challenges. This one concerns my difficulties with reading; how it takes so much longer than it should for me to read through different texts. What I do is use an audio version of the book that I am reading, whenever one is available, so that I can listen to the text while I visually skim through it. The reason that this is helpful for me is because it keeps me a bit more focused on the text and reduces the amount of times I have to go back and read the same sentences multiple times. I will usually obtain the audiobook through one of two ways: I will either buy the audiobook off of Audible.com, or I will download a copy off of LearningAlly.com. Learning Ally is generally used for texts that are required for my college classes.
Since I graduated from Marist College last month, I doubt that I will be using Learning Ally much more in the future. I will, however, give a brief explanation of how it works, mostly to recommend it to people who have or who know someone who has Asperger Syndrome. Learning Ally is an online, non-for-profit service that provides audiobooks to students with various types of disorders in order to help them with their reading. Students get a yearly subscription that can be paid for by the school or by their family. The organization has audio versions of many different kinds of texts, which not only includes novels, but also science, math, and history textbooks. So their website (https://www.learningally.org/) might be worth a look for families of a child who has similar troubles with reading.