At the time of writing, the UK is 28 days into the official lockdown meaning we can only leave the house for very specific reasons. Last week we wrote about birdsong and how listening to it can relax us, still our mind and give some (if only brief) relief from the current reality.
This week, the focus is on creativity.
There are many negatives that come with Coronavirus but one of the wonderful ways the virus has affected the world is that it has unleashed a wealth or creative resources that we can access for free. From audiobooks to podcasts, online theatre performances to how-to videos, creatives across the world are making content available for free to help everyone manage through this difficult time.
Lives Well Lived
'How To Fail With Elizabeth Day' is a podcast that celebrates the things that haven’t gone right. Every week, a new interviewee explores what their failures taught them about how to succeed better. 'The Moth' Podcast collects fascinating, true stories, from people from around the world and presents them on their website with additional information to enrich the listening experience (though you don't need to listen through the website and see the additional material to enjoy the storytelling). A particularly funny episode worth listening to is 'Sam, Me and Oscar the Grouch' in which an autistic boy is nearly killed by Sesame Street - it sounds grim but the tale is told by the boy's father who can recall the story with wit and humour. Finally, for this section there is 'Desert Island Discs' - the BBC Radio 4 classic- which has hundreds of episodes available spanning the last 78 years. A fantastic episode to start with features Bob Mortimer and can be found here.
Creativity & Wellbeing
'Pressing Pause', described as a 'podcast for overthinkers', Pressing Pause offers short, well though through solutions and advice to problems we can all face such as dealing with change, what to do when the news feels overwhelming and (the current problem we're all facing) how to deal with feelings of overwhelm around Coronavirus. In her podcast 'The Allusionist', Helen Zaltzman explores words and their origins. It's a calm, clear and informative listen that can lighten your day and broadens your volcabulary. There are also some spin-off episodes on her site called 'The Tranquillusionist' which are special soothing episodes of The Allusionist, for the alleviation of stress, anxiety and insomnia. Words are detached from meaning to shut up your interior monologue for a moment. Play them on a loop to help you sleep. '99% Invisible' is a podcast that speaks to the obsessive in us. Curious about the origin of the fortune cookie? Want to know why Sigmund Freud opted for a sofa over an armchair? 99% Invisible is about all the thought that goes into the things we don't think about – the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world. It's wonderfully entertaining, insightful and so niche, there's a level of detail that you don't often find elsewhere.
Books are connected to our lives and this is the focus on 'Mostly lit', which bring the books it discusses alive. The show describes itself as 'exploring the intersection between literature, wellness and pop-culture'. 'Backlisted' is a relaxing and joyous journey through old books with the aim of giving them new life. A favourite episode to try discusses George Orwell's 'The Lion and The Unicorn'. Sick of feeling guilty about the books you should be reading, but aren’t? Annoyed that the books you read don’t seem to “count” as literature? In 'Sentimental Garbage' author and journalist Caroline O’Donoghue discovers the classics her guests were raised on, from schmaltzy romances to family comedies to bodice-ripping dramas. They talk to authors, fans and cultural critics about what makes chick-lit tick, and investigate why it’s so often overlooked. 'Read, Learn, Live' is a Podcast that aims to help readers 'improve [themselves] through literature'. In each episode, host Jon Menaster conducts an in-depth interview with a well-known author to understand not only what makes them tick, but how, and why, they wrote their books.
A note on how to listen (for those of you who aren't already listening to podcasts)...
If you want to use your phone to listen, there is probably a pre-installed app you can use to search for podcasts, otherwise Podcast Republic, Podcast Addict and Podbean are all rated well in app stores. You can also listen to podcasts on your laptop, home computer or tablet. Podcasts usually have their own website you can use to listen to them on or try using iTunes or acast.com.
Whether its the in-depth topics, the passion shown by presenters or the awe you feel when you see someone so relaxed whilst giving a presentation to an audience of hundreds (sometimes thousands or even millions), there is always something to captivate your attention with TED.
It’s so difficult to explain how fantastic TED Talks are and how they can create a spark that leads people to reimagine and reshape their lives.
In their own words, ‘TED is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, usually in the form of short, powerful talks (18 minutes or less). TED began in 1984 as a conference where Technology, Entertainment and Design converged, and today covers almost all topics — from science to business to global issues — in more than 100 languages. Meanwhile, independently run TEDx events help share ideas in communities around the world.’
