Stress and Well-being
In life we all have to cope with stress, and have evolved tools to help us do this. However, many of the people we support have struggled to develop those tools. In the Atlass programme, we apply a stress model that focuses on two elements. First, we focus on the causes of stress itself and the individual's coping responses. Second, we aim to identify stress 'signatures', and help individuals to become more aware of their own stress and how to manage it.
Research has shown that the management of stress is a key mediator in the expression of distress for people on the autism spectrum. Direct intervention can often focus on moderating the impact of stress and assisting the individual to develop coping strategies, thus preventing behaviours from becoming more challenging.
Focus on stress not behaviours
We have a saying in the Atlass programme; 'Manage stress and challenging behaviours become easier to manage'. This is a very different approach from traditional models that effectively target behaviours. It also links to the crisis management approach of Studio III called the low arousal approach.
Manage your own stress
Stress is transactional in nature. This means that our own stress can be passed on to a person and vice versa. Environments contain people and can be highly stressful. In the Atlass programme, we find that stress reduction starts with yourself. Participants are expected to explore their own well-being and coping strategies.
In positive psychology, 'flow' is a state of mind which is entered when a person is fully immersed in an activity which requires focus. By becoming fully absorbed in an activity or task, one can loose a sense of space and time, and thus be distracted from stressful thoughts and situations.
An incredibly effective way to reduce your stress is to increase cardiac exercise. Applied research demonstrates that increased exercise is associated with reductions in cortisol (the so-named stress hormone). The effects of exercise on physical well-being does take months rather than weeks. Anyone who is stressed should have increased exercise as a component of their stress support plan.