16 Things to Put in Your Panic Attack ‘Crisis Kit’

When you live with anxiety, it can sometimes feel like panic attacks materialize out of nowhere. Maybe you’re frequently overwhelmed by inexplicable panic while you’re sitting at your desk at work. Maybe you encounter situations that take you back to past trauma and your body responds with a panic attack. Whatever the situation may be, it’s times like these when a panic attack “crisis kit” can come in handy.

So what exactly is a panic attack “crisis kit”?

Essentially, it’s a collection of comforting items you can have on hand when things get tough mentally. While many choose to carry a crisis kit with them in a purse or backpack, others may prefer to have a box at home — or even just have a few calming objects stashed in their car.

If this sounds like a cool idea to you, but you don’t know where to start, look no further. Wasked our mental health community to share one item they keep in their own panic attack crisis kit. We compiled their answers below — and added a few suggestions of our own.

Here’s what our community had to say:

1. Candy

“Hard candy, mainly butterscotch. When (if) I start to feel it coming on, I just pop a candy in my mouth and focus on that to calm down.” — Mes B.

“Jolly Ranchers. I don’t know what it is but focusing on the taste of the candy instead of feelings and physical symptoms really helps me” — Tara R.

“Sour things. Like Warheads, sour Skittles, Sour Patch Kids, even a small thing of lemon juice (that’s just for home though) because it helps to ‘shock’ your mind and all your focus is on how sour the thing is.” — Dylan K.

Our picks: Jolly Ranchers ($5) and Warheads Extreme Sour ($5)

2. Stuffed Animal

“A mini stuffed animal — something I can hug tightly.” — Rilla W.

“A big stuffed animal so I can hug it as tightly as possible. It feels like someone else is there and I can hold on tightly and not let go. It helps me feel safe even when I am alone.” — Madison S.

Our pick: Bashful Monkey ($23)

3. Ice Pack

“An ice pack. Ice is great at de-escalating an attack. The shock of the cold snaps your brain back to the present.” — Tia T.

“Something to cool me down, like an ice pack. It helps to calm me before I get over the edge by combating the sudden increase in body temperature when I start panicking.” — Rosie B.

Our pick: Gel Ice Pack ($14)

4. Slime/Putty

“I like playing with putty in my hands when I am anxious, so definitely some slime or putty… Twisting, squishing and stretching it definitely helps anxiety.” — Sarah C.

“Slime. I like sensory items when I am panicking. Slime is best as I can rip it, put it back together and rip it again. It’s also cold so [it] changes the temperature of my hands.” — Ocea M.

Our pick: Floam Slime Mud ($10)

5. Weighted Blanket

“Not exactly something that fits in a portable kit, but my weighted blanket is the best tool I have for panic attacks.” — Erica F.

One thing I don’t have that I wish I did was an extremely weighted blanket, or something to help compress myself. Wrapping myself as tight as possible in a blanket helps when nothing else will.” — Stephanie Q.

Our pick: Aqua Spray Weighted Blanket ($195)

6. Mints

“Green apple Mentos, so I can focus on just chewing them.” — Kalei L.

“Mints because I pop like three in my mouth — helps me feel my breathing.” — Michele W.

Our pick: Ice Breakers “Coolmint” Mints ($2)

7. Your Pet

“My wife was having [a panic attack] the other night and I told her to go spend time with the dogs. Petting them always calms her down… Won’t fit in a kit though lol — unless it is a very small dog!” — John K.

submitted by John K.

8. List of Emergency Numbers

“List of phone numbers (therapist, best friend, mom, whatever) to call if needed.” — Kristina B.

9. Candle

“A candle. Having it lit and watching the small movements of the flame is relaxing. Focusing on the scent it creates in the air helps a bit, too.” — Sabre P.

Our pick: Aromatherapy Stress Relief Candle ($20)

10. Headphones

“Headphones. I never leave the house without them. Even if I’m not listening to music, the headphones still make everything quieter.” — Morgan M.

“Headphones for guided meditation. It’s been a lifesaver for me recently, helping me push past and find a peaceful spot within myself.” — Stephanie B.

