The Autism Mom Coach with Lisa Candera | ASD Mom Big 3: Burnout

Burnout is a huge part of the Autism mom experience. But have you ever considered that you could be adding to your own burnout? You can carve out time and space for yourself, and I’m showing you how to do exactly that on today’s show.

I regularly talk to moms who feel like their lives have been hijacked by Autism, and you might think you have no control over your feelings of burnout. However, you have more power and agency over your life than you currently believe, and you are not a victim of your life’s circumstances. There are challenges, but you are responsible for how you decide to think about and act on them.

Tune in this week to discover the 10 most common reasons for burnout in Autism parenting and what you can do to address them. I’m discussing how you might be unknowingly contributing to your own burnout, and you’ll learn how to start making time for yourself, taking responsibility for what you can control, and protecting your time and energy so you have more capacity to be an amazing parent.


If you are ready to take control of your Autism parenting experience, my Resilient Autism Mom Program (RAMP) is for you. In my 1:1 coaching program, I teach you the tools and strategies you need to conquer the Autism Mom Big 3 (stress, anxiety and burnout). To learn more about my program, schedule your complimentary consultation now.



What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • What burnout is and how it impacts Autism parents.
  • Why being busy isn’t what creates burnout.
  • The most common reasons Autism moms find themselves in a state of burnout.
  • How you might be unknowingly contributing to your own burnout.
  • The factors that you have control over that can lessen your burnout.
  • 3 ways to take responsibility and protect yourself from burnout.


Listen to the Full Episode:



Featured on the Show:

  • If you’re ready to apply the principles you’re learning in these episodes, it’s time to schedule a consultation call with me. Real change comes from application and implementation, and this is exactly what we do in my one-on-one program. To schedule your consultation, click here!
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Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to episode 106 of The Autism Mom Coach, Burnout.

Welcome to The Autism Mom Coach podcast, I am your host, Lisa Candera. I am a lawyer, a life coach, and most importantly, I am the full-time single mother of a teenager with Autism and other comorbid diagnoses. I know what it is like to wonder if you are doing enough or the right things for your child and to live in fear of their future.

I also know that constantly fueling yourself with fear and anxiety is not sustainable for you or of any benefit to your child. That is why in this podcast I will share practical strategies and tools you can use to shift from a chronic state of fight, flight to some calm and ease. You are your child’s greatest resource, let’s take care of you.

Hello, everyone and welcome to the podcast. I am so glad you’re here and I hope you are doing well. This week we are going to conclude the discussion of the Autism mom big three with burnout. In this episode, I really want to drive home how much power and how much agency we really do have in our own lives. I talk to a lot of moms who feel like their lives have been hijacked by Autism, and I understand that. I understand that there is a lot that comes with having a child with Autism.

However, when we are continually taking that view, when we are continually subscribing to that story, we then become the victims of our lives, life is happening to us. And that’s just not my philosophy at all, or one that I want to live by. I want to accept that there are challenges in life, there is heartache and heartbreak in Autism parenting. But those challenges aren’t responsible for me. I am responsible for how I decide to think about them, feel about them, and what I do in response to them.

This is where our power lies and our ability to decide. And so today, as I talk about burnout, I’m going to be giving you some examples of where you might be adding to your own burnout and some suggestions on how you can stop doing this. Stop being the victim of your circumstances and start making decisions to carve out time and space for yourself.

What is burnout? Burnout is a state of emotional, physical and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged stress. One of the things I find really interesting about burnout is, I think a lot of times we associate burnout with our schedules, with having a lot to do. And while that can contribute to it, being busy does not create burnout.

I remember when I was going to law school and this was way before I had Ben, but I was working full-time during the day and I was going to law school in the evening. And I probably had two hours of the commute going from New Jersey to Philadelphia to work and then from Philadelphia to New Jersey to go to law school and then home. I was probably in public transportation or my car for about two hours every day.

And my day started around 6:00 am and it ended around 10:30 or 11:00 at the earliest, because sometimes classes would get out at 10. I’d have to drive home, decompress and go to sleep. And so that was the weekdays. And then on the weekends, there was a day where I would do chores and activities. And during that time I spent a lot of time being a bridesmaid. And then on Sunday it was study all day and that was my life for a few years. And I don’t recall ever feeling burned out by it.

I was tired at times because I was busy, but it wasn’t that state of mental, emotional and physical exhaustion. It might have been just some physical exhaustion, maybe some mental exhaustion during exams time. But the point being, I was probably the busiest schedule wise that I’ve ever been and I wasn’t burned out at all. And that’s because burned out doesn’t come from busy, although busy can be a contributor.

