A Birmingham-based organisation geared towards raising the profile of people with Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism has taken part in a new European conference placing a spotlight on the disorders.

Social enterprise Project Aspie participated in the first ReAttach conference on autism and neuroscience in The Netherlands last month. Invited through Project Aspie as a freelance journalist, Catalina George reports for I Am Birmingham on advice about stress and anxiety from guest speakers.

Psychologist and therapist speakers emphasised on how new therapies such as ReAttach help manage stress and anxiety. Independent of diagnoses or lack of, they say we can all apply a few principles to improve and better deal with negative experiences.

We present you with some key points and advice from practitioners from the conference in The Netherlands. Project Aspie plans to invite some of the same guest specialists at their gala event in Birmingham this autumn.

Catalina George

Dr. Peter Soren discussed the effects of people lacking an understanding of
their own emotional range:

“Arousal and distress are ways for people to deal with facing their image of themselves and the world. The salutogenic approach  starts with making meaning of the self and of the world around, of the situation. Then the person can start to manage the situation”

“We see very poor understanding of emotional range. Many people with ADHD define their state as either ok or not ok. This makes chances for somebody to be not ok very high.”

“We need to think in more detail and diversity. Something can be irritating, pleasant, unpleasant and so on.”

Catalina George

Prof. dr. Elke van Hoof made a few useful points about stress management:

“On many occasions, patients cannot express their difficulties in a full sentence. When you try to get people to talk about something so fundamental, it takes a lot of time to verbalise, even using creative therapies”

“We gain from stress, it helps us process information and learn. If you want to get more performant, you need to use stress positively: use dangers as opportunities to learn something”

“In chronic stress, people lose these skills to learn from danger and they always get caught in a loop. Their body’s resources get depleted little by little, they eventually get exhausted and can develop long term vulnerability”

“A half stressed person doesn’t exist. People are either stressed or not stressed. Once the stress process starts, it cannot be stopped. The first thing we need to teach people is to stop trying to control stress. It is not possible. We need to accept there is nothing wrong with stress, let it follow its cycle and learn from it”

Catalina George

Dr. Ashutosh Srivastava talked about three case studies, all young people struggling with work and studies related stress:

“Through empathy with the reasons, thoughts and emotions of other significant people, hyperarousal diminishes and mentalisation starts”

Note: People experience hyperarousal when they feel irritable, cannot go to sleep or stay asleep, cannot focus and feel pain more easily.

“We cannot change triggers, but how we respond to triggers. We can identify unrealistic threats which cause anxiety and what lays behind them.”

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