December 6, 2018

I believe in the virtue of bravely and intentionally facing sensory discomfort – once in a while. Most of the time I try to minimize it, because for autistics, even little discomforts can add up to a lot of stress over time.

Today, while cringing at the thought of putting my cold groceries away in my cold freezer, I had an epiphany: I can wear winter gloves indoors! The gloves shielded my hands from the icy packages, and I wondered why I never thought of that before.

Moreover, I wondered what caused me to think of it this particular time, and how to spot similar solutions more easily in the future.

I think, for me, it takes four steps:

  1. First, I have to believe that comfort is possible – that discomfort is not inevitable. Whether or not this is fully true, it’s a useful frame of mind for getting ideas.
  2. Notice what feels uncomfortable. This is harder to do if I skip the first step – I end up feeling anxious without recognizing why.
  3. Think about what might help me feel more comfortable, or look online to see what others have tried.
  4. If possible, do that thing.

It isn’t a perfect formula. Some things are just going to feel uncomfortable no matter what. But other things have the potential to improve.

At least, it’s always worth a try.

P.S. I write from my personal experience as an autistic. What I share is not a substitute for advice from an autistic medical professional. Also, some of my opinions have changed since I first wrote them.