Think of the energy you need to get through your day as coming from one big battery. Each time you struggle through a task without the right supports in place, it drains your battery—sometimes a little bit, sometimes a lot. The good news is that your battery can be recharged by finding ways to make tasks a little bit easier. Take time to figure out which parts of your social experience are draining your battery and to find the strategies that work for you. You can use this downloadable worksheet to make notes for each area in this roadmap.
We live in a world where we need to make ourselves understood by others in order to express our wants or needs. This kind of communication can be verbal, nonverbal, written or even physical. Communication involves both sending information and receiving information. When you are not feeling your best, you might be more likely to misunderstand what others are saying and struggle to fully relay what you want to say.
Think about the ways you feel most comfortable socializing or connecting with others on a daily basis. This might include making appointments online rather than making phone calls, talking to a coworker in person instead of an email or texting a friend instead of video chatting. If your preferred mode of communication is not always accessible, it can be draining to use a less-preferred method. Having people who understand the way you socialize best can help you recharge and be your best selves.
What drains you?
Consider the social interactions you have on a daily basis and how they affect your overall wellbeing:
- You might feel dread about riding to work with your neighbor if you know they like to engage in small talk.
- You might feel anxiety about an upcoming social engagement with people you don’t know well.
- You might delay running errands because the thought of an unexpected social encounter is too much for you.
- You might walk the long way around the office to avoid interacting with a talkative coworker.
- You might feel so anxious in a social setting that you end up not saying what you are thinking.
What recharges you?
These are tools, strategies and behaviors that make challenging tasks a bit easier. Think about the things you already do as well as some new ideas you might want to try.
- If you are passing someone you know who may want to engage in small talk, you can politely wave to them and keep walking to give a physical signal you are in a rush.
- If you want to see friends but aren’t up for talking, it is possible to hang out in the same space while engaging in separate activities.
- If you need to run errands and aren’t up for a social encounter, you may be able to arrange for curbside pickup or use a self-checkout option.
- If you want to do something you are in control of, take some time to enjoy your special interests.
- If you find the thought of being around others too much for you at the moment, it is totally valid to spend some time alone.
- If you have had a lot of social interactions and you feel like you are all “talked out,” it is perfectly valid to be silent and not communicate verbally. You can also use communication tools such as written notes, AAC devices or visual cards.
What are the risks?
Without social supports in place, you might find yourself fatigued and physically drained after social interactions. Without the ability to recharge, this social impact can build up. This can cause an outburst or shutdown if you feel you are not being heard despite your best attempts to communicate. An outburst can have consequences in the workplace or in relationships, so it is important to consider how you can handle potential misunderstandings or conflicts related to communication.
- When you are feeling unheard or unable to understand directions, do you ever react with verbal or physical aggression towards others or yourself?
- When you are feeling unheard or unable to understand directions, do you experience a shutdown and lose the ability to communicate verbally? Do you say things you do not mean?
- Do you notice yourself avoiding responsibilities such as emails, calls, messages, etc.?
- Do you have any physical health conditions, disabilities or other challenges that impact communication in a way that could make you unsafe?
- What behaviors, thoughts or body cues signal that you are escalating to the point of a safety risk?
What is the plan?
What are some new everyday behaviors, strategies, or tools you want to put in place?
- Do you need support to put these ideas into practice?
- Who can help you in this area?
- What do you need to say or do to get that help?
When your battery is running low, seeking help can feel overwhelming. One way to prevent this is planning ahead for these times.
- How do you know when you need to ask for help balancing your needs?
- Who can help you in this area? Are there support staff members who can assist?