Our pick: Apple Earbuds ($9)

11. Essential Oils

“I recently hopped on the essential oils bandwagon and say what you will about whether they work or not — they just smell great! Citrus oils are so uplifting and pleasant. I always have a bottle of grapefruit oil with me to breathe in slowly when I feel anxious. Or, if I’m anxious and it’s causing a headache, I have a simple stress-away lotion I use that smells like eucalyptus and mint that helps the pain go away!” — Kacey M.

Our pick: Essential Oil 8-Pack ($14)

12. Journal

“A journal. It allows me to doodle or write down any racing thoughts I might have in my head. I also keep a section on inspirational and positivity quotes in it.” — Alex C.

Our pick: Black Classic Notebook ($17)

13. Tissues

“Tissues are a must. My face is a mess after and I usually have to go back to work or a social event afterwards. It would help to not look like I just cried my eyes out for no apparent reason to the outsider looking in on my situation.” — Amber C.

Our pick: Everyday Facial Tissues ($6)

14. Coloring Book

“Coloring book and crayons. They can be used calmly create beautiful pictures or scribble out frustration.” — Michelle L.

Our pick: Calm the F*ck Down Coloring Book ($5)

15. Fidget Spinner

“Fidget cube/spinner/toy to mess with/keep hands busy.” — Kristina B.

Our pick: Rainbow Fidget Spinner ($10)

16. Bubbles

“Bubbles to blow at my kitty. It gets me to take slower breaths, and maybe laugh a little bit by how my kitty reacts.” — Tiffany P.

Our pick: Bubbles ($6)

What would you add?

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Existing and Resisting With a Chronic Illness

I’ve had a chronic illness since 2002. It’s what I have, what I have had and what I will continue to have for, as the name suggests, chronos – or, a lifetime.

There is a kind of deep discomfort that others exert in the presence of someone with a chronic illness. Erene Stergiopoulos touches on this in “The New Chronic” where she distinguishes between the acute and the chronic. She writes how acute illnesses encourage short-term, intense compassion that culminates in the inevitable outcome of life or death, but culminates nevertheless. There is something so exhausting, then, with the idea of sustaining said compassion long-term, as is the case with chronic illnesses.

We’re the exception to the life-or-death culmination of compassion. We’re permanent occupants of the liminal space between life and death.

With chronic illness there is also so much inconsistence within the consistence. The existence of the condition remains stable but how it manifests sees drastic ebbs and flows. Tasks can be manageable one minute and impossible to complete the next, making participation in capitalism a constant Sisyphean battle.

Capitalism is structured at the expense of marginalized groups. Capitalism functions as per the production it can create. We are all workers and consumers, and our value is contingent on the labor we exert and the expenditure of the resultant earnings. However, people with chronic illnesses can often participate in neither. In Australia in 2012 almost half of all people with chronic conditions were not working. Even when we are active in the labor force, in America we earn .63 cents per one dollar an able-bodied person would make. In Australia the relative income of those with chronic illnesses and disabilities is approximately 70 percent of those without.

Capitalism hates people with chronic illnesses and disabilities because we cannot be utilized, and because keeping us alive costs billions of tax dollars.

Let’s consider then how chronic conditions intersect with other manifestations of marginalization. Let’s consider the position this puts us in. Women with disabilities have a higher likelihood of experiencing domestic violence, sexual assault, rape, neglect and negligence, maltreatment and exploitation, and the instances in which these acts occur are almost never reported. Capitalism sets the standard for how we can be treated – dehumanized and disregarded with great ease. Let’s think then about disabled people of color. Let’s think about disabled women of color. Let’s think about disabled, queer women of color. Think about Stephon Watts. Think about Charleena Lyles. Think about Magdien Sanchez. Think about Laquan McDonald.

People with chronic illnesses and disabilities aren’t just pushed to the margins at the hands of capitalism, we’re pushed to the margins at the hands of anti-capitalism too. Anti-capitalistic movements often fail to consider the participation of their sick and disabled friends. Johanna Hedva articulated best when she lamented on how people for “whom these protests are for, are not able to participate in them” and thus are rendered invisible in such movements.

In 2014 I visited a friend at a crust punk occupied space where I was fed dumpster dived beer. I thought it was so cool and anti-establishment until I got sick. In late 2015 I went to a warehouse rave with no toilet and no mention of this on the event page. I have a gastrointestinal disorder. In 2016 I went to an anti-racism protest where I was in too much pain to continue standing upright. I kept standing upright. I was in bed, bruised, for almost a week. What else could I do?