You'll see from our post 'Words of Wisdom Part 1' that we understand that the best people to help, advise and empathise with autistic people are autistic people. Who recognises the day to day struggles better than those who live with them day to day?
This week we feature an article written by a talented writer based here in the North East. James A Tucker has kindly allowed us to use his most recent blog post here. James has recently been diagnosed autistic, which I note only to qualify his thoughts and opinions. He understands autism first hand. When we read the post we all felt it should be shared with as wide an audience as possible. Please visit his James' blog and keep up with his regular posts.
Monday, 18th May 2020
Tuesday, 28th April 2020
Art can act as a stress reliever. It can distract you from overthinking, providing a focus for your attention and can bring pride in everyday achievements. There are lots of small ways to add creativity to your quarantine routine. Below are a few selected activities to try over the coming days and weeks.
Build a day-by-day craft project
Completing a day-by-day craft project can be a beautiful and tangible way to mark the passage of time during the lockdown. Think about your daily routine and work out how you can fit something creative into this. It could be as simple as taking a photograph out of the window or writing a sentence every morning about how you feel. You could draw a picture of something new you have learnt or noticed. It doesn’t have to be binding but can give you something to focus on every day. The other suggestions below can all be used as day-by-day projects.
Become a Poet
Writing poetry is something that doesn't come easy to many people. It’s usually because they think they can’t write poems or overthink the content. Autistic inertia is another barrier to creative writing (and many of these activities). If you need some inspiration look at Poem of the Day found here. There are hundreds of poems to read (and listen to). Try writing a daily poem that could link into the day-by-day project or write a one off that you can read over and revise as time goes on or inspiration prompts you to expand. You could set up an Instagram account where you can ‘publish’ your poems.
Become a photographer
Look at the hashtag #IsolationCreation on Instagram and you will be presented with a range of beautifully shot photographs that have been produced by artists from around the world. However, just because you may not understand the ‘pro’ settings on your phone or camera doesn’t mean you can take wonderful photographs with it. If you feel inclined, you could look up tips online on how to take better photographs with the device you are using.
Think about setting a daily goal, capturing objects of one colour or taking a photograph of something that reflects your current mood. Whatever you decide, organise your photographs into an album (either electronic or you can get 1 photobook per month free here) so they can provide a narrative to your work and think about writing something to accompany the images. There are free apps you can get to do this with. You never know, one day you may feel brave enough to present your work to others.
Make a ‘Quaranzine’
A ‘zine’ (short for magazine or fanzine) is a small-circulation, self-published work of original or appropriated texts and images, traditionally reproduced via photocopier. Zines are the product of either a single person or of a very small group, and are popularly photocopied into physical prints for circulation - though now we have social media you can distribute a zine on Instagram.
So grab some pens and whatever else you’ve got lying around, cut up those old magazines and document this weird phase of life in an eight-page DIY magazine. See this link for some inspiration and a tutorial (http://tiny.cc/mxvdnz) - It really is worth it.
If you decide to try any of these (or get creative in a different way) please email them to AIMsocial20@gmail.com and we will choose a selection to post on our Facebook page.
Whatever you decide to do to pass the time, remember that if you need to talk to someone about anything you are worrying about you can contact us through the website and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
An article for the BBC News magazine looks at research carried out on how connected we are to birdsong. Now, birdsong for some people may be excruciating - the shrill chirps and unexpected nature of the sounds may fill you with dread. If that sounds familiar then this post isn’t for you but please come back another time for a different subject matter. For those who enjoy birdsong, read on…
Birdsong is special.
It is a luxury to be able to listen to birdsong without any background noise such as traffic but, sadly the busy world we live in made that impossible for all but those living in the countryside. One of the benefits of the current government lockdown however, is the reduction in traffic noise. It’s not the tranquil, Garden of Eden we could wish for but it’s better than it could be.
We are living in a time of high anxiety, worry and difficulties for many people. We will be posting information and updates as soon as we get them.
We understand that fear of the unknown is a huge trigger for anxiety in autistic people. Being able to predict outcomes in our day to day lives is what can keep autistic people well and help them function effectively. The Covid-19 pandemic has introduced an enormous amount of change in our daily lives.
