Go on a Self-Care Date, alone.

“Self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship … anytime we can listen to true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.” ― Parker Palmer

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These are some divine pancakes I had for breakfast recently at my local cafe… Photo by me!

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One of the key ways that I manage my well-being with autism, by keeping anxiety and depression levels low, is taking myself out on dates.  I do not bring anyone with me on these dates; I am simply focusing on ME.

I know for many, the idea of going on a date alone seems ludicrous, but it can actually be extremely liberating and exceptionally calming. Being alone does not need to be unbearable or a sign that you are a “weirdo” or a “loser”. Hey, most of us autistics choose to be alone on a regular basis! I know you have a favourite outfit, a favourite cafe, a favourite meal, a favourite book to read… So pick yourself up, get outta those PJs and go on a self-date!

I take myself out, once a week, on a “self-care breakfast”, and it really relaxes me.  In fact, I’ve just come home from my weekly breakfast (see pic below!), and considering I had to locate a new place, walked 33 minutes to get there… and 33 minutes back home… I’m actually feeling pretty good I was able to do that!! And get something nice to eat.

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Today I had the Big Breakfast, and it was pretty good 🙂

These self-care dates give me a chance to be in a special place outside of my house where I can enjoy the food I like, the environment I like, get to talk to a few people, and I can also “people-watch” or write in my journal.

 


 

Self-care dates are SELF LOVE!

Self-love – yuck?!  I guess you might hear ‘self-love matters’ way too much, and think this is all happy-clappy stuff.  But it’s true.  See, self-care is that act of nurturing and caring for yourself; that act of loving yourself.  It’s not a selfish action, but a selfless action…. for being able to give yourself kindness means that you can actually be an amazing light and power to all others around you.

Self-care is defined as any activity you do which promotes positive outcomes for your personal health and well-being. 

If you’re wondering if you need to start a self-care regime, I’d go out on a limb and say, YES YOU DO. So many of us just don’t do it.  Perhaps you give to others all the time, and at the end of the day feel drained and unable to be kind to others? Maybe you just keep promising yourself to book in a massage because you have such a bad backache, but it never happens? Or you spend lots of time working or playing computer games, and then neglect yourself, by forgetting to eat, shower, sleep? Taking some time out to just be with yourself can be so positive for your life.

Ideas for self-care dates:

  • Self-care breakfasts at your favourite cafe (breakfast time because there are less people in the cafe!)
  • Sit on a park bench and write in your journal
  • A trip to the art gallery (on weekdays, to avoid the crowds!)
  • Watching a movie
  • Having a massage or pamper day
  • Learning to dance, rock climb, paint, or ???
  • Go for a walk in nature

Self-care activities are not over-indulgent (it’s not about eating an entire chocolate cake every day, or spending half your wage on pretty clothes or gourmet foods!); self-care dates are measured, planned, and allow for an external (outside of your home) calming space where you can just be YOU.


 

Self-care dates improve your life…. How?

  • Something to look forward to – Even when everything sucks, you always have your self-care breakfast! I love going out to my local cafe, where they understand my behaviours and patterns, accept my teddy bear who sometimes accompanies me, and allow me to just be myself. I go there and I know everything will be okay.
  • Builds confidence and self-sufficiency – The first time I went out, it was scary because I had to find a new cafe, talk to waiters, and interact with other people. But over time, I found myself more confident in my abilities and more comfortable to just be myself.  Going out alone also made me realize I am a lot more capable than I thought.
  • Expands your horizons – Over the past few years, I took myself on activity dates, where I learned how to dance.  This was totally out of my comfort zone, but it was something I had always wanted to do.  By doing it more and more, I began to cope better managing my anxiety in groups, and I even met some fun and lovely people.
  • Try new things – Whether you’re trying a new breakfast menu item, or giving rock climbing a go, when you take yourself out on self-care dates, you will become more adventurous.   The key with your self-care days is not to force yourself to be that which you are not… but as you take days just for you, you may find that the “salmon croquettes with poached eggs” might inspire you more than your usual fried eggs on toast…. or that going out to the art gallery may be a new adventure, rather than just walking by the river… Trying new things because it was your own idea? Fabulous!
  • Promotes quiet-time and self-reflection – Sitting alone with an empty chair across from you can be confronting, but it is also calming.  There are no expectations when you are alone.  You can simply sit, drink a coffee and reflect on life.  Being alone on self-dates allows a space of quiet reflection.  You can go for a walk in nature, and think. Sit and think. See an art show, and think.
  • Makes you a better “dater” – You may not be taking yourself out on dates in order to be a better spouse, but going out alone certainly teaches you some preliminary skills for dating.  You know what it is like to be with yourself, you understand the rules and happenings of a cafe, you know how to order, and you also should have a good idea of what kind of place you like! You’ll also be more confident in yourself, and you’ll hopefully also now be relaxed about your clothes/ hair/ makeup.
  • Teaches financial management – When you take yourself out on dates, you’ll quickly learn that you need to make sure you have a budget, and that you need to stick to it.  I’ve set my self-care breakfast dates to a strict budget of $40 per weekly outing.  That gives me enough money for one elaborate breakfast meal and two coffees. If I want more, too bad; that’s the budget.  This is the amount I can afford. I also learned to manage my weekly money better, because if I splurge elsewhere, I am unable to go out for my breakfast!
  • Allows you to find yourself, like… really, deeply, completely – I’ve mentioned it above a few times, that going out on these self-care dates gives you a chance to get to know yourself better, build confidence and try new things… and all of this gives you space to figure out who you are, what you like and dislike, what you can tolerate, your triggers and your coping mechanisms.  By being out in public with yourself, you learn both the glittering edges of human kindness (they remembered my favourite coffee! they saved my a favourite table! they told me of changes in the menu! they waved to me in the street! they knew I needed lots of space today!) AND your own experience (when is it time to leave? what upsets me? how do i calm myself down when change happens?)