Queer spaces, which often pride themselves on being inclusive, aren’t much easier to navigate. Where in Melbourne queerness has been conflated – with or without intention – with club culture, there is little room for people like us. I’ve seen time and time again friends of mine fade into the margins following either the diagnosis of a new illness or the flare-up of an old one. We get likes on Instagram for our bed or hospital selfies. We get likes on Facebook when we share articles on ableism. We get likes on Twitter for our short quips about the pains of being in pain. What we don’t get is actual, tangible support.

The current means in which able-bodied queer people thrive in Melbourne isn’t conducive to the experience of a sick or disabled person. For a lot of us it’s inaccessible, it’s unattainable and it feels as though there’s no other option if we want to be not just seen and heard but remembered in the queer scene.

What’s great though is the emergence of networks that allow people with chronic conditions to connect, communicate and organize. What’s even better is the resistance I see from sick people in their respective mediums. I see creative expression with unabashed acknowledgement of our limitations in our production. I see groups forming on Facebook that are ours, where we can prioritize each other and ourselves from the comfort of our bedrooms.

illustration by grant gronewold of a woman taking a selfie. she has short hair, is wearing a t-shirt, and is hooked up to an IV drip and monitors

I see me writing this in bed, in pain, and I see someone reading it and feeling that long overdue sense of connection. Our worth is not contingent on our production – our worth is our selves, our love, our hope, our anger and our drive. As a collective we are going to accomplish incredible feats through resisting the notion that we cannot resist the notion.

What we need is for people to unlearn their discomfort towards us and create environments in which we can co-exist and flourish. So listen to Johanna Hedva. Listen to Angel Powell. Listen to s.e. smith. Listen to Annie Segarra. Listen to Jax Jacki Brown. Listen to Kay Ulanday Barrett. Listen to Leah Lakshmi Piepzna- Samarasinha. Learn their names. Listen to and learn from them.

Because disabled people and people with chronic illnesses are warriors. We will never be able to stop fighting. We might be bed-ridden, we might subsist on a diet of whatever’s closest and we might have all the mugs in our bedrooms, but our existence is strong, and our resistance is – and will continue to be – even stronger.

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Cycling Through the Grief of Not Being Healthy Enough to Have Kids

It has been almost two years since I wrote an article for The Mighty about not being able to have kids due to chronic health issues. I wish I could say things have gotten easier. I thought they had for a while, but the truth was that I just hadn’t been exposed to a similar situation since then.

Last week, a very dear friend of mine gave birth to a baby girl. I was so excited and so happy for her and her partner, and I asked if I could come visit them in the hospital, and they said they would be glad to have a visitor.

I went to the store and bought some Pampers, baby wipes and a onesie that said “Girl Power.” I bought a card and a gift bag. I looked through all the baby clothes and was blown away at how expensive they were, even at a discount store. (The price of the diapers blew me away, too.)

I went over to the hospital. I saw my friend and her guy and their sweet newborn baby. I saw the baby enjoy sleeping and eating and falling asleep while eating. (Baby really didn’t do much – newborns rarely do, in my limited experience!) The baby was beautiful and I was so happy for her young, healthy parents.

I spent the next day and a half convincing myself that my husband and I could, and should, have a baby of our own. I’m in pain? I’ll deal with it. Sleep deprivation? I’ll deal with it. (Note: neither of these things are realistic.) Pooping and spitting up and all that stuff? I’ll deal. Pregnancy requiring me to go off nearly all my meds? Uhhh…scary, but I’m willing to try. No money? Lots of couples have kids on limited budgets. (Never mind that we can’t make ends meet right now and it’s just the two of us.) No space in our apartment? Baby can sleep in our bedroom, at least while they’re little.

I was desperate. I was ready to sacrifice everything.

I am almost 40 and can practically hear that biological clock pounding down its countdown in my ears. I have always wanted kids. I love babies in particular – I find them totally fascinating. I have seen my nieces and nephew at all ages and stages, though (the oldest is almost 15 now), and there have been amazing things about them all. I have so much love in my heart, and I just want a child to give it to. I give a lot of love to my husband, but there’s plenty left over and I don’t have a place to put it!

