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  • Writer's pictureYvette E. McDonald, LCSW-QS

Navigating the Social Spectrum: A Guide to Recharging Before, During, and After Events

In a world buzzing with social interactions and events, workshops, seminars and conferences finding balance and preserving mental well-being is crucial. Let's unpack this concept together. This can be your compass, offering practical strategies to recharge before, during, and after social engagements, ensuring you not only navigate but thrive in the social spectrum.



Here are some tips for each stage. However, remember that everyone is different, so these tips can be adjusted to suit your specific preferences and needs. Consistently practicing self-awareness and self-advocacy is key to developing a routine that works best for you. Be prepared for it to e a game of trail and error.


Before an Event/Social Interaction: Building Resilience


  1. Mindful Preparation:

  • Dedicate time before the event to mentally prepare. Engage in mindfulness or relaxation exercises to create a positive mindset.

  • Pack a sensory comfort kit with items that bring comfort, like headphones, fidget tools, or a favorite stim toy. Consider playing on Pinterest for some ideas in addition to experimenting to find what works for you. I also like to mix it up with sweet and sour candies, healthy snacks, and drinks.

  1. Logistical Planning:

  • Plan logistics in advance to minimize stress. Know the venue, have a transportation plan, and anticipate potential challenges. I love the internet for this. I am able to sit quietly and familiarize myself with everything having to do with the venue in order to minimize any road map issues or white room experiences.

  • Familiarize yourself with the event details, location, and schedule in advance to reduce uncertainty.

  1. Rest and Self-Care:

  • Ensure you get a good night's sleep before the event.

  • Engage in activities that bring you joy and relaxation the day before to build up positive energy.

  • Prioritize self-care activities leading up to the event. Whether it's a favorite hobby, a calming bath, or quality sleep, invest in activities that rejuvenate your spirit.

  1. Communication:

  • Communicate your needs and expectations to friends or companions attending with you.

  • Establish a plan for taking breaks or leaving the event if needed. We as a family have a code word that's used in case a person needs to leave the event abruptly with no questions asked.


 

During an Event/Social Interaction: Strategies for Balance


  1. Sensory Management:

  • Be mindful of sensory triggers. Carry noise-canceling headphones or find quiet spaces when needed. Prioritize your comfort.

  • Take breaks to step outside for fresh air or engage in calming activities.

  1. Mindful Breathing:

  • Incorporate deep breathing exercises to manage stress. Ground yourself in the present moment by focusing on your breath.

  1. Setting Boundaries:

  • Establish clear boundaries. Communicate your needs with those around you, and don't hesitate to take breaks if the social energy becomes overwhelming.

  • It's okay to take breaks or step away if needed.

  1. Utilize Visual Aids:

  • If applicable, use visual aids or schedules to navigate the event smoothly. This provides a sense of structure and predictability.


 

After an Event/Social Interaction: Recovery and Reflection


  1. Reflective Moments:

  • Take time after the event to reflect. Acknowledge your efforts and any positive moments.

  • Reflect on what worked well and what you might do differently next time.

  1. Self-Care Routine:

  • Return to your self-care routine to help decompress. This might include activities like taking a warm bath, reading a book, or engaging in a favorite hobby. Engage in activities that bring comfort and relaxation.

  • Ensure you get enough rest to aid recovery.

  1. Express Yourself:

  • Share your experiences with a trusted friend or through journaling. Expressing your thoughts can be cathartic and help process the social interactions.

  • Communicate with those you attended the event with to provide feedback and discuss any adjustments for future events. Something I probably never could do, but I recognize some of you have more of a skillset in this area.

  1. Celebrate Small Victories:

  • Acknowledge and celebrate any small victories during the event.

  • Recognize your resilience and growth in navigating social situations.

  1. Plan Downtime:

  • Schedule downtime after social events to decompress. Give yourself the space to recharge without additional demands.


As you embark on your social journey, remember that recharging is not just a luxury but a necessity for well-being. By implementing these strategies before, during, and after events, you're not only navigating the social spectrum but actively participating in shaping a positive and sustainable social experience for yourself.


In the dance of social interactions, finding harmony requires mindful preparation, setting boundaries, and celebrating moments of resilience. Recharging is not a luxury but a compass guiding us through the social spectrum, ensuring that each step, before, during, and after an event, becomes a deliberate act of self-care and empowerment.

Take-away: Neglecting to recharge before, during, and after social events can significantly contribute to the onset of autistic burnout. The continuous sensory input, social demands, and the effort to navigate a neurotypical world without adequate breaks can accumulate stress and exhaustion. Without intentional self-care before an event, individuals on the autism spectrum may enter social situations already depleted of mental and emotional resources. During the event, the lack of sensory management and boundaries can intensify the impact, overwhelming the individual. Afterward, failing to engage in post-event recovery strategies denies the mind and body the necessary time to decompress and rejuvenate. This cumulative strain, when repeated over time, increases the vulnerability to burnout. Autistic burnout is not merely a consequence of social interactions but a result of a continuous struggle without the essential pauses and self-care that allow for resilience and sustained well-being.


 

As a counselor and writer navigating the intricate landscape of neurodiversity with both autism and ADHD, my professional journey is a testament to the strength that comes from embracing diverse perspectives. Through the lens of my own experiences, I strive to illuminate the beauty and resilience inherent in neurodivergent individuals. As a counselor, I am committed to providing a safe and inclusive space, where the nuances of neurodiversity are not just understood but celebrated. In my writing, I aim to bridge gaps in understanding, fostering a broader dialogue that promotes acceptance and appreciation for the rich tapestry of human cognition. My dual roles as a counselor and writer converge in a passion for advocacy, championing the rights and unique strengths of neurodivergent individuals. In every word and session, I aspire to contribute to a world that recognizes and values the diverse ways we experience and navigate the world.


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