Autism & Self-Care: Utilizing “Pre-Charge” Days

By Becca Lory, CAS, BCCS

Post originally appeared on Geek Club Books

In about two weeks, I go away again for work. I’m not a happy traveler. It causes me a ridiculous amount anxiety. I hate everything about it; the flying, the traffic, the sleeping in strange beds, the unfamiliar foods, the crowds, the lights, the packing, the disappointing amount available cats to pet, and the lack of knowledge of personal boundary space. It all makes me miserable. Still, I find myself traveling more and more often for work, and I am always looking for new ways to make these spoon-stealing adventures just a little bit easier manage. One of those ways is a fairly new addition to my pre-travel preparation, which I am now officially calling a pre-charge day. (For more about “spoon theory” click here)

The idea behind a pre-charge day is simple.

I know I will need all of my allotted daily energy to travel and I almost always feel like I could use a little extra. As I have started traveling more often, I have had lots of opportunity for trial and error. After many failed attempts, travel days ending in meltdowns, migraines, and misery, I have found that the only way to guarantee that I will start out my travel day with every ounce of energy intact, is to do some solid prep work during the week leading up to travel, and do absolutely nothing the day before. Yes, you heard me, NOTHING. No packing, no last-minute drugstore trips, no laundry, no travel related activity, no, nothing, period.

Scheduling a pre-charge day into my calendar is no easy task.

But then again, starting out a trip with a giant meltdown isn’t really any easier. A pre-charge day allows my brain to stay calm instead of worrying about the endless what-ifs that travel can trigger. While packing: what if I forget something? While printing my tickets: what if I miss my plane?  What if I don’t and it crashes? While, scheduling the cat sitter: what if something happens when I am gone? What if the sitter never shows? While double checking my hotel: well, you get the idea.

Needless to say, I could easily spend the day before worrying endlessly and double checking everything but all that does is make it certain that the next day will be twice as difficult. It ensures that while I need a full eight hours of sleep, I will only get three or four if I am lucky. It guarantees that the anxiety monster can steal my spoons as I sleep.

Instead of willingly feeding my spoons to the beast, I now take the day before to intentionally charge my batteries with a perfectly planned pre-charge day. It just so happens that on my last work trip, I managed to have a picture perfect one. It started out with a huge helping hand from Mother Nature; it was raining. The rain set the stage as it immediately begs you to linger in bed and stay cozy. I had finished my travel prep; suitcases packed, animals all ready, and reservations double checked. My meals for the day were already decided by the leftovers in my fridge. My out-of-office auto-responders were set, and all my work, along with my laptop was packed and ready to take advantage of the time on the plane.

There was literally nothing to do but wait to go to the airport. I had an entire day free with nothing to do but conserve my spoons by staying in pajamas, doing something passive like reading, watching tv, or sleeping. I was surrounded by my pack as the rain tinkled on the window from a muted, gray sky.

I was off to the ideal start to a perfect pre-charge.

After morning chores of breakfast and animal care, I collapsed on my spot on the couch for a Scrubs marathon, stopping only for a leftovers lunch. The sky cleared a bit in the afternoon creating the perfect natural lighting for a photo session with my pack. Natural photography being an enthusiasm that I have recently come back to. It excites my visual brain and lets me capture small moments of what I love most, the natural world. After that, leftovers dinner and more tv. I move to the bedroom and start early on my sleep hygiene routine. Technology down and limited lighting, helps my brain know sleep time is on its way.

As I put my brain to bed in stages, I rest my body. It was a day without intrusions, a day without deadlines, a day of nothing. Not one spoon lost and only a few carefully used and gone. When I wake for travel the next morning, the anxiety begins to set in, but I have the energy push through it and travel regardless, because this time I am fully charged and ready to go.

When the travel day ended on that trip, I was exhausted.

I was dirty, sweaty, and cranky but I wasn’t depleted. I didn’t start the day with missing spoons, so I had all the ones I needed to get me from point A to point B. I even had a few extras leftover which meant that the time on the plane wasn’t wasted on a nap. I had made it through the day and into my hotel room with only a hint of a meltdown as I waited for my luggage.

Tired, I climbed into the hotel room bed and silently commended myself for my brand new, effective, efficient strategy. It has since proved a successful tactic for not just proactively preparing for travel, but for many other high-demand days, as well. I consider the pre-charge day a resounding success. What self-care ideas do you have for your perfect pre-charge day? <3 ^-^


Post originally appeared on Geek Club Books

Author Image

BECCA LORY, CAS, BCCS was diagnosed on the autism spectrum as an adult and has since become an active autism advocate, consultant, speaker, and writer. With a focus on living an active, positive life, her work includes autism consulting, public speaking engagements, writing a monthly blog, Live Positively Autistic, and the bi-weekly podcast that she co-hosts, Spectrumly Speaking. Becca has published multiple articles about life on the autism spectrum with the goal of spreading acceptance, understanding, and encouraging self-advocacy. She spent four years supporting the autism community in the non-profit sector in her work for grass-roots organizations that provide resources and services directly to individuals on the autism spectrum. Becca left non-profit to pursue dual certifications as a Certified Autism Specialist (CAS) and Cognitive Specialist (BCCS). Currently the Director of Communications at the Center for Neurodiversity, Becca also sits on the Advisory Board of the Nassau-Suffolk chapter of the Autism Society of America, the Board of Directors of Different Brains and the Foundation for Life Guides for Autism, the Community Council of AASET (Autistic Adults and other Stakeholders Engaged Together), as well as, the Scientific and Community Advisory board of SPARK for Autism. An animal lover with a special affinity for cats, Becca spends most of her time with her partner, Antonio Hector, and their Emotional Support Animal (ESA), Sir Walter Underfoot.