I have lost so many of my dreams to chronic health issues. Grad school and a career are the first to come to mind, but they are far from the only ones. There are so many things I’ve had to give up since fibromyalgia struck me at age 19, and so many things I will probably never do or have. I do not want it to rob me of this one, too.

man holding very small baby with a very loving look on his face

My dad and me when I was a baby.

My husband and I sat down and talked on Sunday. He tried to give me a reality check, but it didn’t work – I was in denial. Then he dropped a bomb on me: he told me that he could not handle having a child. He has several health issues and a tremendously stressful job. He picks up a lot of slack for me since I can’t do certain household chores. He doesn’t give me grief about it, but if he had to make diaper runs too, it would just be too much.

I spent the rest of Sunday and all day Monday crying. The only thing that stopped me from crying away the day on Tuesday was having to take medication for a headache, which dulled the emotional pain as well – so much so that I had a therapy session and talked about this and didn’t cry and even felt oddly detached.

Today, I am putting one foot in front of the other. I’ve put dinner in the slow cooker, watched the ANTM finale, done some knitting, put away some laundry. My heart still aches like crazy, though. I want to end this cycle of grief I seem to go through every time I spend time with a baby. I am thinking about doing some volunteer work with kids (not babies, though – that would hurt too much and defeat the purpose). If we are ever able to move to a bigger place, we might like to become foster parents.

I suppose my point in writing this is to let anyone else in the same boat know they are not alone. Maybe we can work through our grief together. There must be some way to get through this without feeling a deep sense of regret for the rest of our lives. I haven’t found it yet, but I will keep searching and trying new ways of dealing with it.

In the meantime, I am determined to continue visiting my friend and her baby when I can. I may hurt afterward, but I don’t want to regret not spending more time with them, provided they want me to be there.

Full Source: disableddatingclub.com

7 Ways to Witness and Embrace Those With Chronic Health Conditions

“How are you?” The question is usually posed with kind eyes, a sweet smile and said in passing.

“I’m doing OK,” is my stock answer. If you listen closely, the way I say the word “OK” holds a lot. My words say I’m fine, but my tone communicates maybe that’s not the case. To be honest I’m probably trying to see how far you want to enter in to my story with me today.

You see, if I was really being blunt I would tell you right now I’m in so much pain I can barely walk without crying. There are many moments that are sheer torture and it’s all happening inside my body.

It’s safer for me to tell you I’m doing OK. At least that’s what I’ve told myself. I’m sure other people with chronic illness or pain will tell you sometimes it’s easier to soften the impact of what daily living is like, because in the past they’ve been met with disbelief, abandonment or just plain disdain. Which says more about the receiver than the person sharing what their life is really like. It’s been safer for me to assume you won’t know what to say and I’ll be left feeling even more alone if I share it with you.

However, that internal story has been changing. I’ve encountered more people who have been able to simply be with me as I cried or raged. They’ve grieved with me, that at 29 I am experiencing yet another catastrophic speed bump in my life that’s lasted far longer than I could have anticipated. I received such an overwhelming sense of kindness and warmth. It’s been life-changing to find a community like this. I’ve begun to be more honest about how I’m actually doing regardless of how I’m perceiving the other person is taking in the information. This is my truth. My reality. I don’t verbally vomit about what’s going on, but I try to be more truthful about what’s happening for me. If they choose to step in further I’ve left the door open for that. If not, that’s fine, too. I’ve realized it doesn’t take much for me to feel taken care of and heard.

outline of a person with a drawing of a woman curled up and hugging her knees inside

Here are some tips for witnessing and embracing people with chronic health issues:

1. Don’t try to fix or problem solve without asking if they would like that. They’ve probably been Googling their problems for years, right now they just need you to be with them.

2. Suggest things you can do for them. If they are in pain they probably can’t think of what they need, they just want to be out of pain. Even small tasks like getting up to get a glass of water can feel like climbing a mountain. Some ideas include: buying groceries, cleaning a room in their house, running an errand or even simply watching a movie with them.

