Travelling during a pandemic

I want to discuss the situation of travelling during this hard time. Of course yet again a disclaimer:

*This is purely my thoughts, opinions and situation, please do not use this as a guide or as pure facts, this is just how I feel and how things have panned out personally for me, thank you for understanding* 

A rough description of my situation

I live at home with my partner and we both work from home and have been since March. We have both been isolating and only going out and seeing others when the guidelines had changed, we will always follow the guidelines to ensure our safety and the safety of others. The people we have been around are trusted and have been following the guidelines. 

Family

I discussed with my parents that if me and my partner came back home with positive tests we’d all isolate and me and my partner would do everything within our power to avoid contact with my parents; use separate towels, clean all surfaces, no sitting together or hugging etc. I believe it will not come to this as we have been extremely careful during our trip. 

Place of travel

I would then like to discuss the place of travel itself, we will not be travelling anywhere outside of the UK, we will only be travelling if we have isolated for a specific time before the travel date and we will ensure that our chosen locations are restricted and or follow the guidelines. 

We chose Southern England/South-West England due to the amount of activities we can do without being near anyone from the public. We are able to go on experiences that involve us being outside and or in our car which means we are less likely to cause any problems. We opted for an Air BnB as we will have our own kitchen and cleaning facilities, this means we won’t be a risk to hotel staff and we will not be at risk ourselves by being around many other people in a hotel. We also opted for a hire car to ensure no public transport is undertaken which of course protects both us and the public. 

Little things we ensured

We wore masks and ensured we used hand sanitiser with us at all times, we kept away from everyone and made sure we followed the social distancing rules. Something you can do when out and about during these times especially if you wish to travel or shop is reduce the amount of ‘touching’ you do when inside a shop or public area for example, you don’t need to pick up every book or every piece of clothing you walk past.

Reflecting on my Asperger’s and mental health

I particularly hated the airport, the main problem I had was the flight itself. They did not distance anyone on board and if I had known this would be the outcome I probably would’ve gone with another company or not flown. 

Another issue I have with traveling and just being out in public is the use of masks, my sensory problems really make wearing a mask a challenge, I feel as though I cannot breathe and I’m choking, it also brings my already very sensitive body temperature skyrocketing. I wear a combination of reusable and disposable masks depending on the situation and I will continue to wear these to ensure others around me feel more comfortable and I have to admit it does stop me from touching my face quite so much. Throughout this entire time I was very anxious and stressed, I struggled sleeping and suffered horrible doubts and thoughts surrounding illness, death and guilt. 

Shops were also very uncomfortable, some shops had rules and it was very slow and clinical but other shops acted as if rules were in place but people would not listen to the rules. This made me very uncomfortable when people pushed past or walked the wrong direction and disrupt the whole line. I dislike being constantly touched and having my personal space invaded even before this outbreak as I have always been nervous about illness, I do not have the flu vaccine as I get far too many reactions so I opt out and have to ensure I am protecting myself so the kind of behaviour I have witnessed upsets me in general as I am aware there are people who are extremely vulnerable and need to have the space to complete their tasks safely. Social distancing isn’t hard and its one of the easiest things you can do so please try your best. 

Over time I have come to realise that you cant stop your life or stop living. I’m not saying this situation should be forgotten or ignored but I believe it is here to stay, one day there may be a vaccine or herd immunity may help reduce the spread or many other things that I am not educated about may happen but for now it is here and we must learn and work together to get through it. You can travel during this time as long as you are aware of the risks and ensure you plan and prepare accordingly. No one is immune to this and you must ensure you are protecting yourself and others around you. 

