The Your Autism Mentor blog

Resilience, Motivation & Purpose

I tested positive for Covid last Monday and spent a week isolating at home and feeling quite poorly. This has not been a disaster, although frustrating for many reasons – not being able to carry out my mentoring work, not being able to mix with the rest of my family, walk my dog, exercise or see friends – to name a few! Given the awful atrocities happening in other parts of the world, I feel blessed to have a warm, comfortable home and a network of supportive family and friends around me. Not forgetting my ever-loyal Rufus!

I (generally) have the resilience and skills to enable me to manage situations which are outside of my control or challenging and move into “what can I do” mode. I have been able to maintain a sense of purpose and motivation this week, albeit a somewhat scaled back version, taking the opportunity to catch up on many work tasks and reading books which have been on my ‘to do’ list for some time.

“What can I do?”

This morning my resilience was tested. I carried out another lateral flow test and felt very disappointed when it showed an almost stronger positive result than the one I had received on Monday! My mind went into a negative thought cycle “I’m getting worse”, “I’m going to get a chest infection”, “I’m going to miss another week of work and let my mentees down” and other generally unhelpful thoughts!  

Many of my mentees do not have levels of resilience, motivation or purpose to enable them to manage uncertainty, challenge or overcome everyday problems. They regularly end up in these negative, catastrophising thought processes. They describe being unable to do even the things they even want to do. So, this morning I asked myself what advice I would give my mentees and tried to take this onboard.

I needed a plan. I knew I would feel worse if I spent the day feeling sorry for myself and not achieving anything.  As you can see, my plan was very simple. I made it visual to help me feel motivated.  We all need visual supports in our lives.

My plan was realistic, recognising my own energy levels. My plan was achievable and satisfying – I love crossing tasks off as I do them. My plan was just challenging enough for me to manage today. Most importantly, my plan included enjoyable activities.

I’ll take this opportunity to quickly introduce you to my H.A.P.P.Y. Plan. I trained in the H.A.P.P.Y. approach last year with Peter Vermeulen from Autism in Context, a popular autism advocate, author, and speaker. He is based in Belgium and works all over the world promoting his philosophy focused on autistic well-being: helping autistic individuals recognise and participate in activities which give them ‘good feelings’. Autism programmes so often focus on negatives and deficits, and I found the H.A.P.P.Y. approach a refreshing, positive change (H.A.P.P.Y. is an acronym for Happiness in Autism Personal Project for Young People).

I produced this summary to highlight my ‘good feeling’ activities which I can draw upon and which are right for me.

As you can see, jigsaw puzzles are an activity which I use to relax and having started one yesterday, I could easily have spent all day puzzling with regular chocolate breaks! So, I used my H.A.P.P.Y. plan to motivate myself with a time-limited enjoyable relaxation activity which enabled me to face the challenges of cleaning my office and starting this blog, knowing that when finished, I could spend the rest of the day immersed back in my jigsaw!

I prepare H.A.P.P.Y. plans with my mentees which are much more detailed than this summary and provide structure and support to increase their own well-being.

Many of my mentees live in survival mode much of the time, with anxiety or fear their dominant emotion, restricting their ability to live fully and reach their own potentials. They are surviving and not yet thriving. One of my favourite psychologists, Carl Rogers, writes:

‘When I accept myself just as I am, then I can change’

Supporting autistic young people to recognise their own ‘good feelings’ to help them face and overcome their individual challenges is my passion. It makes me H.A.P.P.Y.!

My mind is now telling me I have done well today. I now deserve to relax. I am going to post this blog, cross it off my list and then I think I have a jigsaw and a Toblerone with my name on!

Tidy Office!
Enjoying my jigsaw puzzle!

P.S. Do contact me if you would like more information on developing a H.A.P.P.Y. plan.

#H.A.P.P.Y.-coach #autism #neurodiversity #mentoring