3. Do not tell them that this is happening for a reason and there is a purpose for their physical agony (i.e God will use it for them to be able to help other people). As someone who grew up in a Christian environment, well-meaning people who loved me often resorted to quoting scripture at me rather than sitting with me. Jesus sat with the suffering. He served them. Being a religious Pollyanna regarding someone’s suffering invalidates the gravity of their current experience. Jesus is present in the room regardless if you say his name or not. Be with the person where they are at. If they want to talk about God and that’s comforting to them or they want to talk about how they are angry at Him for allowing this, then, by all means, go there. Ask permission, then proceed.

4. Volunteer to drive them to doctor appointments or tell them you’ll take notes for them if they want you to sit in with them to hear results from a test. Something that has meant so much to me are friends who have told me that they will go to the ER with me if I need to go to the hospital. Even if it’s in the middle of the night. Just having this in the back of my mind has helped me feel calmer knowing I have help if I need it.

5. Ask them about their pain or condition. One of the best gifts someone gave me was asking me to tell them about my pain. Isolation in pain is one of the worst feelings, but when he asked me that question and humanly reacted to my answer it helped me know I wasn’t as alone as I felt. I didn’t have to take care of him after I told him what it was really like. He was able to hold me and his own experience simultaneously.

6. Believe them. They are probably not even telling you the whole story of how bad things really feel.

7. Chronic illness is a roller coaster with good days and bad days. If you have a spouse or a close friend who is struggling, the best thing you can do for them is to also care for yourself. Reach out to a therapist or a friend for support.

In short, be human. Be you. You can tell them you hate that they are in pain and you wish you could take it from them, but if they just need to sit and cry, rage or laugh, you’re there for them. Being witnessed and held with empathy has changed the way I walk through my days with pain. I feel less hopeless knowing I’m being heard, I am loved and I am not alone.

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How My ‘Star Wars’ Tattoo Is a Symbol of Mental Health Recovery

I recently got a new tattoo: the “Star Wars” Rebel symbol with Princess Leia and a galaxy design inside. Among being a representation of rebellion and feminism, a commemoration of Carrie Fisher and a best friend tattoo, it also serves as a reminder to work towards good mental health.

As many of us know, Carrie Fisher struggled with addiction and bipolar disorder. The work she did in raising awareness and acceptance was highly appreciated by her fans and by those living with mental illness in general. Not only did she handle it all with humor, but she showed us that recovery is not always perfect; it’s a process that takes time and can have its setbacks and relapses.

I have depression. While I did have a long period where I was seemingly unaffected by my depression, more recently I have begun to feel its grasp once again. I’ve felt numb and empty, tired and simply resigned to existence. It’s not a fun feeling.

However, seeing how Carrie faced her demons head-on, just as Princess Leia had faced the Empire, was a huge inspiration for me. It made me love her more to see she was a flawed human, just like the rest of us, and she was still working towards recovery amidst her celebrity and success.

Getting this tattoo is a very permanent reminder on my skin to not just fight against the injustices in the world, but also to fight against my mental illness. Yes, it’s a reality in my life that I need to face, but just because depression rears its ugly head again doesn’t mean I have failed in my fight.

princess leia rebel symbol tattoo for mental health

My tattoo may look like just another geeky “Star Wars” tattoo, but the meaning behind it shall hopefully keep me vigilant in my fight against depression. Leia never backed down from her fight against the Empire, Carrie was constantly fighting against her own struggles, and I will do the same in my own attempts to honor her memory.

Rest in peace, Space Mom. You drowned in moonlight, strangled by your own bra, and I hope that fighting against mental illness will honor you in the way you deserve.

If you or a loved one is affected by addiction and need help, you can call SAMHSA’s hotline at 1-800-662-4357.

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The Odd Email I Received About My Son’s Self-Injury

We’ve all heard it or have said it:

“I’m so stressed/worried/frustrated that I’m pulling my hair out!”

My son struggles with trichotillomania. What a freakin’ long word — trik-o-til-o-MAY-nee-uh. For those of you who don’t struggle with this, it is the compulsion to pull your hair out. Oftentimes, it is due to anxiety… and sometimes the person has a history of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)Only 1–2 percent of adults and adolescents even have this condition; my son won the jackpot.

