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How To Prevent a Meltdown

by Sally Willbanks
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How To Prevent a Meltdown

I was contacted by someone on Instagram asking for help.  She had nowhere else to turn, so she messaged me.  She said she had been having self-injurious meltdowns every day for two weeks, and that she didn’t know how to stop.  She was exhausted, with sore hands and sore head.  I wasn’t sure what to do either, so I reached out to the autistic community on Instagram asking for help.  The response was amazing (such a kind and caring community!).  I thought the answers I received would help other people too, so here they are:


“Sensory deprivation.  Headphones.  Weighted blankets.  Only eat safe foods.  Eliminate as many triggers as possible.  Stim religiously.  Rest.”


“Find a quiet, safe space and stay there cocooned as long as you can.”


“Try to write down/sing/talk about what is going on right now.  Try to make a list of priorities - what is more important to focus on right now?  Probably most things are not that important right now because the most important thing is you and your health.  It is ok to just exist for a while.  Just existing is as great an achievement as anything.  Focus on the here and now.  Most problems don’t exist in the here and now.”


“I don’t know the situation you’re in, but you are amazing, and you will get through this.  This too shall pass!  Life is super random and that can be hard at times.  But it isn’t your fault.  You’re doing the best you can.  Be kind to yourself and give yourself time.  You don’t have to achieve anything; you are already perfect the way you are.  Life isn’t about achievements and degrees and work, it’s about what works for you.  And one day that is being very productive and the other day it’s lying in bed all day doing nothing.  That’s both great and completely fine!  Try to breathe, meditate, go for a walk, listen to your favorite music.  Let your body ease out of that stressful state and give yourself time to get there.  You are amazing and you will get through this.”


“It’s ok to be not ok.  The harder you fight you’re not ok, the harder it will be.  Try to accept you’re not feeling well and just be there one day at a time.  Better times will come.  But there won’t be good times without the bad.  I like to exercise when I feel overwhelmed and want to hurt myself.  I go for a long walk, jog or do some weightlifting.  Try to find a different method of release when you’re that overwhelmed.  Scream into a pillow or punch a pillow.  Or something else that does less harm to you.  Use a weighted blanket and while safely tucked under there do a guided body scan or meditation exercises.  Meditation exercises even for five minutes a day, three times a day can help your overwhelmed system to relax a little over time.”


“Any stimming toys!!  If prescribed benzodiazepines then they will help; five finger count, hot breathing techniques.”


“There is an anti-meltdown playlist on Spotify that might help.”


“CBD oil is hugely beneficial for me to prevent meltdowns and overstimulation.”


“Take a step back and look at your surroundings.  Try to remove annoying stimulation – fans, loud machines, uncomfortable fabrics, then replace.  Like, if your clothes were too much, try putting different clothes on that are comfy.  Cuddle up in a soft blanket.”


“Roll up in a blanket like a cocoon.  Swing.  Pet a dog.  Daily walks outside and focused breathing exercises.  Sensory supports.  Squeeze toys.”


“Reduce all stressors in your life.  Do a calming activity like painting or art or writing.”


“Stimmy music.  If possible, get a pet like a fish or a cat that you can take care of that can be a companion.  Find a way to get lots of pressure (foam roller or weighted objects) or lifting heavy objects, put ice pack on back of neck, call a friend, wear tight clothing on pressure points (example: sweatbands around wrists or tight gloves), find a good food or object to bite down on for oral pressure like carrots or a chewy.”


“Identify what’s triggering the meltdowns (things to look at would be sensory, physical environment, emotional factors/events etc.), then try to work on changing the stuff that is causing the meltdowns if possible.  Avoiding taxing environments and situations is good because that can recharge internal batteries.  Having access to fidgets and other sensory aids is good.  Eat, sleep and hydrate enough.  Having a person who may not be a psychologist but is understanding of autism like a close friend or family member can help for deescalating or helping after a meltdown.”

These are the tips I received form actual autistic people.  These wonderful people who I have never met jumped in to help me help someone else in need.  I hope these meltdown-prevention tips can help you or your loved one too.

by Sally Willbanks


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