So for Autism moms, what does cause our burnout? I’m going to share with you what I see the most in my clients and what I can attest to from my own experience of being an Autism mom for the last 16 years.

The number one cause for burnout, in my opinion, is what I’m going to call over-responsibility. This is when the Autism parent usually the mom decides it all falls on her. She is the only one. She’s responsible for everything. I’m the only one who can do these things or I’m the only one that can do them right. And this is almost never true. And I say this as a full-time single mom who for the last six years has lived in a state with no relatives. Having the story of being the only one, and it all falling on you, that is so heavy in and of itself.

And then what happens when you have that story, you make it come true. You don’t ask for the help. I have clients who have willing and able partners whose help they often decline because they won’t do it right or they won’t do it as perfectly. Whatever their reason is, they’re taking on more and more of this responsibility. So when you take on responsibility for everything and you keep telling yourself, it all falls on me, you’re going to feel burned out.

Number two, constant vigilance and caretaking. So as we all know, children with Autism often require a lot of supervision and support. And this need for continual alertness to prevent harm or damage or manage behaviors can lead to chronic stress and exhaustion.

Number three, isolation. This often stems from the belief of other people not understanding you. So say you are hanging out with your girlfriends, but they’re talking about things like travel, soccer games or parties, play dates, whatever it is. They’re living in this world that you don’t live in and your world is so different. And so even when you’re around people, you can feel isolated and feeling like you’re on the outside. That is stressful and the more that leads to burnout.

Number four, non-stop advocacy. We are always navigating support services in one way or another, whether it’s for IEPs and educational services, therapies, the healthcare system, insurance. There’s always something or other where we are doing more than the average bear when it comes to parenting.

Just even taking a kid to the dentist, you can’t just pick any dentist. You have to make sure that the dentist has a sensitivity to kids with Autism. And then maybe your child has a lot of sensory needs and so you’re advocating for them to get an appointment at the end of the day. And so you’re trying to corral them there after school and all of these things, the stress can mount up pretty quickly.

Number five, grief. Grief is exhausting, and it is something that we all experience as Autism parents, and that is whether we realize it or not. Because sometimes the grief of a life not lived doesn’t come out as sadness, sometimes it does, but sometimes it comes out as anger. I have a few clients that I regularly coach on anger and they’re so frustrated with themselves, why am I so angry? Why am I so angry at other people? Why can’t I just let other people be who they are and not feel so mad at them?

The fact is, they’re not mad at their friend because she’s talking about her busy weekend, traveling from one sports event to another. She’s sad. She’s grieving that her son doesn’t participate in team sports. He doesn’t have the inclination or the desire to do so. And so this is something that she’s missing out on in her experience as an Autism parent.

So this is all to say that grief might not always look the way you think. It doesn’t always look like being curled up on your couch with a box of Kleenex. It could actually look like cursing out every neurotypical parent you see on the playground because they have an easy life. But however it is showing up for you, it’s a drag and it’s tiring and it’s emotionally exhausting.

Number six, future uncertainty. We all know this one. The emotional toll of worrying about our child’s future and their well-being. It causes stress, it causes anxiety and again, it’s another drag.

Number seven, limited personal time. So many of the moms I coach tell me that they feel like they’ve lost themselves in the Autism parenting experience. There is this fine line of life before and after Autism. And their life basically looks unrecognizable to them because they have all but given up on everything that used to bring them enjoyment and that they found fulfilling. Whether it’s hobbies, whether it’s exercise activities, running or yoga or regular outings with friends.

So we’re already living lives that require constant vigilance and non-stop advocacy. And the less time that we have to do the things that we enjoy, well, the less joy we have in our lives and this contributes to the feeling of being burned out.

Number eight, lack of boundaries. I see this in my clients as the inability to say no, as busy as they are. They could be the only person in the family who has children and who has a child with Autism, but yet everyone’s looking to them to plan mom’s birthday party, to plan the parents anniversary dinner and they say yes to it. They don’t want to disappoint other people. They don’t want other people to think that they don’t have their lives together.

And so they almost want to put on this charade, yeah, Autism parenting is not that hard. It’s not that they want to say, Autism parenting isn’t hard, but they want to put on airs as if I can do everything seamlessly because I have it all under control. And so they say yes to things, they add to their schedules and this leads to burnout.