Things to know when travelling

  • Traveling during this time may mean that you are unable to do things or go to certain places as they are shut so be aware that you may not be able to do exactly what you prepared for
  • The rules and guidelines are always changing so please keep an eye on the local area you are visiting to make sure you are aware and up to date with the latest guidelines
  • Different places may have different guidelines or rules, an example of this is coffee shops, some coffee shops don’t allow reusable cups or their own cups when you sit in but other coffee shops may insist that even if you wish to sit in that you must have a disposable cup
  • Masks, as of Saturday the 8th (I think) are to be worn inside of museums or certain attractions that may have not insisted masks be worn before , an example of this is the Roman baths in Bath, before Saturday you could choose to wear a mask but now it’s mandatory 
  • You may need to isolate when you get to your destination or when you return home so be prepared especially when it comes to work or family situation
  • Bring lots of hand sanitiser and ensure you have a mask with you whenever you go out, I hate the smell and texture of the sanitiser I’ve used in other shops and places I’ve visited so I for one enjoy using my own sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol
  • Ensure things haven’t been cancelled especially travel and accommodation 
  • Ensure you know the risks you’re taking and how to keep yourself and others around you safe, airlines may be crowded and you’ll be standing around near others which poses a higher risk etc
  • Some attractions social distance and you must follow a line, this means it may take much longer than expected to complete an experience
  • If you are classed as vulnerable or you have medical conditions that may make you more at risk maybe try to find a location that doesn’t involve travel like a stay-cation

Thank you for reading, please stay safe and ensure you prepare if you do also travel 🙂

Burnout

Sometimes its hard to figure out what you want and how to achieve it. Instead of sitting down, being patient and giving yourself the time and space to learn, progress and reach your goals, you tend to get stressed, panic and worrying till you no longer have the motivation and energy to progress. 

Burn out has hit me on so many levels during my life, throughout my school life, I had a 100% attendance then suddenly some issues arose just before my GCSEs and all of that hard work caused me to have a breakdown. Since then burn out has become a topic that I am fully aware about and know I need to work on. If I had taken the correct amount of time and learnt about myself maybe I would’ve dealt with my issues in school appropriately. I cant change what happened in the past so instead I must find ways to ensure it does not repeat itself. I am trying my hardest to improve my self-awareness and encourage myself to learn how I work and think so that I can reduce burn out and ensure I stay level. 

I want to talk about cognitive behaviour therapy in a future post as I think it is a subject that everyone should be aware about due to the impact it can have on our own lives and how we can influence others. This can be a positive subject to include in our lives, if we don’t know how to be ourselves then we will not only internally suffer but we will also cause pain externally. Its hard and it will take years of practice and experience but I believe we can each take control over ourselves and our actions to help us achieve our own goals and how to support others to do so as well. 

What is burnout?

Burnouts are different for everyone and each of us may choose to deal with them in different ways. However, there are a few signs that you can look out for that may indicate that you’re suffering from burnout: 

Feeling drain and fatigued- 

The first sign that really hits a lot of people is feeling exhaustion and drained, this can cause all sorts of problems especially in other areas of your life such as lack of self care, common stress problems such as anxiety may also become more prevalent and sneak up on you more often. 

Lack of motivation-

Lack of motivation can swoop in easily especially if you’re feeling drained or fatigued. You may lose interest in hobbies or things that would normally interest you. You may feel dissatisfied with your job and may notice you begin to lack motivation to complete tasks as you would do normally. Losing interest in things may cause forgetfulness which can then impact both your personal and work life. 

Negative emotions-

Feeling anger, becoming more irritable/frustrated and even more chronic behavioural changes. Feeling more cynical and sad will creep up on you and make sure you have no motivation or energy to comprehend feeling a positive emotion. These negative emotions can affect you in both personal and work relationships. 

Cognitive problems- 

Problems with attention, executive functions and memory will become apparent.

Decreased satisfaction- 

You don’t feel satisfied and may feel as though you are getting nowhere. You feel less happy about your career or with home life. 

Other problems- 

Other problems may occur that I may have not mentioned such as stomach problems, migraines/headaches, sleeping problems, change of appetite, lack of social life and many more. 

Burnout itself- 

https://www.thisiscalmer.com/blog/5-stages-of-burnout

A perfect summary for burn out to me is ‘Burnout is the loss of meaning in one’s work, coupled with mental, emotional, or physical exhaustion as the result of long-term, unresolved stress.’ which I found on a website called ‘Calmer’ – https://www.thisiscalmer.com/blog/5-stages-of-burnout

I really enjoyed this blog as I really felt it captured what its like to reach burnout and what the process feels like in 5 easy to understand stages. 

