Stimming or ‘self-stimulation’ refers to behaviour that occurs repeatedly; they may be body movements or sounds. Examples include rocking, flapping hands, cracking knuckles, or tapping fingers. Stimming is often associated with people who have Autism and/or ADHD. It’s used as a coping mechanism to distract the person from things that are going on around them. Stimming can help to cope with a variety of emotions: frustration, excitement, stress, boredom, fear and so on. It may be that someone who ‘stims’ does not have any neurological difference; it may just be a coping mechanism as it is for others.
As well as the examples of stimming above, there are examples that cause pain such as: nail biting, self-inflicted pinching or scratching. Sometimes I do any one of these.
Trying to explain how doing this is ‘helpful’ is hard. All I know is that it helps me to transfer the uncomfortable feelings away and allows me to focus more on what I’m doing. I am aware this is not ‘ideal’. I am working on different ways to cope with my emotions however sometimes I do forget the strategies that I have been given to work with. When I am really stressed out and having a meltdown about something, I am not always able to access the strategies I’ve been given; I forget what I’m supposed to do because my anxiety is in full pelt and it’s a fight or flight situation. The anxiety is a notification to the brain saying that there is danger. I know that there is an acceptable level of anxiety that we need, on a day to day basis, to keep us out of trouble but when it’s out of control that’s when it causes problems.
To avoid harmful stimming, carry around something small whether that’s blue tack, putty or a stress ball absolutely anything that may have a slight chance of calming you down. That way it’s discreet and safe and it’s already with you so you don’t have to worry about forgetting a particular strategy.
Some days can be more stressful than others but I know for a fact that you’ll always get through them, no matter how hard those days are.