Ways I deal with college stress as a student on the spectrum

"A weight added is a weight lifted"

By Chade' Kronby

The life of a college student is a cocktail of anxiety, stress and multitasking. If you are someone that is attending school or even if you are working, it can be a challenge to destress. As an adult on the spectrum, it is a million times harder to meet my sensory needs and reduce my anxiety. I work full time and am a full-time student. My day is filled with noise, interpersonal interactions and ends with school assignments and more interactions. So how do I reduce my anxiety and distress? 

Photo by sydney Rae on Unsplash

There are multiple ways that I use to calm daily anxiety during work and out in the community. ADA Accommodations in my workplace cover sensory needs. In my position as administrative assistant, I use noise cancelling earmuffs, sensory items (textured fidgets) and have an extended lunch break to have destress time. During breaks at work I am authorized to use any unoccupied conference rooms to turn lights off or just sit in silence. At home, lights are adjusted to dim or off in the evenings. Also, I have accommodations with my school. Extra time on tests and assignments and the flexibility to complete course work at the end of 5 week course. Spending 9 hours interacting with people, loud sounds and focusing on work is challenging, so my sensory accommodations are vital to my success.

A new method I recently discovered to calm my sensory agitations is a weighted blanket. The blanket is plush 12lbs (pounds) and keeps you nice and toasty. Those three elements are important for my sensory needs. The texture of the blanket is soothing. Now keep in mind, normally a plush blanket would be unbearable for me to touch. However, the weight combined with the texture has a surprisingly soothing effect. I chalk that up to the three factors that complement each other.

After an extremely stressful day, I arrived home and climbed into bed. I placed the blanket on top of me and an incredible thing happened. My tense, hurting and anxious body relaxed. Now, this is not a small feat for I carry tension in my body 24/7. In my 30 years of existence, I have NEVER found a method that completes the task of complete relaxation. Now I have!

As an adult on the autism spectrum, I was apprehensive to try a weighted blanket. It is challenging to accept that sensory needs do not have an age limit. Sensory Processing Disorder is with me for life. It is true that learning methods of coping through occupational therapy can improve my understanding and assist me in mitigating sensory struggles. However, my sensory needs began in childhood and continue now. For example, at a young age I was unable to touch paper or fleece because it was painful. My mom adapted and I never wore clothing with fleece or soft textures. Also, card stock with rougher texture was easy for me to touch. In my teen years, I used headphones out in public and even ear plugs if I was in a busy place like the grocery store. As an adult, I learned to identify my sensory needs and use methods to self sooth. Fidgets, noise management, lighting adjustment and accepting my need for self-care during the stresses of life is important for me operating in the school and workplace.

I am so glad that tried this new method and added it to my sensory coping tool belt. My weighted blanket is all I sleep with now and if I have had a cocktail of stress throughout the day, it is my go-to method to relax and enjoy my evenings.

Vellux®, a WestPoint Home brand has partnered with Autism Speaks and will be donating a portion of the sale of their weighted blanket to support the cause. Learn more about the partnership.