What can you do when suffering burnout? 

Try to learn or take up different relaxation methods and create a self-care routine, this is help you find ways to create a less stressful environment and know when enough is enough. I chose things like yoga and mediation and even reading or listening to music to help me relax. 

Try to escape work once the working day is over, overthinking and working on work related areas while you’re meant to be at home or relaxing is not healthy. Your work will begin to bleed into your personal life and you may struggle to decipher between hobbies, personal life and work. I personally took up writing as a ‘outside of work’ hobby, I enjoy waffling on about subjects of interest and then sharing them with others…I also find it relaxing and freeing as I feel I am being honest with both myself and others around me. But you don’t have to choose writing, other good ‘outside of work’ hobbies that you could take up can range from sports and exercise to arts and crafts, whatever relaxes you and makes you feel happy. 

Reducing social media and electronics, now I am aware some people find scrolling through social media and gaming, relaxing but you have to remember this can effect your mental health and you may not even be aware of this. Use it wisely and remember what you see on social media may not be real and to try not to get too caught up in it all. I personally don’t enjoy many platforms of social media as I find I feel more negatively about myself and the world after spending too much time scrolling through other peoples lives. Gaming can be relaxing however, again I feel very tense and over stimulated after a hour or so, playing with electronics can also affect your sleep, so try to do everything in moderation. 

Getting a good sleep cycle and becoming more organised can really help anyone feel better, sleeping more ensures your body has the time it needs to reset for the next day. Not getting enough sleep can effect someone both physically and mentally. Being more organised can help reduce the last minute ‘oh NO’s’ and forgetful moments of ‘Oh dear is that today?’. The more organised you are the more relaxed your mind can be, do you sometimes find yourself laying awake late at night or remembering that you needed to do something the next day but forgot and now its too late? Well becoming more organised can help to reduce this. If you’re ready for the tasks then you’re less likely to get things wrong and when you get things wrong this can impact your thoughts and you can begin to doubt your worth which can really lead to some negative thoughts. 

Lastly, talk, find someone you trust and just be honest. Its hard, really hard but it will get easier. If you are struggling to find someone to trust then seek out a professional and you may even find that they can help with other problems you may be experiencing. A simple conversation can do wonders for the mind. 

Do not judge people who get burnt out, this is a process and each of us should be able to gain the support and care from those around us or from a professional if needed. Don’t suffer alone, pick up the phone and speak to someone, its so very hard to do this, I know, but you can help reduce the risk of burnout by just being aware.

What was your experience with burnout? How do you cope living in a fast pace world?

Link for feature image-

https://www.dub.uu.nl/en/depth/more-signs-point-higher-risk-burn-out-among-phd-candidates

Sensory issues

In this post I will be discussing sensory issues; a quick disclaimer is that this post will be more focused on what I have witnessed and what I also live with. There will always be individuality and some of us will not experience the same sensory problems but that’s ok, we are all unique. I also want to apologise about how long this will be, there’s so much more that I could mention but this post will already be a sensory overload to some haha…I’m actually really sorry! -I have included headers so you can skip around a bit 🙂 

WHAT ARE THE SENSES? 

What is the definition of “sensory”? “The definition of sensory is something that has to do with the senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, or hearing. An example of sensory used as an adjective is a sensory event, such as the smelling of flowers. YourDictionary.” I took this straight from a generic dictionary webpage. For us with a form of ASD we tend to have a heightened or over sensitive sensory system, “Sensory Integration Dysfunction”, this is very common and it can affect each of us mildly to severely and can cause emotional outbursts and much more. 

We see the world very differently compared to a neurotypical human and sometimes it can be very frustrating, uncomfortable, frightening or in some lucky cases, fascinating and calming. I find that I myself and many others I have spoken to, have difficulties with movement and coordination which comes across as clumsiness.  “Sensory Integration Dysfunction” is when there are problems with the integration of the sensory system for example there are issues receiving, organising and or filtering and making any sense out of sensory information.

