In the stressful world that most of us live in, especially those of us who have autism like myself, I’ve noticed a trend towards stress-reduction techniques, like meditation, minimalism, decluttering, self-care, etc. I know personally, when I’m super stressed, it’s hard for me to do anything beyond the bare minimum to survive. So, adding de-stressing techniques is often sadly out the window (darn you executive functioning challenges!).

But, when my mind is a little clearer, I have done enough research to know that there is some benefit to this de-stressing stuff. So, I like to give it a try. While I don’t always get instant stress reduction from what I try, one thing that has really worked is a button on my keyboard: delete.


Stress Reduction: A Story

So, the other day, I started to feel super stressed, like I had very little control of my life, like I was always trying to fit into a world that wasn’t made for me. I was sitting there wondering what I could do to change this feeling, something I could accomplish and look back and say, “I did that!” Then, it hit me: my email inbox had over 100,000 unread messages. No, that’s not a typo: 100,000+ unread emails.

I do want to preface this by saying that I do check my emails (feel free to email me or use my contact form!), so that high number doesn’t tell the whole picture. But, here’s what’s really going on. I read the important emails, skim through the others, and only delete anything that has somehow missed my spam folder. Yup, that’s right: I typically don’t delete any of the other emails I get, not a single one.

Delete + Executive Functioning

If you’re wondering why I don’t delete all the other emails and let my inbox get that full, it all boils down to two words: executive functioning. I know it seems easy, right? Just press one little key after you read an email or see one you don’t need. Nothing to it, right? Well, when you struggle with executive functioning, as I do and many other people with autism do as well, pressing that one little button is not as simple as it may sound. In fact, I sit there and say to myself, “It’s so easy, just do it.” But, sometimes, my brain just simply can’t, no matter how easy it seems or how badly I want to do it.

“Press the button, Stamper!”

Alright, who knows what movie that quote is from? Ok, brain got off task, back on track! Now, with executive functioning, that doesn’t mean that nothing gets done, at least for me. There are times where I can focus, talk myself into “just doing the thing,” and things get accomplished. Those are the good days, the days where I’m not as anxious and feel better. Case in point: the delete button.

On that day that I talked about in the beginning where I just wanted to get something done, my frontal lobe of my brain was doing ok and I knew I could accomplish something easy, but time consuming that I had put off for years: cleaning out my email inbox.

Now, I didn’t press delete individually on each email 70,000 times, though I really wanted to! I decided that would be inefficient, so I did searches for emails I got a lot, like from various subscriptions I had or things like that. Then, I selected all and pressed that magical key of delete.

The power of the delete key

As of writing this blog post, my inbox is sitting at 36,535 emails. To some people, reading that number may literally cause them to have a panic attack. For me, it represents a feeling of accomplishment. It is tangible proof that I can accomplish things. Even when it seems like I have no control, I can control the number of emails in my inbox unread.

I am not here to prove myself to anyone else, and I am certainly not saying that we all must accomplish things to be worthy (thanks capitalism for that mindset lol!). However, when I look at the number in the dock of my MacBook Pro, it is my reminder that even when things seem bad, that delete key is always there. All I have to do is press it, and for at least that moment, I accomplished something. Some days, that’s the best   I can do, and that’s ok!

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