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

Over the next three episodes, I’m bringing you a series all about the Autism mom big three: stress, anxiety, and burnout. These are the three most significant issues I’ve seen in the Autism moms I’ve coached over the past few years, and they are now the three pillars of the coaching I do in my program. We’re starting this week by addressing chronic stress.

Stress is showing up in your day-to-day in more ways than you might currently realize. But when you understand all the ways that stress is impacting your life and you have some tools to tackle your stress, you’ll start to see real, positive change in your experience of being an Autism parent.

Tune in this week to discover the lesser-known symptoms of stress, and how stress is impacting every area of your life. I’m discussing how your stress responses work as an Autism parent, and you’ll learn how to start quickly calming your nervous system when you’re in a chronic state of stress.

 

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:

  • Why working to address your stress and focusing on yourself is never selfish.
  • How your stress responses can be triggered by anything, big or small.
  • Why, as Autism parents, we tend to get stuck in a fight-flight response to stress.
  • The physical symptoms of stress and how a stressed mind has you showing up in your life.
  • Some practical tips for calming your nervous system fast.

 

Listen to the Full Episode:

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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!
  • Sign up for my email list to get notified of coaching opportunities, workshops and more! All you have to do is go to my home page and enter your email address in the pop-up.
  • Schedule a consultation to learn about my 1:1 coaching program.

 

Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to episode 104 of The Autism Mom Coach, The Autism Mom Big Three, Chronic Stress.

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 hope you are doing well and I am so glad that you are here. For the next three weeks I am going to focus on what I am calling the Autism mom big three, stress, anxiety and burnout. These are the three big categories of issues that I’ve seen in the Autism moms I have coached over the last three years and they are now the three pillars of my one-on-one coaching program. Every issue I have coached on and experienced in my own life falls under one or sometimes all three of these categories.

And I really doubt that this comes as any surprise to you. So many of us generally accept that stress, anxiety and burnout are part of the experience of being an Autism parent in a very general way. We say things, we acknowledge things like I feel so stressed. I worry all the time. I’m burned out. What you might not realize and what is so clear to me from the bird’s eye view of coaching so many Autism moms over the last three years is that stress, anxiety, and burnout show up in so many more ways than most of us realize.

That’s why for the next three weeks I want to get very specific as to how the big three show up in our lives and how they may be impacting you far more than you even realize. And of course I am going to be offering you some tips and strategies that you can implement right away. I’m not going to just tell you all of the ways that stress, anxiety and burnout are impacting your life and then leave you high and dry, never. I will be sharing strategies and tools that I use.

And of course I am going to be inviting you to do this work with me as your one-on-one coach, because I know that doing this work with someone else is the fastest way for you to get results. So if your time is precious and you want to get results fast, coaching with me is the way to do it. I distill all of my learnings from four years of certifications, from coaching other moms and from my own lived experience into a very simple program.

Alright, let’s talk about stress. First, I want to tell you why it is important for you to understand all of the ways that stress is impacting your life. I’m not doing this to scare you or to shame you, but to empower you because quite simply, you can’t change something unless you become aware of it first. So I’m going to show you the problem and exactly what you can do to change your experience short of running away or selling your children.

I want you to see that you have a big say in how you handle the stress, anxiety, and burnout beyond resigning yourself to, it is what it is, or hashtag Autism mom life. You would never accept this as a solution for your child, or even your pet. I’ve never met the Autism mom who has said, “Oh, well, communication and behaviors are just part of Autism. We’re just going to deal with it and do nothing about it.” Or even the pet owner whose cat is peeing outside the litter box for a week and they just resign themselves to, I guess that’s just how she rolls now. No, and never.

We would never accept it is what it is for our children or for our pets, and we certainly shouldn’t do it for ourselves either. We are at least as important as everything on our to-do list. And I would argue we are far more important than everything on our to-do list. But I am saying this because I hear this all of the time. I can’t focus on myself because this will take away from my child. And I need to tell you that this is 100% false. I don’t care how much of a martyr you are, it is 100% fact that you are the most important factor in your child’s wellbeing.

So this means that taking time to focus on yourself is your duty as a parent, it is for you, and it is for your child as well. That means that taking time to focus on yourself is your duty as the parent, and this is as much for your child as it is for yourself. Again, you are their greatest resource. You are the engine behind this machine. If you continue to ignore or accept the stress, the anxiety and the burnout is just part of what your lived experience is. It will never get better. It will never get easier.