The unknown or uncertainty can be difficult for many people, it’s not just autistic people that struggle with this but research suggests that the prevalence of anxiety due to uncertainty is higher in autistic people. The rules we have learned to complete ‘everyday’ tasks such as shopping, paying bills and attending appointments have all been changed and no one can say for sure how long these changes will go on for and what the eventual outcome will be. This is causing a lot of anxiety across the whole world and it is important to remember that everybody is struggling to manage these changes.
James A Tucker
Monday, 4th May 2020
Monday, 11th May 2020
for sure how long these changes will go on for and what the eventual outcome will be. This is causing a lot of anxiety across the whole world and it is important to remember that everybody is struggling to manage these changes.
It is also important, however, to try our best to manage this uncertainty. AnxietyUK suggests practising the "Apple" technique to deal with anxiety and worries.
It is most important to remember that we are here to support you through this uncertain time. If you need to talk to someone or need some support to help manage your day contact us through the website and we will do our best to keep in touch and try to make sense of this strange situation we're all facing.
As you will be aware, the staff team at Autism in Mind have a wealth of knowledge about what it is like to be autistic. All members of staff either have an autism diagnosis or live with/ care for someone who has. We understand the day to day issues that present themselves because we live with them too. This is why our 'All About Me' courses have such an impact - when people are struggling with something but they can't quite understand why, one of us has usually struggled with the same issue and can share what worked for us and how we managed the situation.
With this in mind, we felt it important that the team share the strategies that they are using at this time of lockdown and increased isolation. Malcolm Osborne has written today's post. See the 'Meet the Team' section for more information about Malcolm.
Monday, 13th April 2020
4. Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator, by Tim Urban
Tim Urban knows that procrastination doesn't make sense, but he's never been able to shake his habit of waiting until the last minute to get things done. In this hilarious and insightful talk, Urban takes us on a journey through YouTube binges, Wikipedia rabbit holes and bouts of staring out the window -- and encourages us to think harder about what we're really procrastinating on, before we run out of time.
Monday, 6th April 2020
3. The Power of Introverts, by Susan Cain
If you watch no other TED Talks today, make sure you watch ‘The Power of Introverts’ by Susan Cain. In a culture where being social and outgoing are prized above all else, it can be difficult, even shameful, to be an introvert. But, as Susan Cain argues in this passionate talk, introverts bring extraordinary talents and abilities to the world, and should be encouraged and celebrated.
Podcasts have been playing a bigger and bigger part in our lives of the last 10 years. They can distract us from intrusive thoughts or give us inspiration and prompt new ideas and discussions. From the unusual but effective 'Sleep With Me' to the headline catching Bryony Gordon's Mad World and the crime solving based 'Serial', there is, quite literally, something for everyone. There really is. One of my favourites is 'Soul Music' from the BBC in which every episode looks at one song and why it is special to a range of different people.
The list of podcasts is almost endless and it can be difficult to know where to start so we've put together a list of shows to try based on three themes; Lives well lived, creativity & wellbeing and reading/books. Though, if all else fails head to Google and search for '(insert special interest here) podcasts'.
1. Stay active
Keeping active makes you healthier in mind and body. It can also help you sleep. You don’t have to be running miles every day, activities like housework, yoga and walking all count. The NHS have classes you can do online.
2. Understand your worry
If you find yourself worrying about current developments around COVID-19, that is okay. We’re going through something new and strange, so worrying about it is understandable. That worry becomes a problem when you find that you’re overwhelmed by it, and not able to enjoy the things that you normally would. Try to focus on things you can control, for example staying indoors as much as possible and following Government advice when you do leave the house.
I will have days when the anxiety is overwhelming. That's ok. On these days, I scrap all but the necessary tasks and practice some self care. For me, its Sunshine and being comforted by nature in the garden.
3. Create structure and routine
Try to keep a similar routine to how life was before the lockdown. Making a plan for every day might also help you to get a balance of activities. Writing down what you have achieved in a day might be a helpful way to feel productive and more in control at this uncertain time. Perhaps a diary.
4. Limit the amount of news you consume
It can be tempting to check for updates and new announcements but spending too much time checking the news can keep you in an anxious state. Set specific times to check the news. Also, make sure that you’re checking credible sources. If you are getting updates from social media, are you sure they can be trusted? Are they focused on fact rather than prediction and catastrophising?
