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The sounds of lights humming, people flipping pages of a test, the tapping of a foot, an A/C unit turning on, or any noise in the classroom was enough to distract me for most of my youth. Let me properly frame this… when I started noticing these things, I couldn’t take my mind off of them. It’s as if my mind had constant sensory overload and all of these things were too much. I would try to disengage from them and I wanted to but I couldn’t. The things I noticed would run in the background like an app that you can’t quit and the more stressed I was, the more resources it would take.
My knee would jump up and down under my desk till my teacher would ask me to stop tapping my foot or bobbing my knee. This made me even more anxious! In retrospect, I wish my teacher would have slowed down and asked me the same questions I ask clients now. What does it mean when your knee is jumping up and down? What are the things that make it worse? What makes it better? When you notice it, what do you think you could do?
Many of the things I experienced as a kid if properly understood, really could have helped me to perform better in school. This isn’t to say I was a horrible student, but under times of stress, the overwhelm of sensory information would cause me not to be able to focus. I still feel this way to some extent, but as an adult, I have learned better ways to cope and understand the data my body is telling me.
- TUNE IN – Most of us are taught at an early age to norm our behavior. We are never asked to look at why we might be doing something. My knee jumping up and down as I sat at my desk was vital information and was overlooked as a kid which would have been helpful to my teachers too. Sometimes it meant I had extra energy and needed to go outside and burn it off. Other times it meant I was tired and trying to stay awake. It also could mean I was anxious about something. Understanding the stimulus and the feeling behind these things is vital to cope better.
- MODIFY – If we can understand why we are doing something, it helps to know what we may need to change our environment. If sounds are over stimulating, then being able to be in a quiet area, listen to music, or use noise cancellation headphones could help.
- CONNECT – As you begin to understand those things about yourself, it helps to let others in your life know what is going on as well. As an adult, when I am anxious, I bite my fingernails and nails when I am anxious. Most people that know me have seen the evidence of this as they have been quite a sight in the past. Now as I start seeking a stray cuticle to pick, I try to catch myself and look at the feeling or situation that might be behind it, process it, and communicate it to my wife. This helps the relationship, and it helps me.
This whole process helps us to understand some of our compulsive behavior and debug the code a bit so we can run more efficiently in our lives. Learn more about Aspergers counseling or ADHD counseling and how we approach it. Are you curious if you might have Autism or Aspergers? Here is a test to see if you might. If so, we can help. You can contact us to make a counseling appointment.