One important thing I have learned since recognising I am autistic and being diagnosed with ADHD is if I’m feeling overwhelmed, stressed, low or anxious for no obvious reason, then I need to meet one or more of these four needs to start to redress the imbalance:
I’m hungry and need to eat
I’m thirsty and need water
I’m restless and I need to move.
I’m exhausted and need rest.
They are not cure all solutions, far from it, but I really can feel better just by doing at least one of the four actions and they don’t take much energy for me to do.
I’ve found myself reflecting and connecting this lived experience to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The foundation of the hierarchy is physiological needs which includes, sleep, food, water.
Meeting these essentials can help me to then take on more energy consuming and focus requiring self-care tasks, such as walking, yoga or mindfulness.
Those actions can enable me to have enough in the tank to look after my health, be social and connect with people.
However, having this knowledge doesn’t mean I’m always able to identify these needs easily or each time! This is because I have difficulty with interoception – perceiving physical sensations from inside the body.
My mind is also very busy and combined with both hyperfocus and being easily distracted and forgetful, meeting what may seem basic needs is challenging.
I feel as an autistic person with ADHD I am constantly battling to just meet the most basic needs at the foundation of Maslow’s pyramid, never mind any of the needs further up which can equate to better life outcomes. I expect this is the case for many autistic people.
Having a reminder in the house is useful. Prompting me to think whether I need to do one or more of the three actions.
I’ve made the image attached to this post and printed it out, it’s stuck on the wall in the office. My partner has also learned to say eat, drink, move or go rest when he senses me looking a bit lost or the overwhelm bucket filling up.
All part of the work in progress that I am as I remake my world around my newly found identities!
Prompt in PDF format if you'd like to print.