5. Connect with others
We know that a sense of belonging and being connected to our communities and to others is important for mental wellbeing. Video calls, social media and online games can make all the difference, and can be a way of socialising in a controlled way that you can book into your daily schedule. Here at AIM, "check in" with 'Connect, Support, Prevent' and Older but not wiser. Find out how others in our Autistic community are coping as well. Share experiences and support each other.
6. Check your usual supports
If you sometimes use supports like therapists, support groups or social groups, check in on their plans now. Are they holding alternative online events? Can you contact them over the phone/Skype? You may not feel like using them right now but we all have good days and bad days, so knowing how you can reach them might reduce your anxiety in the future if you do need to. Always remember, support does NOT have to be requested publicly. AIM have a dedicated telephone number if you need to contact us.
You can contact us by phone 01915672514 (all calls are now redirected to one of our work mobiles)
You can text us on 07706191606
email us email@example.com
We can also be contacted through our website www.autisminmind.com
Please do contact us if you need any help or support.
7. Eat and drink well
We know that food and mood are strongly linked. Many autistic people have restricted diets, but it's important to try to eat a balanced diet and stay hydrated. It’s easy to slip into bad habits when your daily routine is interrupted. Sugary snacks such as sweets, biscuits, and alcohol can affect your mood. There are quarantine-friendly options such as chopped tomatoes, tinned fruit and frozen peas if fresh produce is hard to find.
8. Schedule in a nice thing every day
This can be different things to different people. It could be something you can do such as a soak in a bubble bath or playing a video game. It could be something that makes you think such as planning for the future or looking back at old photos. Maybe it’s an act of kindness - saying or doing something nice for someone else, such as surprising someone with a message or a drawing.
9. Try something new
There’s a lot of pressure on people to use this time for self improvement and strive for perfection, which isn’t necessarily helpful. But research shows that trying new things can be good for your wellbeing - boosting self-esteem and a sense of purpose. You could try an online course, start drawing or writing, or have a mess about in the kitchen or garden. Be led by your own interests.
1. Do Schools Kill Creativity? by Sir Ken Robinson
This is, possibly, the first TED talk I ever saw. I remember watching it and being completely captivated by the presentation style of the speaker and in total alignment with his views on creativity in education. You don’t need to be a teacher or parent to enjoy this talk - the relaxed way in which Sir Ken Robinson presents his thoughts is a masterclass in communication. This talk is 14 years old and yet still enormously relevant today.
TED Talks are different to regular presentations given by experts. TED Talks speak to people who know nothing (or very little) about a subject whilst engaging those who might be well versed in it. So, if you see a talk about brain surgery or astrophysics, don’t presume it’s not for you - you may just learn something that will change your mindset forever.
Like Podcasts, which were the topic of last weeks post, there are literally thousands of TED Talks to choose from and it can be daunting to know where to begin, so we have searched the web and curated a list of 6 talks to begin your TED journey based on recommendations for a range of sources. You may already be familiar with TED Talks but can I urge you to spend some time looking over the list and try any of the talks you may not have seen before. Once you’ve seen this small selection of talks, it’s difficult to see who you wouldn’t be hooked on TED.
2. My Stroke of Insight, by Jill Bolte Taylor
Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor had an opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: One morning, she realised she was having a massive stroke. As it happened -- as she felt her brain functions slip away one by one, speech, movement, understanding -- she studied and remembered every moment. This is a powerful story about how our brains define us and connect us to the world and to one another.
Birdsong is so special because it relaxes people physically whilst stimulating them cognitively, says Julian Treasure, author of Sound Business and chairman of noise consultancy The Sound Agency. Birdsong creates a state he calls "body relaxed, mind alert".
"People find birdsong relaxing and reassuring because over thousands of years they have learnt when the birds sing they are safe, it's when birds stop singing that people need to worry. Birdsong is also nature's alarm clock, with the dawn chorus signalling the start of the day, so it stimulates us cognitively."
Birdsong can also reduce stress and anxiety. Patients of Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool took part in a project with the Foundation for Creative Technology (FACT) and award-winning wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson in which birdsong from local parks and other outdoor spaces was played in the hospital.
