The holidays are over and the first Monday back to work was an enormous transition for me – and probably many others! I seriously considered heaving the alarm clock into oblivion when it rudely jerked me awake at 6 a.m. and annoyingly reminded me that work awaited. I tried to pretend it was a dream. Next, I convinced myself that 5 more minutes in bed was not going to throw off my day.
It did. From the moment my feet hit the floor, I felt like a hamster on a wheel spinning out of control with no way to slow the damn thing down.
The switch from holidays to work made me consider how I actually cope with the unpleasant shift. A few things occurred to me:
Firstly, from the moment I heard my alarm till the moment my head hit the pillow that night, I had done a whole lot of chatting with myself! In the first hour of the day I made deals with myself: first shower then a giant mug of coffee; first work then I can watch The Bachelor in the evening; first work out at the gym, then eat chips while watching my show…and so on. Yes, my very own self -initiated “first/then schedule.”
I also noticed that since leaving my bed, I had sub -conciously reviewed the positive benefits of going to work: I would get to reconnect with my colleagues; I would get caught up on the latest news; and I would get to see my students who make me smile. I was trying desperately to motivate myself!
Lastly, before I actually left the house, I made sure that I had the things that make my day go well: my snacks, lunch, water bottle, the right shoes, my purse, and my computer. Leaving one of these items behind could throw me off quite easily.
So why am I divulging the fact that I talk to myself – a lot?
The students I work with have autism and they require me to put a lot of thinking into planning their transitions. It occurred to me that children with autism often have not developed the mechanisms for self -talk that help most of us regulate our emotions and stay in control. Believe me, there were many times during the course of Monday that I really wanted to throw my hands in the air and scream, or find a dark space to crawl into and cry – or sleep.
It was my ability to talk to myself, encourage myself, reason with myself and my ability to have some choices throughout the day that kept me together! The structure and familiarity with the day also helped to ease me back into the rhythm of the work world. I never realized how much I rely on the Monday Morning Minutes that my principal sends out on Sunday evenings. It is, in essence, a visual schedule of the things staff will need to know in the coming week, listed day by day, so that we have a big picture and some details of the upcoming week. It helps me to be efficient and effective.Goodness knows how things would have turned out if any of the above were not available to me. When the MMM doesn’t show up in my inbox, a sense of panic and chaos ensue.
As we return to life “post holidays” perhaps it would be wise and compassionate to consider what we do and what we need to cope with transitions. Most importantly, remember that those with autism are most likely missing or have not developed the very ingredients that hold us together in times of change: an understanding of the concept of time, the ability to talk to another person and/or oneself about our anxieties or feelings, a sensory system that is relatively stable and a sense of self agency and autonomy in the day’s events.
Someone please, tell me it’s Friday… 🙄