The various systems in our bodies that are included for the integration of senses are the vestibular system or the inner ear balance, this responds to movement and gravity. When this is affected sometimes its hard for the body to understand when it is stationary or moving and the speed of movement. 

The five senses which are; sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste. 

Lastly the proprioceptive system which is the system that works with muscle contraction in response to incoming information, an example of proprioception is being able to throw something without having to look at the throwing arm directly or being able to know what surface you’re standing on without actually looking down. I could go into even more detail about all of this but I think its enough for this purpose really. 🙂 

Some basic examples of sensory issues that most people are known to suffer with are; issues with bright or flickering lights, scratchy clothes, loud and certain frequencies of noise, textures or food and materials, strong smells. 

MY MAIN SENSORY PROBLEMS-

I am a highly sensitive person, I will go into HSP a bit better in a future post as this is also a very relevant to a lot of people. I have many problems surrounding my sensory system and I wish to share some with you and maybe some people can gain a better understanding what some sensory problems may look like for someone who is highly sensitive Asperger’s. I am not including the whole picture as there’s so much more to explain but this post is already so long I’m sorry! 

A quick reminder, we can become withdrawn easily if we are put in situations that affect our sensory issues so please have that in mind when it comes to loved ones or anyone you may suspect to have sensory problems. 

First is sight, for me sight is a rather big one, I get a lot of side effects from my issues. I will get a migraine most weeks and I tend to feel motion sick at least once a day. I am very sensitive to light, bright light gives me headaches/migraines, burns and causes me to feel faint. I take medication to reduce the affects of migraines when they do happen and I often reduce my exposure to certain types of light with different types of glasses with special lenses (a lot of people have this problem). I normally have issues with a sudden exposure to a bright light (made worse if I am in the dark to begin with for example a flash light or sunlight behind trees) or being in florescent light\blue light. Any bright colours, flashing lights or busy patterns can make me dizzy, disorientated and motion sick, for example the blinds in some offices tend to make me feel a bit nauseous. Patterns, lines or words that are too close together or are too busy for my eyes to focus on. Even some suit shirts with lines or patterns can have the same disorientating affect. 

When I walk into a room I will often focus on small details such as the exit, the coffee stain on the floor, the curtains not being symmetrical and so on. I am much more likely to see details much quicker, sometimes those details are very helpful and sometimes they’re pointless to most people but not to me. 

Smell, I don’t have too many issues with this other than over powering smells such as certain perfumes, cleaning products, plastics and candles make me feel a bit nauseous or may cause headaches. 

Taste and texture of food is a large one for me, I have lots of issues with foods such as jelly and eggs. Anything with a slimy texture can turn my stomach and cause me to gag, feel nauseous or panic. I have always separated my food out on a plate, no two things could touch however, I have gotten slightly better now and even include basic sauces but I still don’t enjoy too many textures on one plate. This can make me gag and feel very uncomfortable. I dislike strong flavours so I will often go for the plain and basic option if there is one, I also have no problem eating the same foods regularly as long as they don’t change. 

Touch; there are only a few textures I really dislike such as velvet, rough wool, tags, crumbs on a seat or bed, sand in shoes etc. Most of these textures can make me physically sick but thankfully I don’t come across these problems very often as they are common hates for those without sensory problems too. I do however, LOVE smooth and soft textures, I will rub my face on fluffy pillows and touch book covers all day, I feel physically calm when I hug a stuffed animal toy or even better have some cuddles with my dog or pet rabbit. I really struggle with holding hands or touching skin to skin with people other than my partner; due to working in a company where I tend to meet new people I had to learn to suppress the urge to whine when I had to shake hands with someone. Its not about the person, its about the contact, so please don’t think I am being rude if I don’t shake your hand. Long cuddles or handshakes/holding (with anyone other than my partner) makes me writhe, if I am under stress or feeling over loaded I will be even less tolerant. Pain doesn’t affect me as much in some ways, I have a high pain tolerance to certain pain for example the dentist and getting tattoos  don’t really phase me but I am very sensitive to the heat and the cold. 

