Stimulants and Stress
For a lot of people on the spectrum, myself included, the experience of autism can be described as “life with the contrast turned up”. The highs are like a tsunami of molten chocolate, the lows like skinny dipping in the Antarctic, and the transitions between like one of those amusement park rides that where you shoot up in the air then drop back down.
What I didn’t realize until relatively recently, though, was that something I was doing was making this emotional seesawing far more intense than it needed to be; my intake of sugar and caffeine.
Because I often felt sad or tired, I’d been trying to give myself a boost with unhealthy food and an excessive amount of coffee. Then, when I overhauled my diet in 2014, I noticed something; I was getting to sleep more easily, my panic attacks were less frequent and intense, and I was experiencing less stress in general. The things I’d been consuming to try to improve my mood had actually been making me feel worse.
Those of us on the spectrum are often susceptible to over-stimulation; as a result, chugging energy drinks can be like chucking petrol on a flame. It can easily become a vicious cycle; we feel down, so we consume sugar/caffeine, which makes us feel worse, which leads us consume more, and so on and so forth. I myself was stuck in this cycle for many years before becoming aware of it; I now place guidelines on my intake, and I feel significantly better as a result.
As always, I should point out that I am not a dietitian or a doctor, and this is all based solely on personal experience. I still drink coffee in moderation, and on occasion I’ll even treat myself to a bit of sucrose, I just know now to be mindful of its potential to cause stress. Life on the spectrum is already a roller coaster; there’s no need to grease the tracks!