And from my view, our parenting gig is hard enough. And so my goal always is to find the ways that we can make it easier on ourselves. And focusing on our own stress, our own anxiety and our own burnout is exactly how we can do this. Okay, loving rant over. Let’s talk about stress. First, what is stress? Stress is defined as the physiological and psychological response to real or perceived external threats or demands.

So your nervous system detects a perceived danger from your environment, it alerts your body, danger. And this results in your brain releasing a cascade of hormones that prepare your body to either face the challenge head on and fight or escape. Flight, our stress response can be triggered by anything big or small, from an email from your boss, a phone call from your child’s school, or hearing a scream in the next room.

Your nervous system does not distinguish between them. It responds in the same way, with the same intensity as it would back in the cave person days when it was eat or be eaten. So what this means is most of us are regularly having outsized chemical reactions to things that are far from life or death. And the problem with this and I’m going to speak specifically to Autism parents, is that we tend to get stuck in these flight, flight responses.

We never really release from them because we are constantly surveilling our environment for potential dangers or triggers to ourselves or to our children and this is for good reason. Maybe your child is an eloper. Maybe your child struggles with self-injurious behavior or aggression. Maybe they are being strangely quiet. Maybe you are getting looks from other people. Maybe you are waiting for a phone call, an email for the early pick up.

Whatever it is, your nervous system is never getting the signal that you are safe, so it stays locked in that fight, flight position. So this makes it really hard, if not impossible, to relax. In fact, relaxing feels dangerous and uncomfortable, which makes total sense. If your nervous system is releasing the fight, flight chemicals into your body, relaxing is the last thing you’re going to do. So let’s talk about the way stress shows up in your body. I’m going to pick the top five that I’ve seen in myself and in my clients.

Number one, headaches. Tension headaches or migraines can become more frequent with stress. Muscle tension or pain, this is especially at the base of the skull, in the neck, the shoulders, the tightened jaws and the clenched teeth. Stomach upset, or digestion issues, this is everything from nausea and constipation to IBS and acid reflux. Difficulty sleeping, no kidding. If your fight, flight is always turned on and you have adrenaline and cortisol racing through your body, it’s going to be hard to sleep.

And then finally, restlessness, or the inability to sit still. I see this in my parents all of the time. They literally can’t sit on the couch with their kids and read the book or watch the show. They always feel like they need to be doing something, and this is anxiety at work. When you are in a fight flight response, when those chemicals are racing through your body, they want you to do something. So sitting is really uncomfortable.

Okay, so now let’s talk about how stress, chronic stress, when your fight flight response is always turned on, may be impacting your life. Here are the things I see all the time. Walking on eggshells or waiting for the other shoe to drop. Both of these are just the ever present feeling of not being able to relax. Indecision drama, I see this so much with my parents about education, medication and how much they should push their child or release the reins.

There’s a lot of indecision drama. This is because when you are in your fight, flight response, your focus narrows and your thinking becomes very black or white, right or wrong, life or death. So your inability to make a decision makes total sense if you are believing I’m either going to make the right decision or the wrong decision. And if I make the wrong decision, the end result at some point is my child is all alone and homeless and I have failed them. Then it’s going to be really hard for you to make a decision.

Next, disconnection from others, me versus them. How much does this show up for you when you’re stressed out? Nobody else understands. That’s what happens when you’re in that stress response. You’re hunkering down. You’re focusing in. You’re surveying your environment for danger. And in these moments, the people you feel don’t understand you are a danger.

Next, isolation, this is more of the me versus them. The fear of other people and what they may think, this feels like life or death when you don’t know how to downregulate your stress response. So think about all of the times you haven’t taken your child to the store or the playground, or you’ve left at the first sign of upset because you’re afraid of what other people might think. This is in part because you’re in that stress response and you’re super focused on safety and other people not understanding, other people judging you, being ‘voted off the island’ feels very life or death in those situations.

So that’s why getting out of the store, leaving the playground, bailing on the birthday party feel like an emergency to you. Because not only are you managing whatever your child is doing, you’re managing the stress of other people, they’re looking, they don’t understand. And we are going to be cast out in danger, left to die. Now, I know that sounds dramatic, but this is what your nervous system is doing. Again it has outsized responses to the things in our day-to-day life because it still responds as if it were eat or be eaten. And let’s face it, sometimes in Autism parenting it kind of is, I kid, but I don’t.