The aim of the project was to explore how bringing the ‘outdoors’ into the hospital may provide an ‘uplifting and therapeutic experience for patients’.
Watson created a shortened version of the dawn chorus called Wild Song at Dawn which patients and staff could also listen to on a personal audio player.
The recording was used to calm young patients as they received injections and other treatments, with positive results.
"The children find it very calming and it can help them de-stress before undergoing treatments or surgery," says the hospital.
So, if you can, open your door and listen to the birds. In such a difficult time, it can help you relax and reconnect with the world. If you live somewhere that the birds don’t visit often or there is still a lot of background noise around try using headphones and listen to Chris Watson’s ‘Wild Song at Dawn’ or visit https://www.birdsong.fm/
As always, if you are struggling or just want someone to share your feeling with contact us through the website and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
Monday, 20th April 2020
5. The Transformative Power of Classical Music, by Benjamin Zander
Benjamin Zander has two infectious passions: classical music, and helping us all realize our untapped love for it -- and by extension, our untapped love for all new possibilities, new experiences, new connections.
6. My Philosophy For a Happy Life, by Sam Berns
Just before his passing on January 10, 2014, Sam Berns was a Junior at Foxboro High School in Foxboro, Massachusetts, where he achieved highest honors and was a percussion section leader in the high school marching band. He also achieved the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America. Sam was diagnosed with Progeria, a rare, rapid aging disease, at the age of 2. He is featured in the Emmy award-winning documentary Life According to Sam, which premiered on HBO on October 21, 2013, 2 days before his 17th birthday.
Not that it’s a new self as such, but more the perspective I’m gaining.
The biggest thing is that I’m not so much of an introvert as I thought. The very difference isn’t what I used to think, either. An extrovert is not so much someone who loves company and an introvert one who dislikes it (although that often goes together). It’s more a question of where you get your energy and motivation from. An introvert’s motivation is internal, they get up in the morning and get straight to it. An extrovert needs other people. This can shed some interesting new light; when someone comes into your office and asks you to explain how to do the same thing on the computer that you’ve already explained ten times before, it’s not that they’re stupid They need the human contact, by any means necessary.
I’ve known for a long time that I am limited by motivation and tolerance more than I am limited by time. Given that I’m unemployed, some folk might be puzzled why I don’t have all my DIY projects done, all paperwork cleared, the garden wonderful etc not to mention more potential writing projects completed and submitted. I envy those folk their energy.
A key feature of autism, and mine in particular, is repetitive and restrictive patterns of behaviour. For me, it doesn’t manifest the way you might think. My problem is that I tend to only establish bad routines. I don’t multi-task well. Things get lost from my memory along the way, or my mind drifts. I miss the bleedin’ obvious. Sometimes it only takes a few words from someone to state that obvious to sort out something I’ve been struggling with for ages.
I am often told “get yourself out, you’ll feel better.’ Most of the time, being fortunate in my friends, they aren’t just after company themselves. Sometimes they are right, and sometimes they’re wrong. Going out if I don’t feel like it can make me feel a lot worse; the loneliest place to be can be a crowd. At least these days I am a lot more prepared to say no, or to retreat from something if it becomes overwhelming. If necessary I now have a much better “excuse” if one is needed.
But the truth is that I need company. The deterioration across the board I’m seeing during the isolation is proof of that. I might not have been getting a great deal of company before that, it may be that I do need a lot more time to myself than most people, but some is vital. Without it, I’m going downhill. What’s more, it seems that despite the stereotype that Aspergers makes you better with tech than people, video calls aren’t cutting it. It seems I’m unable to handle a video conference with multiple people; my attention simply doesn’t split that well, the already difficult social cues and conversation gaps are that much harder, anxiety skyrockets.
The best analogy I can come up with is someone with a wide-spectrum food allergy; they need nutrition, but it has to be exactly the right small amounts of the correct foods, or they starve and get deficiency diseases. Too much or the wrong food, they get sick as well, possibly developing a powerful aversion to something that didn’t agree with them. Or, if they don’t eat something for a long time, they can lose the ability to digest it.
For me, that food is other people. A difficult job at the best of times and while the virus rages, it seems I shall just have to tighten my belt and hope that I can recover at the end of it.
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