Hearing; this is a big sensory problem for me in most cases, I really love quiet and calm environments and every time I am in a horrible sensory overloaded environment I regret leaving my safe little quiet one.  Loud or surprising noises such as balloons and fireworks can make anyone jump however, I have hypersensitive hearing to certain frequencies so sometimes certain noises such as a firework or electrical appliance/lighting can make it feel like you’ve just pushed a needle in my ear which makes the experience so painful and unbearable. Loud music or chatting can make me feel very anxious and dizzy, I don’t go clubbing anymore and sometimes even small gatherings with rowdy people can make me feel very uncomfortable and struggle with focusing or providing adequate attention to those present. I tend to hear things that others don’t or others may struggle to hear, I will hear a tap dripping or the oven go off from the other side of the house, I can hear the quiet beep of a thermometer or the buzzing of lights in a busy office. 

SENSORY OVERLOADS – 

Sensory overloads are really common and many of us suffer them regularly, it happens when one or more of the senses are over-stimulated from the environment. An example may be, busy streets, lots of information, media etc. I am very lucky to have the job, the parents and the partner I do! My workplace is incredibly understanding and I know if I needed anything or asked for support they would do everything they can and I am so grateful. My parents and partner are the same, I know I can count on them, I need to learn how to accept support and care from those around me. 

Too many things going on can also cause sensory overloads, parties, large gatherings and many other events are a real challenge for someone like me. If I am in a good place in my life (emotionally, mentally) or have had an adequate amount of sleep then I will be able to handle the situation much better but sounds and sight may affect my ability to focus. A busy, chatty office is not ideal especially if I am having a tough time personally. Sometimes my issues with focusing or staying on task can seem a bit rude but I honestly don’t mean it, its either have a blank confused Morgan or have a crying hunched over in a corner rocking Morgan. Something like a hum or tapping may seem like nothing to you but to me it’s a hoard of mopeds racing past you or a bunch of fireworks going off in a bathroom one by one while you stand in the middle…I even avoid most movies especially if they’re action or thrillers; the images are moving too fast, the sound is too loud, there’s too much blood which can all cause a sensory overload. Even just hearing the theme song for the famous casualty show makes me have an anxiety attack. It feels like everything is trying to get you and you cant run away, the pain is so intense and overwhelming the only thing you can do is shut down, cry or stim.  Those with a form of Autism are not the only ones who can experience sensory overloads, there are plenty of other conditions that also have sensory overloads regularly. 

END NOTES-

Are there any positives to being sensitive and having heightened senses? Yes, there’s plenty of positives to being like this. For starters I can hear frequencies that others cannot, I will notice small details (highly detail orientated) and problems much quicker and easier. I can find wally very quickly and solving puzzles and problems come naturally and easily to me haha. I pay attention to the details and the whole pictures fits into place a lot easier. We are more likely to notice details than the neurotypical mind which makes us great for certain jobs and careers but of course again we are all very different, so some of us may be detail orientated and others will have traits that will suit them better for other roles. 

To some people sensory problems seem silly and I have had many people roll their eyes or tell me to get on with it but to me these sensory issues can cause trauma, sickness, anxiety and even prevent me from doing my daily tasks. This isn’t something we can just “get over”, sometimes we never find coping mechanisms to deal with our problems and instead we avoid. Don’t push someone to eat something or do something that makes them feel uncomfortable including those who don’t appear to have a form of Autism, you don’t know how they feel and it could be much stronger than how you feel about it. Give each other time, space and care so that we can all grow and learn how to cope together, I find that I am learning how to live more comfortably all the time and I know others have had similar growth. Each of us feel differently and you must remember that something that may not bother you could bother someone else. What you find easy may not be easy for us or others. I try to be mindful but I know its hard sometimes so just try your best and that’s all that matters 🙂 

Unsure who made this short comic but it felt very relatable 🙂