Do you ever get home from work or school and just feel completely wiped out? Dealing with daily social demands is draining. You have no energy to do anything and you’re already stressed about having to interact with others tomorrow. Perhaps, this feeling is negatively affecting your overall happiness, social life, or work.
Being neurodiverse in a neurotypical world has many challenges that make it easy to drain your social battery.
As an autism therapist, I have noticed that many of my neurodiverse clients seek counseling because they want good relationships but find social interactions incredibly stressful and draining. When you’re on the autism spectrum, it can be much harder to understand social norms, make small talk, interpret people’s facial expressions or intentions, read body language, make eye contact, and smile. Therefore, after just a short amount of time interacting with others, you may feel overwhelmed and exhausted. Your social battery is drained!
Many of my clients explain that they feel like no matter how hard they try, they still end up doing or saying things that upset others or lead to bad outcomes. This can feel deflating, and lead to a vicious cycle of anxiety and depression.
At my California based autism therapy clinic, we talk a lot about our social battery and what to do when it becomes depleted. In many cases, my clients are so eager to fit in with their neurotypical peers that they push themselves so hard and completely wipe out their social battery, which then affects important parts of their life and important relationships.
Your Social Battery and Autistic Meltdowns
If you’re on the autism spectrum you may have experienced an autistic meltdown after depleting your social battery and feeling pushed to the limit. This looks different for every neurodiverse person. But, it may mean you get very angry and yell, or maybe you cry and feel overtaken by emotion, or physically kick, hit or thrash. Whatever your meltdown looks like, it’s often extremely emotional and physical. It often feels like your brain has shut down or is going haywire. It can also negatively affect your relationships, career, or academic performance.
Depleting your social battery and having a meltdown is a sign that you are not listening to and respecting your unique needs. You have most likely dismissed or pushed aside the warning signs that your battery is about to die. You do this because you’re trying to fit in or be productive. Furthermore, you may have tried to push past these warning signs because others have said things in the past like “just do it, everyone else can” or “get over it” when you’ve shared your discomfort. This hurts to hear and invalidates your experience. And, after a while, you internalized this message. Then, you began telling yourself the same things, often to your own detriment. You learned to stop listening to yourself.
Depleting your social battery, having a meltdown, and dealing with the fallout of the meltdown in your personal and possibly professional life can cause many mental health problems. These include anxiety and depression. It may leave you feeling fearful of social interaction and social settings. And it may cause you to feel lonely, and like you don’t belong.
Ways you can protect your social battery
But the good news is, there are relatively simple things you can do to save yourself from a depleted social battery. These things can and should be done when you sense you’re nearing empty and need to recharge.
When your battery is on low, take a break and recharge.
Perhaps the most logical and obvious thing you can do is to step aside and take a break. Even if it’s just for a few minutes. Allow yourself to have some time to quiet your mind and breathe. If you’re at work or school, perhaps you excuse yourself to the bathroom or your office. If this is a problem for a teacher or supervisor, consider offering them a mini-disclosure. A mini-disclosure is a time when you explain to them why you’re doing this and what it means.
Write it down…
Another thing you can do is make a list of things that frequently drain your social battery. Then, try to rank these things to determine what bothers you the most. Once you have done that then come up with one actionable way you can deal with the discomfort it causes. Often small and simple changes can make a big difference.
Give yourself a little grace.
It is important that you bring yourself compassion in these moments when you are struggling and feeling drained. Rather than being hard on yourself and trying to push yourself too far, be kind and listen to your needs. Your needs matter just as much as anyone else’s. If you actually are kind to yourself at the moment and support your needs, you will likely be able to improve relationships and accomplish more in life. You won’t be drained and overwhelmed as much.
It is also important that when you are uncomfortable or upset that you have a safe person you can talk to. A safe person is someone who will listen and accept your feelings. Find a person who will not judge you or invalidate you. This could be a friend, family member, mentor, therapist, or anyone else who is validating.
Stand up for yourself and your needs, don’t be afraid to tell others when you need a break.
If others try and dismiss your needs, assert yourself. You have the right to protect your social battery without feeling guilty about it. Show yourself some self-compassion and acceptance. Embrace this as a part of the things that make you unique. Furthermore, keep in mind that the more you honor and respect yourself, the more you will attract others into their life who honor and respect you.
Lastly, if you find that depleting your social battery is a common problem for you, then I encourage you to consider online autism therapy. Or, consider joining an online autism support group. My autism therapy clinic based in Palo Alto, CA offers a variety of in-person and online autism therapy services for youth age 12 through adulthood. One of the biggest benefits of seeking specialized autism therapy is working with a therapist who understands the challenges you’re facing and knows tools and techniques to help you overcome these challenges and feel comfortable in your own skin.
Begin online autism therapy in California.
If you are ready to work with an autism therapist who can truly meet your needs as a neurodiverse individual and live in the state of California, then we’d love to speak with you. Our team of therapists specializes in providing high-quality autism therapy services. To begin online therapy in California, follow these steps:
- Contact us for a free 30-minute phone consultation using this link. You will meet with one of our autism therapists.
- Like us on Facebook. On our page, we post useful information about our autism therapy clinic.
- Sign up to receive our newsletter.
Autism Therapy Services offered at Open Doors Therapy:
Our autism therapy clinic located in the South Bay Area serves teens and adults on the autism spectrum. We help high functioning individuals who identify as having Aspergers, high functioning autism, undiagnosed autism traits, and their families.
Right now, we are providing all our autism counseling services online. Our autism therapists offer a variety of autism services including individual counseling for autistic teens and adults, parent counseling, and group therapy. Also, we run several different social skills groups for neurodiverse working professionals, college students with autistic traits, gifted youth & caregivers, autistic adults, women who identify as neurodiverse, a summer social skills college transition training program for youth transitioning to college, teens & caregivers, and a mothers group. Contact our autism therapy office for more information on our services or to schedule a consultation.
About the Author
Dr. Tasha Oswald is a trained developmental and clinical psychologist. She is also is the founder and director of Open Doors Therapy, a private practice specializing in autism therapy services in the South Bay Area, near San Francisco, CA. Dr. Oswald specializes in helping neurodiverse teens and adults and facilitating social skills groups.