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Give yourself a chance to experience a regular self-care date! You deserve it! 🙂

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The Coffee and Candy Diet

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Photo by picjumbo.com

No nutritional plan will “cure” autism, any more than a nutritional plan could make it rain in Guatemala… but there is something to be said for the coffee and candy diet. Nope, I’m not talking cures. I’m talking PRODUCTIVITY.

I know, I can hear you now, cringing over the thought of recommending anyone to eat a diet high in all the “bad things”, but hear me out. In some cases where your autism has markers of ADHD or periods of mania, a coffee-candy diet can actually benefit.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder, which can co-exist with autism.  In ADHD, individuals have issues of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Caffeine and sugar, when administered in the right dose can curb much of these ADHD problems.

 

The positives of a coffee and candy diet

Certainly following this diet without eating ANY healthy items is a bad idea.  I recommend starting the day with a nutritious breakfast, eating a late lunch and a tiny dinner…. and in between is coffee and candy time! WHY? Well, these two foodie items increase happy chemicals in your brain, help you get (and stay) focused, be alert, and it gives you a super spike of glorious energy. Sooo helpful when you have work that needs to get done!

Research (here, here, here, and here) shows that drinking a moderate amount of caffeine daily (<6 cups) can dramatically reduce depressive symptoms, increase productivity and cognitive functioning, as well as lessen suicidal ideations. As for sugar, the general view is that it’s harmful (a faux pas!), but the fact remains: our body NEEDS glucose to function.  This research from NASA shows without sugars in the blood, we fail at cognitive tasks, become less vigilant, forgetful, drop our attention, lack endurance, and feel flat (all bad things, when you’re looking at it from the astronaut point of view).  So, sugar and caffeine really does have some positives!

 

The negatives of a coffee and candy diet

Because coffee and candy are stimulants, addictive, and dramatically affect the body’s blood glucose levels, going haywire on this diet can be a very bad thing indeed.  Too much of anything is generally bad, and overdoing it with either coffee or candy is no exception.

Too much coffee can lead to agitation, irritation, shakiness and difficulty sleeping.  Caffeine can enhance anxiety symptoms, and in some people, it may trigger anger spells.

Too much candy can lead to personality changes, mood swings (triggering manias or depressions), exacerbating anxiety, and of course, overdosing on sugary treats contributes to obesity and physical health issues.

Mixing coffee and candy also has a dark side.  When coffee and candy get together, they give your body huge surges of energy generating spikes of ‘highs’ and then crashing dips of ‘lows’.  Within hours, you may swing between these states, leading to intense cravings for more candy (sugars) or more coffee (stimulants).

 

Finding a balance with a coffee and diet

The key here really is BALANCE and AWARENESS.

Yes, mixing coffee and candy into your diet can be hazardous for some, but for others, this diet really helps us maintain focus and be productive.

To follow the coffee and candy diet, it is important to continue eating a healthy breakfast, and a taking break to eat a small late lunch that consists of low-GI foodie items (that have a slow release of energy) such as brown rice, oats, sweet potatoes, vegetables, pulses. When you combine the coffee and candy diet with a staple of low-GI foods, you can care for your body whilst also giving yourself a boost of energy and focus. Having a tiny dinner is recommended, as the “cap” to your coffee/ candy day. For dessert, have a piece of fruit instead of more candy.

I recommend as well, to drink a glass of water in the morning before your first coffee, and lots of water at the end of your day, to make sure you’re not dehydrated from all the coffee and candies.  Drinking water before bed will help you settle into the night hydrated and able to sleep better.

I understand this is a strange “diet” to follow… but for me, I find this diet really positive for my well-being.  It can help lift me out of a depression-space, encourage me to be motivated, get focused and think more clearly.  I cannot simply eat candy and feel good, or drink coffee and feel good.  For me, I need the combination, and for it to work, I need to look after those other dietary elements (healthy, low-GI meals, drinking water) as well as be patient with myself (self-care!).

This diet plan may not work for you, but it might! You can always give it a go… and see if it benefits you, or what adjustments you need to make to find your own happy balance.

Remember, everyone is different, every autistic, every ADHDer– we’re all wired slightly different, so perhaps this diet will work for you.

Drop me a line or comment with your thoughts on this, or just to tell me your favourite candy… I love sour gummi bears! 🙂