Number nine, people pleasing. This goes right along with lack of boundaries, not wanting to disappoint people, not wanting them to think a certain way of you. I actually see this a lot with moms when it comes to the staff of their child’s school. They all want the teachers to like them. They want the teachers to believe that they are nice and they are reasonable and yes, we’re asking for additional supports, but not because we’re that mom.

Nobody wants to be that mom, the mom who is seen as a nag or overdramatic. They’re all afraid of that. So they go out of their way to try to get these teachers and the staff to like them, whether it’s through lavish gifts at Christmas time or holding their tongue during an IEP meeting or just fretting over, if I send this email, they might not like me. All of that people pleasing is exhausting.

And number ten, sleep disturbances. This one’s pretty self-explanatory, and no surprise. Chronic stress leads to sleep deprivation. This can impair our cognitive function, our mood, our overall health, and it, for sure contributes to mental, physical and emotional exhaustion.

So that’s 10 examples of how I see burnout showing up the most in my clients. So now let’s shift to what can I do? I don’t want to be burned out or I would love to be less burned out, how do I do that? Great question. The first thing that you need to do is you need to be willing to take 100% responsibility for what you can control. Burnout does not just happen to us. Yes, there are factors we can’t control. There are circumstances that are difficult. I’m not taking away from any of that, but there’s also a lot we can control.

And so in order to lessen your burnout or to avoid it altogether, you need to be willing to take 100% responsibility for the things that you can control. You can control whether you say yes or no to additional tasks. You can control whether you people please everyone in your life. You can control the decision to delegate tasks to other people, to let things be imperfect and to allow other people to help you. Those are just some of the examples of things that you can control.

Next, after taking 100% responsibility, you want to focus on protecting the asset. Now, when I say protecting the asset, the asset is you. You are your child’s greatest asset, their greatest resource. So you need to find ways to protect your time and energy and refill your cup. I encourage my clients to find three non-negotiables each day where they carve out time just for them. It could be 20 minutes. I’m going to give you an example of three non-negotiables for one of my clients.

First it is to wake up before her children and have her coffee alone before the demands start. Two is to take a hot bath at the end of the day so she can decompress. And three is to eat dinner while sitting down. Seems pretty simple, pretty straightforward, not a Herculean task. The point here with your non-negotiables is that you are consciously carving out time and space just for yourself, just because, protecting the asset.

Next, and this is all part of protecting the asset, is scrutinize your schedule. Take a hard look at how you are spending your time. What can you delegate? What can you eliminate? Where can you ask for help? Where can you say no? Where can you set a boundary or enforce a boundary? And finally and most importantly, if you do only one thing, do this, relish your rest.

So many of the moms I coach, waste away their free time by feeling guilty and telling themselves that they should be doing something other than sitting on the couch and watching their show. This is a total waste. It defeats the very purpose of rest time, which is to recharge and rejuvenate or relax. As simple as it sounds, this is work. It is work to relax when you’re always used to being on the go, doing things for other people.

The work here is to actually practice enjoying your free time without the guilt, without the demands so that you can actually reap the benefits of it. All of these are small changes, but these few small changes can reap big results, especially when it comes to burnout. If you eliminate one thing from your schedule and add one thing for yourself, that shift will have rolling benefits for both you and your family. That shift will have accumulating benefits for both you and your family.

For example, if you say no to organizing grandpa’s birthday party, then you aren’t spending your weekends on the phone with the caterer and trying to get a head count. And instead you can actually maybe enjoy some downtime for yourself so that you’re feeling relaxed with your children and you’re not snapping at them, you’re less impatient. You’re actually able to enjoy them. All of this from deciding to say no to somebody else and yes to yourself, it not only benefits you, it benefits your children as well. Alright, that is it for burnout.

Before I go, I want to remind you, if you are ready to do this work, if you are coaching curious, schedule your consultation with me now. In my program, we tackle the Autism mom big three of stress, anxiety and burnout. And I am going to give you practical tools and strategies that you can begin implementing right away that will benefit you and your family. It will help you show up as the Autism parent you want to be with more energy and having more joy in your life.

To schedule your consultation, go to the show notes or my website Alright, thank you all for listening and I will talk to you next week.

Thanks for listening to The Autism Mom Coach. If you are ready to apply the principles you are learning in these episodes to your life, it is time to schedule a consultation call with me. Podcasts are great but the ahas are fleeting. Real change comes from application and implementation and this is exactly what we do in my one-on-one coaching program. To schedule your consultation, go to my website,, Work With Me and take the first step to taking better care of yourself so that you can show up as the parent you want to be for your child with Autism.

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