It first began in early 2015 when he was a sixth grader. I received an email at work letting me know he had pulled out some of his hair; the teacher found some hair on the desk where he was sitting. I thought it was odd to receive such an email. A little hair, no big deal. I wasn’t prepared, though, to see the full extent. Pulling through the line of cars at school dismissal, I saw my boy walking briskly to the car, and my eyes took in the full scope of what has happened. Tears fought to be released, yet I desperately attempted to hold them in.

young boy trichotillomania bald patch on head

I began talking to him, asking about what had happened. He didn’t initially realize he was doing it — it was a subconscious action. In the aftermath, his scalp was sore and the embarrassment set in. Soon, medications were adjusted. He experiences mental health struggles: anxiety, depression, attention-deficit disorder (ADD) and OCD.

I recall my younger brother having a slight issue with hair-pulling when we were young, but nothing that seemed to be a big issue; he got past it after a short while and it never returned. Eventually, my son got past it too. It subsided, and life reverted to normal… until recently.

In November 2017, it began yet again. This time, he pulled from the top of his head… and his underarms. (Ouch!)

high school son trichotillomania bald patch

These compulsions are often anxiety-based. They help calm the inner turmoil. He mentioned how anxious he is about school — keeping up with his work and worried about upcoming exams — and even concerned about getting into college. He’s a freshman in high school, yet life’s troubles weigh heavily on him.

As I read up on trichotillomania, I learned that sometimes other compulsions emerge before hair pulling: picking at the skin, biting nails, chewing lips. Sometimes pulling hairs from pets, clothes, blankets or other items may be other indications something is wrong, as well. With trichotillomania, the most common places to pull out the hair are the scalp, eyelashes and eyebrows.

I began contemplating what, if any, mannerisms my son may have had. The only other quirks I noticed in my son that could have been red flags were constantly sucking/chewing on a necklace he wears and “playing” with his eyelashes. Before the necklace, he’d chew on the neckline of the shirt he was wearing, or even his bed sheets — a hitch we struggled with for years.

chewed neckline on t-shirt

Trichotillomania is a form of self-injury.

We often hear of self-harm, especially as a teacher. I’ve had numerous students who have dealt with this, along with other ways of attempting to calm emotions, frustrations and anxiety. Self-harm also helps a person feel in control or is used as a distraction from a difficult life circumstance or simply to feel something rather than feeling emotionally numb. Unfortunately, these habits can become addictive or cause bigger problems later on.

If you notice any small behaviors within yourself or others that may be related to self-injury, take action now.

1. Confide in someone.

2. Determine the triggers.

3. Find a new coping technique.

4. Seek professional assistance.

Don’t allow yourself or others to struggle alone.

If you or a loved one is affected by body-focused repetitive behaviors, you can find resources at The TLC Foundation for Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Lead Photo by Marco W. on Unsplash. Images in article via contributor.

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Why I Enjoy International Travel as Someone on the Autism Spectrum

I love traveling; it’s probably one of my favorite activities. International traveling can bring about particular challenges, but also spark the interests and positive qualities of someone with autism spectrum disorder. Most of my international travel as happened as an adult, and has included living in Argentina and South Korea. I’ve noticed some things as I look back at my adventures, especially as someone who just received a diagnosis last year. Needs and abilities vary for everyone with ASD, so some of these may need to be adjusted to fit particular needs. Here are some reasons why I like travel and things that have helped me had better experiences:

Applying Hobbies and Passions

I love photography and traveling is a great opportunity. I get some of the classic shots, but I also like getting angles some people typically don’t see or close-ups that highlight texture. Music is another passion of mine and a good reason to travel. If you’re in a particular city, check out if there are any bands scheduled to perform, or just pick up on some local bands. Travel also provides an opportunity to pick up a new hobby. I tried surfing in Costa Rica a couple years ago, and not only did I find it fun — and sometimes frustrating as any new activity can be — but therapeutic as well, particularly with using so much mindfulness and focus.

Food

Food can be rewarding and challenging, as I’m a bit of a foodie, but I do have some particular dislikes and sensitivities to tastes and smells. I still remain open to new things for the most part and try to enjoy the authentic cuisine, super fresh fruits and vegetables, home-cooked meals from hosts, and sometimes a country’s own twist on something I am used to.

