Plan Fun Activities- schedule activities when most awake and alert. These activities may include watching movies, playing games, walking in the park, hiking, and doing hobbies that you enjoy. Try new activities and tasks you have not tried before. If you like them, you can fit them into your routine to do again.
Routines- try to get up and go to bed at the same time and break up the day so that you have breakfast, lunch, and dinner at similar times each day. Using a visual (picture) timetable, a written to-do list and planning what you will do during the day, can be very helpful habits to start if you are not already practicing these.
Try To Keep Busy - make sure to do some physical activities throughout the day (like making the bed, hanging up laundry, whisking and mixing when cooking, kneading bread, hoovering, following an online exercise class, complete wordsearches or planning the next days’ activities).
Let The Outside In- try to get some fresh air into your home by opening blinds and curtains and let some natural light in.
Get Some Outdoor Exercise- if you and the person you support are well, you can take a walk. Have a look at what you can hear and see outside, watching the local wildlife can be a good way to relax. You might have some seeds you could put out for the birds, or water for a bird bath.
Focus On The Here And Now- try practicing mindfulness and focusing on the 'here and now'. These can include things that you can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. Take some deep breaths in and out and relax for a few minutes.
Provide Reassurance- validate any feelings you might have of social anxiety by going out and socialising with other people. This is completely understandable. It will take us all some time to get use to going out again and doing things that we did before. If you are supporting, be sure to provide reassurance that you will follow the rules and keep safe.
Provide Support to make choices- if you are supporting, try to encourage choice making around activities so that the people you support still have some control and remember to use symbols, photographs, and objects to support choice making if helpful/ appropriate. Support the person to reach out to others via phone, email, skype, and social media.
Bedtime Is Sleep-time- try to remember that beds are for sleeping, not TV or device time. It is good to establish good sleeping routines if you can.
Life After Lockdown
Coronavirus has meant that all of our normal activities and routines had to stop, and we have had to stay at home a lot. Lots of us are also feeling worried about the virus and that we or our family will become unwell. It is therefore understandable that you may be feeling more anxious or worried or the person you support may have had an increase in challenging behaviours.
These may help:
· Try to understand the cause or trigger of the behaviour, e.g. the environment is too noisy/ busy, being asked to do something, wanting to get something, being bored, being anxious, being physically unwell.
· Watch out for the early warning signs- What can you do to help at this point? What has worked before? Can you distract or divert to something else?
· Find ways to help the person express themselves. Such as using pictures, photos, objects, or Makaton signs.
· Try to keep to as usual a routine as possible. If the person is used to getting up at a certain time, eating meals on time, or going to bed at certain times, try to keep to these wherever possible.
· Make a plan/ timetable for each day. Include things to help the person to feel happy, do activities they enjoy as much as possible.
· Ensure that the person can make some choices about activities/ food each day. Offer only 2 or 3 choices, as too much can be overwhelming.
· Prepare them for finishing an activity they enjoy with either verbal or visual countdowns.
· Where you can, get outside for some exercise and fresh air, even a 15-20 minute walk can be very helpful.
· Develop simple coping strategies, such as breathing exercises or switching to an activity they enjoy.
You could also try a Self Soothe Kit
Try putting together a Self Soothe Kit with items around your home which will help you feel less anxious or stressed. A good self-soothe kit should include items that use all 5 senses, which could trigger familiar or happy memories. Everything from fidget spinners, a familiar smell, or a favourite music CD can be extremely helpful.
If they are feeling a bit worried, it can be helpful to practice some breathing exercises to calm down. An example of this includes:
· Sit in a comfortable position and think about your breathing
· Imagine there is a balloon in your tummy
· When you take a deep breath in, the balloon inflates
· You will feel your tummy rise- When you take a deep breath out, the balloon deflates
· You will feel your tummy fall- You might think of other things whilst you do this – that’s ok just try to bring your thoughts back to your breathing
Instead of a balloon you could also imagine blowing bubbles, a dandelion flower, or blowing out a candle when they breathe out!
Proprioception- proprioception can help those with learning disabilities or autism feel organised and calm through activities which work your muscles. These can be big activities, such as walking or jumping, or they can be small activities, such as eating chewy or crunchy snacks. You can also perform various tasks around the house to keep it tidy and clean as these will provide proprioceptive input.
Deep Pressure Touch- deep pressure touch can also help you feel calm by providing lots of input to your body. Examples of this can include wrapping in blankets, massaging hands or feet, sitting in a bean bag, and cocooning in a sleeping bag.
If you need some help to calm down, you can try:
· Drinking water from a water bottle with a spout or using a straw.
· Use deep pressure.
· Smell calming scents, like vanilla or rose.
· Dim lights.
· Listen to relaxation music.
· Sucking sweets etc.
· Using a straw to drink a thick smoothie.
Remind yourself that it is ok if you need extra help or if you need to take things slowly. It has been a very difficult year but you have managed to cope all this time.
If supporting, the person you care for might need extra reassurance during this time. Remind them that they are safe at home and when following the rules outside.
Encourage the person you support to be kind to themselves. It is much easier to feel kindness towards others when you practice feeling kindness towards yourself.
If you support someone with a learning disability or autism, try to make time for yourself to do something you enjoy too. Self-care is really important for all care givers. We need to look after ourselves in order to be able to look after others. Keep in touch with family, friends, and professionals and be sure to reach out for help and advice. Remember you are not alone and you have done a tremendous job keeping yourself and the person you care for safe during a very difficult time.
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