Autism and stress management


Emotional Regulation – autism and stress management. Have you ever seen someone stressed and felt frustrated when you tried to help? Especially when it seems to have followed a small incident/ comment. Nothing seems to have helped, it gets worse, you lose patience. That person goes silent or has an outburst. And this is happens at work. You feel it should not happen with adults and not in the professional work environment.

Yes it can, with autistic people and possibly others with invisible disabilities. We can react differently, I know I’ve felt that before. Why? Because we can find it harder to regulate emotions like others, know what we feel inside, release it. I know that I can get upset with others, but not always the person who maybe caused the main stress. Just think of the comment, the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was the final person who inadvertently pushed my feelings over the line, because I was unable to release emotions. I do not always know what my feelings are.

The result can be a meltdown, or shutdown, which looks on the surface like a childlike tantrum or sulking. Which they are not. Rather than seeking to gain something, they are a form of communication, of overwhelm.

In a workplace this does not help teamwork and productivity, if not understood.

The result when this happens can be for 

Autistic people

  • Continued stress – exhausting and non productive, just get on with work
  • Emotions not expressed – to avoid judgement, not felt wanted, weak
  • Work focus – negatively affected trying to behave ‘correctly’
  • Meltdowns/Shutdowns – continue, reasons not understood.  These can be exhausting
  • Confidence – feel bad, a failure, not pulling weight in team
  • Feel misjudged – not trusted or respected. Explanations not felt wanted

The Team

  • Workload – Must bear the extra workload, especially if there are absences
  • Talents – Losing a skill, not recognised if positives are not sought
  • Frustration – with the team member, possibly expressed with sharp, close comments
  • Misjudge – team members reactions and the reasons for them

Possible solutions

For Autistic people

  • Calming – Sounds and images, on the internet or elsewhere, including fish, lava lamps, moving images.  Googling relaxing, autistic sounds helps me
  • Time out – in a quiet place, relax, lie down in controlled environment, take time to process thoughts, your way
  • Trusted friend/mentor – communicate with comfortably, open up to, without judgement how you are feeling.
  • Express emotions – if you are unable to speak to someone, possibley due to inability to process thoughts, write them.
  • Fidget toys – not toys but items in various shapes and forms that help concentration and relaxation and focus by providing visual, tactile and audible focus.  Regulating emotions.
  • Move around – just to the kitchen, or a walk, get fresh air, alone or with a trusted friend.
  • Return – when you feel able, not before, without comment or questions

Team members

  • Time out – accept this regardless of workload, there is a reason for it
  • Emotional outburst – accept these are a form of communication. Treat them as such. Do not ask for fixed phrases, you may get them, but not as a genuine response
  • Lack of professional language – expressing emotions. When people are upset they do not always use constructive, professional language. Initially accepting this then discussing issues helps
  • Returning to work – after outbursts, don’t make nasty comments, accept them as they are.  Shortness is not intended to be rude
  • Pressure to return – doesn’t always work, give time to recover after an outburst, the absence may be quite short. Returning calmly ready will result in better work.
  • Explanations – upon return, these may not happen quickly, or at all to line managers. Offer to listen if they want to talk, in an open manner, when appropriate.

The Result

By doing this it will help the whole team and there will be more openness within the team, mutual trust and respect, and open communication. The communication differences, with possible time delays, if understood will improve production and staff retention.


  1. This really helps with my sons meltdowns. Shame his employers didn’t take the time to understand and dispensed with his devices 🙁

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