Sensory

This can have both ups and downs.  I am a very tactile person and prone to touch nearly everything when I shop, but alpaca sweaters in Peru and  super-soft “minky” blankets in South Korea are a good excuse to get a little “handsy.” Colors may tend to be more prevalent and brighter so I just soak this in, and I love local art!  But there can be plenty of overstimulation challenges as well. Pay particular attention to weather forecasts and weather differences between night and day. An indoor market in the summer can get extremely packed and hot.  Crowds and neon lights can also be over-stimulating. Try visiting popular sites during the morning or weekday when it might be less crowded and the lights haven’t come on. Also plan for some outdoor parks, plazas, gardens, temples, or historical sites and areas to escape crowds and offer some sensory and social decompression. Don’t feel bad about sleeping in or taking a nap when you feel like you should be out exploring. Listen to your body, especially if dealing with jet lag.

Paper lanterns.

Paper lanterns in Korea.

Communication

This can be a challenge, but as someone on the spectrum, communication difficulties are nothing new!   I do have a big interest in learning foreign languages (a few rows of bookshelves ranging from Arabic to Norwegian) but sometimes I’m not able to learn a whole lot by the time I get there. Some simple phrases like “Good morning”  and “thank you,” with a big smile — showing your enthusiasm just to be in the country — can go a long way. Pointing — lots of pointing — and some charades can also be inevitable. On a positive note,  people’s expectations of your speaking abilities as a foreigner tend to be low anyway, so there’s much less pressure. Google Translator has been wonderful to me, even while in the United States. Another big hack is using my phone to take pictures of things that I want or need. Also, paying attention to the cash register while I was in Korea made shopping much easier when it came time to pay.

Eagle with hunter in Mongolia.

Eagle with hunter in Mongolia.

Animals

This can be a highlight for many with ASD, as sometimes we can interact with animals better than humans. You can check out a zoo, wildlife refuge, national park, or even a farm. Many countries have particular indigenous animals associated with their national pride, and ecotourism can be a good option too.

Solo or with a group?

You may travel with a group, by yourself, or just have a small group or personal guide. Or it could be a combination of a couple of those. What’s best may depend on where you are and sometimes how much research and planning you did before, or how much you even want to plan and just have someone do it for you. I personally find traveling without a companion (but may have a spouse someday) is a lot less stressful for me as I tend to get more anxious about them; their experience, their comfort, or they may even cause your plans to be changed. Safety is likely another factor to think about, and fortunately I haven’t been in too many dangerous places. Korea and Japan are probably some of the safest countries in the world, and I felt safer there than I do in the United States.

Transportation

I feel pretty comfortable with public transportation — most often trains but sometimes buses too — but trains and subways are sometimes a bit easier to track stops. Many places have particular apps and websites to make it even easier, whether it is buying tickets online or checking out a particular train route and getting its schedule. Traveling is much easier with so many smartphone apps like Google Maps and Waze to get around.

Therapeutic

Any kind of travel can be therapeutic, especially if it’s after some major event — a divorce or death of a loved one — or a major change, like a college graduation or job change. It boosts confidence  and refreshes the soul. I’m currently planning to go on a medical mission later this year as I complete a major job change. The last few months especially have  brought me quite a bit of burnout, so I’m hoping it will re-ignite my passion for medicine.

The People

Often you can deal with as little or as much with the locals as you’d like, but in many places they are quite more relaxed and gracious, so it eases a lot of social anxiety. Being a bit of an emapth and “chameleon,” it’s easy for me to absorb and reflect that kind of atmosphere. For the record, Peruvians and Mongolians are the sweetest people I have ever met! Locals expect foreigners to be a little different, so some quirks may be a little more easily overlooked. Many cultures are a bit more focused on the simpler things and pleasures in life, and it can be so refreshing to not worry about the opinions and judgments of others; I tend to overthink and worry about what other people think of me to compensate for some social challenges. Just be nice and grateful, and read up on some etiquette practices of that country beforehand. Often you can meet people from other countries who are also visiting through tour groups and hostels. Traveling is about  love and embracing humanity, despite our differences. You have love to give and receive. Remember: smiles are universal!

Hopefully this might spark a little more confidence in someone out there on the autism spectrum — or anyone in general — to expand their boundaries and add some adventure to their life. There’s a place for us in this world, so why not explore it?

Full Source: disableddatingclub.com