Alright, last, lack of energy. So when the fight, flight switch is always flipped on, this can be exhausting. Add to this the lack of sleep, that leads to sugar cravings, the consumption of caffeine, which leads to less water, less hydration, more headaches. Your sources of energy are getting depleted and replaced with junk food for your brain and your body. So these are all examples of what you might be experiencing when you are in a chronic state of stress. So what to do. First, deep breath. I’m going to take one, because even after reciting all of that, I’m a bit agitated.

Here is the good news. There are a lot of things you can do. And here is the better news. Most of them take little to no time. Now, you can’t eradicate stress altogether, and this is not even advisable because of the important role it can play in protecting us from actual dangers. What you can do, though, is introduce more safety into your daily experiences. This will require you taking actions to both give your nervous system the signal that you are safe and engaging in activities that will enable you to release some of the stress from your body.

I am going to give you examples of five simple things you can do in your everyday life to decrease your stress. Each of these examples are supported by science and research. First, breathe intentionally and purposefully, deep slow breaths in and out. This is a way for you to signal to your nervous system that you are safe. It is also a way that you can begin to release the held tension from your body.

So for me, I like to picture the muscles in my neck and at the base of my skull, relaxing and letting go as I breathe in and I breathe out. So I know that we breathe all the time. What needs to happen though is for you to create a breath practice and key to this breath practice is that you practice it when things are relatively calm. Because again, if the only time you are trying to do this is when you are in a full out state of panic, it’s not going to feel very effective. In fact, you might even feel like you’re hyperventilating. So the key here is to practice.

So just imagine every time you go to the bathroom that you practice taking several deep breaths in and deep breaths out. You’re not only signaling to your nervous system that you are safe. You are also actually releasing tension from your body.

Number two, drink water. Stress causes dehydration and dehydration causes stress. It’s a vicious cycle. As your brain is pumping those stress hormones into your body, you are becoming more and more dehydrated. On top of that, you’re probably reaching for salty foods, sugary foods and the caffeine which dehydrates you even more. So the simple act of drinking a glass of water several times a day can help you reduce the stress in your body.

Number three, move your body regularly, especially after something very stressful has happened, say, getting your kid on or off the bus, bedtime, wake-up time, taking the iPad or the electronics away time. All of those times you might have a sudden burst of stress in your body, those are great times to do something physical to shake it off. I’m very literal, so I actually just love to shake it off.

I will vigorously shake my arms and my hands to shake off the stress. And when I do it, I tell myself I’m shaking the stress off. Brisk walks, jumping jacks, burpees if you’re crazy, dancing. All of these ways of moving are ways of releasing stress from your body.

Number four, talk to someone. Remember when we are in stress states, our stress is compounded by the fact that we feel that we’re all alone and nobody cares or nobody understands. So find someone that you can share this with, someone to witness you, someone else to hold this with you. I will tell you, I have several friends who I can call up and I can say, “I just want to tell you this. You don’t have to tell me it’s going to be okay. I just need to get this out.” And it helps just to get it out.

Number five, talk to yourself. This is an important one. Talking to yourself and using the tone that you would with a loved one or a child. This communicates safety to your nervous system. And when you talk to yourself, you can just simply remind yourself, I am safe, I am okay, I got this, in a soothing, in a supportive way. This practice, when you do, it will actually help you calm down and release a bit of tension. Alright, that is it for stress.

Next week we will move on to anxiety. But before I go, I am inviting you now to do this work with me as your one-on-one coach. Of course, I am biased, but if you are an Autism mom and you’re dealing with stress, anxiety or burnout, I am the coach for you, not because I’ve been an Autism mom for 16 years. Not because I’m a certified life coach with advanced certifications in grief and nervous system regulation. And not because I’ve been coaching Autism moms for the last three years.

Because of all of it, all of the learning, all of the skills, all of the lived experiences distilled into one simple program designed to get you results fast. So if you are ready to take control of your Autism parenting experience, schedule your consultation using the link in the show notes, or go to my website, theautismmomcoach.com/workwithme. Alright, thank you so much 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, theAutismmomcoach.com, 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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