I’d like to give a shout-out for weighted blankets. If you’ve never felt one, it feels like the lead covering they put on you when you’re getting an x-ray. It’s just what it sounds like- a ridiculously heavy blanket that you can throw on top of yourself for comfort. I thought it sounded dumb until I tried one when I was in inpatient therapy. They actually feel quite calming. These are especially helpful for people with a lot of anxiety or autism. Something about the weight calms you down.
Weighted blankets can be a little pricey, but it can be worth the steep price tag if you find it helps. Or, if you’re crafty, you can sew one.
Sometimes, I find myself unable to communicate or find words. For some reason, however, I can still use sign language. It might just be me, but in any event, I suggest it because you might find it useful as well. You can learn a few signs (such as the ones for medicine, emergency, hungry, thirsty, help, etc.) and teach them to people in your support network. That way, you can communicate without having to physically speak.
I’ve created a printable chart of the basic fingerspelling signs and the signs I feel are most helpful. You can print these papers and give them to friends and family as quick references. You can also buy the book The Perigee Visual Dictionary of Signing by Rod R. Butterworth. It’s the one that I personally find most useful (and believe me- I’ve seen a lot of them!).
Download Clean Brains ASL Chart
Download Clean Brains ASL Fingerspelling
Even if you have a morning routine, sometimes it’s easy to forget things you need before you leave your house, especially if you don’t need them every day. If this happens to you, try hanging a reusable shopping bag (the plastic shopping bags tend to break) on the handle of your door. Anytime you’re at home and think of something you’ll need the next day, throw it in the bag. Then, every day, check the bag before you leave.
If your best ideas come to you in the shower, invest in some shower crayons. You can usually find them in the baby area of Target or Walmart for pretty cheap. If you keep them in your shower, you can write your notes on the tub walls and not have to scramble to remember fleeting thoughts.
Create QR codes to function as reminders. I use the service scan.me. You can print the QR codes on address labels and stick them on related items. For example, you can link the QR code an object’s user manual and then stick the QR code on that item. When you scan the code, the usual manual will appear on your phone. You can also use these for chore lists. You can embed the directions on how to clean something in the code, and then scan it when you need the list. What’s the benefit of using QR codes as opposed to tape and paper? Once you scan the code, the information remains on your phone until you delete it. This means you can carry the phone with you while you complete tasks. And, since the codes are always with their related items, you always have the information on-hand. Plus, it’s more fun this way.
I use a health monitoring app and wristband called Fitbit. While I use the device mainly for health concerns, one feature that I really like for mental health hygiene is the vibration alarm. You can set the alarm to go off at any time, and it’ll silently alert you using a quiet and peaceful vibration.
I used the alarm function to remind me to take pills, change activities, perform tasks, go to meetings, etc.
For those with sensory processing challenges, the world can be an overwhelming place. Invest in a good pair of sunglasses and some earplugs/headphones. These can be life savers in crowded and bright places. Don’t be afraid to wear these inside stores — no one really minds. Also, try to choose fabrics that you find pleasant. I personally like cotton in a waffle-weave pattern, and I try to avoid stiff leather, suede, and satin. When temperature is an issue, try to ease into the new environment. For example, after a warm shower, wrap yourself in a robe and socks. It helps lessen the shock of a transition. If you find certain smells to be an issue, wear a scarf that you can subtly press against your nose.
I always seem to be dodging social events and invitations. I like to go out, but it’s not always feasible. While my closest friends and family know about my struggles and I’m honest with them, I don’t always want to share this information with acquaintances or strangers. For this reason, I have a mental list of polite declines for invitations. These are my best ones:
- “I think I caught a bug. I don’t want to get you sick!” This also works with food poisoning. Anything with bodily fluids, really.
- “My parents won’t let me go.” A great fallback if you’re young.
- “I can’t find a babysitter.” Great if you have kids.
- “Sorry, I already have plans.” It’s even better if you can get a friend on-board with it. My boyfriend usually doesn’t mind covering for me.
- “I have an appointment, and it’s really hard to get an appointment at that place!”
The possibilities are endless.
Pro Tip: Don’t update social media or talk to other friends while you’re dodging the invite. It’s really easy for that information to get back to the person/people you’re trying to avoid. You don’t want to ruin a friendship.
If you have to buy a lot of children’s presents, try bulk-buy party favors, candy, and gift bags. You can pick these up at the dollar store or Oriental Trading. Disperse the party favors and candy among the bags, and you have gifts for any number of kids.
I also try to avoid overhead lights, especially florescent ones. At home, I mostly use table lamps for light, and all of our overhead lights have dimmers on them.